Monday 10 December 2018

Gatland to fire heavy artillery at Ireland

Big guns fit and available as Wales coach gets ready to name his 100th team at noon

Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Reuters
Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Reuters

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Warren Gatland will be able to call on a host of big names as he names his Wales team to face Ireland at noon today.

Lions Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau, Liam Halfpenny and Liam Williams have reported as fit and available for the trip to Lansdowne Road in a significant boost to the Kiwi coach who will take charge of his 100th Test.

Gatland must now decide whether to stick with the players who have engineered a win over Scotland and a bonus-point defeat to England with impressive performances in the first two games or introduce some of his stars for a match his team must win if they are to have any realistic hopes of reclaiming the Six Nations.

The back-three is particularly crowded after Williams, George North and Hallam Amos played for their clubs last weekend, while Halfpenny was a late withdrawal from the England game.

Biggar and Faletau are two weeks ahead of schedule but are light on recent game time.

"It's nice to have headaches in a few positions," scrum coach Robin McBryde said.

"It's always good to have plenty to choose from and there's a competitive edge to the squad. It will be a tough call on a few individuals but we're looking forward to having those discussions later."

Ireland, meanwhile, will hope to have Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and James Ryan available for today's pivotal training session at their Kildare base.

Furlong and Henderson have hamstring issues and have not trained fully since coming off against Italy last Saturday week, while Ryan has a hip issue and sat out training last week.

Schmidt traditionally rules players out if they cannot train on the Tuesday of a Test match.

Garry Ringrose, Niall Scannell and John Cooney have been added to the squad, although Ringrose trained with Leinster yesterday and is expected to make his return from injury for his province on Friday.

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