North is Wales' centre of attention again

Fri, 05/02/2021, 09:08 pm
by AAP
George North scores during the 2017 Six Nations. Photo: Getty Images
George North scores during the 2017 Six Nations. Photo: Getty Images

George North will start at centre when Wales launch their Six Nations Championship campaign against Ireland in Cardiff.

Ospreys wing North, who wins his 99th cap on Sunday, is partnered by Johnny Williams in midfield as Wales go into action without their trusty Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has handed recalls to 33-year-old Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate and Cardiff Blues wing Hallam Amos, while captain Alun Wyn Jones plays his first game since suffering a knee injury nine weeks ago.

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North retains the centre role he filled in Wales' last match against Italy on December 5, when Williams was injured and Davies started alongside him.

On North's selection in midfield, Pivac said: "George has run there (in training) for the last two weeks.

"He did well there in the Italian game, and we are comfortable with him there."

Lydiate last featured for Wales in November 2018, while Amos and Gloucester's Louis Rees-Zammit take the wing positions in a department where Liam Williams and Josh Adams are both suspended.

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Williams was sent off during Scarlets' PRO14 defeat against the Blues last month, and Adams is serving a two-match ban imposed by the Welsh Rugby Union after breaching COVID-19 protocols by attending a family gathering.

Elsewhere, 77 times-capped hooker Ken Owens and scrum-half Tomos Williams return after missing Wales' six autumn Tests due to shoulder injuries, and Adam Beard is also back as skipper Jones' second-row partner.

Pivac oversaw just three wins - against Italy twice, and Georgia - from 10 starts last year, and his team finished a disappointing fifth in the Six Nations.

Wales have also lost four successive Tests to Ireland, although their opponents this weekend have not won a Six Nations fixture on Welsh soil since 2013.

Pivac said: "We made strides forward through the autumn, and we are looking to take that into Sunday and into this tournament."

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