North and Biggar get Wales all-clear for England

by AFP

Star backs George North and Dan Biggar were both included Thursday in the Wales XV for their Six Nations international against England in Cardiff on Saturday after they each overcame injury problems.

Powerhouse wing North was seen limping heavily following Wales's tournament-opening 33-7 win away to Italy in Rome last weekend, while fly-half Biggar came off at half-time at Rome's Olympic Stadium.

Up front, coach Rob Howley has changed his props with Rob Evans and Tomas Francis replacing Nicky Smith and Samson Lee after impressing off the bench against Italy.

The only personnel change to Wales's matchday 23 sees Bath No 8 Taulupe Faletau, sidelined since since a knee injury on Christmas Eve, on the bench.

"There is huge excitement in the camp ahead of Saturday for what is set to be a massive Six Nations encounter," Howley said.

"We were really pleased with the result out in Rome, and are looking to build on that performance this weekend," the former Wales scrum-half added.
George North on the charge against Italy. Photo: Getty Images."Both Rob (Evans) and Tomas (Francis) made a big impact off the bench last weekend and deserve their opportunity to start.

"We have had a short turnaround, but Dan and George have worked hard with the medics and we are pleased to be able to name them."

Meanwhile England, who started the defence of their Six Nations title with a scrappy 19-16 win over France at Twickenham last weekend, have named their side.

England coach Eddie Jones has backed his novice loose forward trio to come good against an experienced Wales back-row when his record-breaking Grand Slam champions rcontinue their Six Nations title defence.

The Australian has brought in Jack Clifford, fit following a chest injury, into a back row featuring No 8 Nathan Hughes and blindside flanker Maro Itoje, best known as a lock.

Seasoned flanker Tom Wood, who has been recovering from a shoulder injury, was dropped to the bench in the matchday 23 announced by Jones on Thursday after struggling in England's scrappy 19-16 tournament-opening win against France at Twickenham last weekend.

But Wood has 46 caps while Hughes, Clifford and Itoje have a mere four Test back-row starts between them.

Maro Itoje has been ruled out of the November Tests. Photo; Getty ImagesNevertheless, Jones said: "We have a nice blend of experience and youth and we feel we have got the balance right.

"We think he (Clifford) is a really good player and he will give us a bit more pace in the back row. It's a great opportunity for him.

"Nathan Hughes has been playing well. Itoje is a young guy learning the ropes and there is no better way to learn the ropes than in matches like these."

Injuries mean England are currently missing first-choice No 8 Billy Vunipola and blindside flanker Chris Robshaw, with former England captain Robshaw - who plays alongside Clifford at London club Harlequins - set to miss the whole of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury.

Clifford's lone Test start came in a 27-13 win over Wales at Twickenham in May, a match in which the 23-year-old scored a try.


Wales and England teams for Six Nations at the Principality Stadium on Saturday 5:50am ADST


1. Rob Evans

2. Ken Owens

3. Tomas Francis

4. Jake Ball

5. Alun Wyn Jones (c)

6. Sam Warburton

7. Justin Tipuric

8. Ross Moriarty

9. Rhys Webb

10. Dan Biggar

11. Liam Williams

12. Scott Williams

13. Jonathan Davies

14. George North

15. Leigh Halfpenny


16. Scott Baldwin

17. Nicky Smith

18. Samson Lee

19. Cory Hill

20. Taulupe Faletau

21. Gareth Davies

22. Sam Davies

23. Jamie Roberts


1. Joe Marler

2. Dylan Hartley (c)

3. Dan Cole

4. Joe Launchbury

5. Courtney Lawes

6. Maro Itoje

7. Jack Clifford

8. Nathan Hughes

9. Ben Youngs

10. George Ford

11. Elliot Daly

12. Owen Farrell

13. Jonathan Joseph

14. Jack Nowell

15. Mike Brown


16. Jamie George

17. Matt Mullan

18. Kyle Sinckler

19. Tom Wood

20. James Haskell

21. Danny Care

22. Ben Te'o

23. Jonny May