Thursday 22 March 2018

Priestland and Roberts win race to make Aviva showdown

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland
David Kelly

David Kelly

WELSH coach Warren Gatland predictably edged the battle of mind games after confirming that knee injury victims Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts will be fit enough to take on Ireland in tomorrow’s Six Nations opener.

But pivotal blindside flanker Dan Lydiate did not make the cut – his ankle injury failed to heal in time to make the World Cup quarter-final rematch.

Spiky scrum-half Mike Phillips raised the temperature by declaring that he had no regrets about the controversial try that helped his side win last season’s Six Nations clash in Cardiff.

“I wouldn’t hesitate doing it again because I genuinely thought it was the right ball,” said Philips, who benefited from a touch judge error after Wales took an illegal line-out in the Millennium Stadium last year.

“Sometimes you’re on the wrong end of decisions and sometimes you’ve just got to ride your luck.” Wales have picked a starting lineup with 441 Test caps between them. Wing Alex Cuthbert and No 8 Toby Faletau make their Six Nations debuts, while replacements Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric, Liam Williams and Scott Williams are all yet to make their bow.

Priestland makes his first Six Nations start, and it’s deja vu for Gethin Jenkins’ replacement Rhys Gill at loose-head – his only previous Test cap was against Ireland in Dublin two years ago.

“We have been able to retain continuity in some key areas – we have been working hard and we feel we are approaching this match with the right attitude,” said Gatland.

“We are two sides who know each other well. Ireland will not have enjoyed losing to us in New Zealand, they will want to redress the balance in Dublin this weekend, but they will find us in just as determined mood.”

Philips is confident his side can get off to a winning start. “I’ve enjoyed playing against Ireland over the years. They’re a great side,” he said.

“Ireland won’t be happy that we have beaten them in the last two games. We’ve got to be confident about that. Hopefully we can go there, create some pressure and take our opportunities.”



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