George North and Dan Biggar start as Wales make two changes for Six Nations clash against England
Wales have named George North and Dan Biggar in their standing line-up to play England on Saturday, but will wait until Saturday to decide if they are fit enough to play.
Howley put back naming the team two hours until 1pm on Thursday to give North and Biggar every chance of proving they have recovered from the knocks sustained against Italy on Sunday. North suffered a dead leg, while Biggar’s rib injury forced his withdrawal at half-time in Rome.
But Howley has deemed that both are so important that he will extend that deadline as close to the 4.50pm kick-off as he can. If Biggar fails to make it, then Sam Davies will make his first start for Wales, while Leicester’s Owen Williams will come on to the bench. Should North come up short, then Alex Cuthbert is favourite to come from outside the named 23 to fill in on the right wing.
"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,” Howley said, via a statement from the Welsh Rugby Union.
There are two changes from the starting XV which won 33-7 in Rome and they are both at prop. Rob Evans and Tomas Francis are rewarded for their impressive displays when coming on in the second half against Italy, with Nicky Smith and Samson Lee demoted to the bench. “Both Rob and Tomas made a big impact off the bench last weekend and deserve their opportunity to start,” Howley said.
The only other change among the replacements is Taulupe Faletau for James King as cover in the back row. There was speculation that Faletau would come straight back into the starting XV at the expense of Ross Moriarty. But Faletau has yet to play this year since injuring his back playing for Bath on Christmas Eve. Faletau made a significant contribution when coming on against South Africa in November and Wales will be hoping for more of the same this time.
Davies is another eye-catching name on the bench, with Howley favouring Biggar’s experience despite the young Osprey fly-half starring in the second half on Sunday. "There is huge excitement in the camp ahead of Saturday for what is set to be a massive Six Nations encounter,” Howley said.
Wales XV: L Halfpenny (Toulon); G North (Northampton), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets), L Williams (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); R Evans (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), J Ball (Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Gloucester).
Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), N Smith (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), C Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), T Faletau (Bath), G Davies (Scarlets), S Davies (Ospreys), J Roberts (Harlequins).