Wales unchanged as Howley refuses to bow to pressure

by AFP

Wales coach Rob Howley refused to bow to pressure for wholesale change, naming an unaltered match-day squad for Friday's Six Nations game against Ireland, insisting the team did not become "bad overnight".

After an opening win over Italy, Wales have gone on to lose to England and Scotland, the team and Howley finding themselves under intense scrutiny after a particularly disappointing second-half capitulation against the Scots.
But Howley insisted Wednesday that his experienced team deserved another chance, with Wales seeking to avoid three consecutive Six Nations defeats for the first time since 2007.
Wales coach Robert Howley has named an unchanged side for the clash against Ireland in Cardiff. Photo: Getty Images."We felt it was important the same group of players had the opportunity to go out and perform on Friday so we have named an unchanged match-day squad," said Howley, named interim head coach as Warren Gatland prepares to lead the British and Irish Lions on the summer tour to New Zealand.
"Friday night is an opportunity for us. There is a lot of experience in our group and you don't become a bad team overnight. We want to show what we can do and that experience will be very important this week.
"We know we need to be more clinical and we need to execute better under pressure and we have been working hard on that during the last few weeks."
Justin Tipuric will win his 50th cap at openside, lining up alongside Sam Warburton and Ross Moriarty in the back-row. Captain Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball continue their partnership in the second-row with Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis named in the front-row.
Justin Tipuric will play his 50th match for Wales. Photo: Getty Images.Ospreys pair Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar start at half-back with Scarlets duo Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies partnering in the midfield. Liam Williams, George North and Leigh Halfpenny comprise the back-three.
Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau provide the forward cover from the bench, with Gareth Davies, Sam Davies and Jamie Roberts the backline replacements.
Wales have won just one of their last four Six Nations matches against Ireland, a narrow 23-16 victory in Cardiff in 2015, and Howley acknowledged that the Joe Schmidt-coached Irish, who this year suffered a surprise loss to Scotland before bouncing back to beat Italy and France, would be tough opponents.
"Ireland are one of the in-form sides in world rugby and are coached very well and packed with experience and there are a number of interesting match-up across both teams," the former Wales scrum-half said.
"We always say we are fortunate to have the best supporters in the world and we are eager to put in a performance for them under the lights at Principality Stadium on Friday."

Wales hosts Ireland at Millennium Stadium on Saturday morning, kicking off at 7:05am AEDT, LIVE on BeIn Sports 3.


Wales team to face Ireland

1. Rob Evans

2. Ken Owens

3. Tomas Francis

4. Jake Ball

5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt)

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. Luke Charteris

20. Taulupe Faletau

21. Gareth Davies

22. Sam Davies

23. Jamie Roberts

Ireland team to face Wales

1. Jack McGrath

2. Rory Best (capt)

3. Tadhg Furlong

4. Donnacha Ryan

5. Devin Toner

6. CJ Stander

7. Sean O'Brien

8. Jamie Heaslip

9. Conor Murray

10. Jonathan Sexton

11. Simon Zebo

12. Robbie Henshaw

13. Garry Ringrose

14. Keith Earls

15. Rob Kearney  


16. Niall Scannell

17. Cian Healy

18. John Ryan

19. Iain Henderson

20. Peter O'Mahony

21. Kieran Marmion

22. Paddy Jackson

23. Tommy Bowe