Six Nations 2015: Wales name unchanged team for Ireland
Warren Gatland makes just two enforced changes on the bench as he keeps faith with side that started in Paris win over France
Wales have named an unchanged team to face Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday.
Head coach Warren Gatland has kept faith with the starting XV that defeated France 20-13 in Paris 10 days ago.
Ireland are the form team in Europe and we know it is going to be a huge battle.
Cardiff Blues loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins will earn his 114th cap alongside Scott Baldwin and Samson Lee in the front-row.
Racing Metro lock Luke Charteris keeps his place after being drafted in for the France game and he partners Alun Wyn Jones in the second row as Wales face a mighty set-piece battle against wily Ireland captain Paul O’Connell.
Gatland continues to ignore the form of Justin Tipuric to go with his preferred back-row trio of Dan Lydiate at blindside, Sam Warburton at openside and and Taulupe Faletau at number eight.
The Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar show continues at half-back with British and Irish Lions duo Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies continuing their partnership the midfield.
The back-three again sees Liam Williams and George North line up on the wings with Toulon points machine Leigh Halfpenny at full-back.
“We return to the Millennium Stadium after two tough away trips with two victories and will be looking to build on that,” Gatland said.
“We saw an improvement against Scotland and then saw another step up against France, and we know we will need to do the same against Ireland on Saturday.
“Ireland are the form team in Europe and we know it is going to be a huge battle.”
Scarlets loosehead prop Rob Evans replaces injured Paul James on the bench, while his club team-mate Jake Ball replaces injured Wasps lock Bradley Davies.
“The changes on the bench mean Rob Evans gets an opportunity,” Gatland added.
“We have been impressed with him for his region and at training.
“Our strength in depth in the second row is highlighted again as Jake comes back into the squad.”
Evans and Ball are joined on the bench by Gloucester hooker Richard Hibbard, Ospreys tighthead prop and flanker Justin Tipuric, with Racing Metro scrum-half Mike Phillips, Scarlets out-half Rhys Priestland and centre Scott Williams covering the backs.
Sam Warburton will enter the record books this Saturday by captaining Wales for a record 34th time #WALvIRL
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 10, 2015
Billed as the match of round four, it will be a special occasion for Wales captain Warburton, who will lead the team for a record 34th time, surpassing Ryan Jones’ 33 appearances as captain.
And Gatland paid tribute to his captain as a role model who will continue to get better.
“Saturday is also a fantastic achievement and honour for Sam,” Gatland said.
“He has developed into the role fantastically and is a modern day professional.
“He is a role model that will continue to get better.”
Wales team to face Ireland: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); George North (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Gloucester Rugby), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys); Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets).