Friday 23 March 2018

Williams to captain Wales against Ireland

Martyn Williams will captain Wales in the RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday (2.30pm).

Injured squad captain Ryan Jones has withdrawn and is replaced at No 8 by Gloucester Rugby's Gareth Delve in one of three changes to the starting line-up.

Scarlets and British & Irish Lions hooker Matthew Rees also returns to the side. Osprey Huw Bennett, who started the defeat to France at the Millennium Stadium last time out, moves to the bench.

Dragons second row Luke Charteris keeps his spot after coming on for the injured Deiniol Jones (Blues) early in the first half against France.

Elsewhere Wales head coach Warren Gatland has said 'same again' to his back line for the third game in a row.

Gatland has made two changes on the bench with the inclusion of Sale Sharks scrum half Dwayne Peel in place of Osprey Mike Phillips and lock Ian Gough (Ospreys) replacing Charteris.

"We have taken the decision not to include any players who are unable to take a full part in training in the build up to the Ireland game," said Gatland.

"This Ireland side will be meticulous in its planning and for this game in particular we need to get our preparation exactly right and once we had reached that conclusion a couple of selection decisions were really made for us.

"Ryan has been managing his calf, but it has hampered his involvement in training and he needs to get it right for his own sake as well as for his region, who have some big matches of their own coming up, and for the sake of the national cause as we countdown to the World Cup.

"Mike (Phillips) is carrying a knock which he picked up on Ospreys duty at the weekend and so was not in contention.

"But this is an opportunity for Martyn, who is one of our key leaders, to captain Wales again and rise to that challenge after doing a good job against Scotland last year when Ryan was again forced to withdraw."

Williams captains his country for the seventh time and also wins his 95th cap, making him Wales's most capped forward. He is now just five appearances behind the country's most capped player Gareth Thomas.

It will be Gareth Delve's first appearance in a Welsh jersey since the 2nd Test v South Africa in Pretoria on 14 June, 2008 and his first start in the RBS 6 Nations.

"This is also a great opportunity for Gareth Delve, who we have been keeping a close eye on and who is also a leader himself. We feel we have a loose forward trio here who can be competitive," Gatland continued.

"Matthew (Rees) comes in for Huw (Bennett) and offers us his experience. We were please with Huw's performance against France, his stats around the field were fantastic, but we are looking for 50 or 60 minutes out of Matthew to maybe give us a little more stability in the set-piece.

"Ireland are an impressive and experienced side with a pack of players who have been around for a long time and who are tough players. We meet them after a good win against England and a loss to France by a scoreline which probably flattered the French.

"We know we need to improve but we do think we have the talent and ability in this squad to match any squad and confident we are good enough to win this match if we can get things right on the day."

Wales Team

1 Paul JAMES (Ospreys)

2 Matthew REES (Scarlets)

3 Adam JONES (Ospreys)

5 Luke CHARTERIS (Newport Gwent Dragons)

6 Jonathan THOMAS (Ospreys)

7 Martyn WILLIAMS (Cardiff Blues, Captain)

8 Gareth DELVE (Gloucester Rugby)

9 Richard REES (Cardiff Blues)

10 Stephen JONES (Scarlets)

11 Shane WILLIAMS (Ospreys)

12 Jamie ROBERTS (Cardiff Blues)

13 James HOOK (Ospreys)

14 Leigh HALFPENNY (Cardiff Blues)

15 Lee BYRNE (Ospreys)


16 Huw BENNETT (Ospreys)

17 Rhys GILL (Saracens)

18 Ian GOUGH (Ospreys)

19 Sam WARBURTON (Cardiff Blues)

20 Dwayne PEEL (Sale Sharks)

21 Andrew BISHOP (Ospreys)

22 Tom SHANKLIN (Cardiff Blues)

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