Warren Gatland gives Justin Tipuric the nod as Wales name team to face Ireland
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to face Ireland in their Six Nations opener this Sunday at the Aviva Stadium and there is no place experienced trio Gethin Jenkins, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Lydiate.
Gatland has handed starts for Rob Evans, Tom James and Justin Tipuric as they face the defending champions in Dublin.
Tipuric starts the game at the Aviva Stadium at openside flanker with captain Sam Warburton at blindside and Taulupe Faletau at number eight, completing an all-British and Irish Lions back-row.
In the front-row Evans starts at loose-head and will earn his fourth cap in his third match against Ireland.
In the back-line James, who last played for Wales in the autumn of 2010, and made his debut back in 2007, will win his 10th cap on the wing. James will form a new look back-three alongside Gareth Anscombe and George North. Anscombe, who made his international debut against Ireland last August, will make his first RBS 6 Nations start as he lines up at full-back.
Jonathan Davies returns to the side from injury for the first time since last year's Six Nations and he is named alongside Jamie Roberts in midfield to reform Wales' most capped centre pairing.
Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies are the half-backs and they line-up together for the fifth consecutive match.
In the pack Evans is joined in the front-row by Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin and Scarlets prop Samson Lee.
Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue their partnership in the second row.
"We are excited by the make-up of the squad, it's very experienced along with one eye looking to the future,” said Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland.
"Rob (Evans) gets a start at loose-head, he's played well for us before and deserves a chance looking ahead to the next few years.
"We have been impressed with Tom James' form for Cardiff Blues and we are excited by the mix of the back-row which has played well together before. It's great to see Jonathan (Davies) back and alongside Jamie, which makes a pretty experienced midfield. Gareth (Anscombe) at full-back also gives us the option of having two first receivers.
"We have a very experienced bench, with a lot of caps there and hopefully they will come on and make an impact.”
"It's going to be a physical game. Two years ago they strangled us out of the match and played well and we have to rise to that challenge on Sunday.”
On the bench Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins and Tomas Francis provide the front-row cover with Bradley Davies and Dan Lydiate rounding off the forward contingent. Davies will win his 50th cap if he takes to the field in Dublin. Lloyd Williams, Rhys Priestland and Alex Cuthbert provide the backline cover.
Wales team to play Ireland
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins), Tom James (Cardiff Blues), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing 92), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, CAPT), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Priestland (Bath Rugby), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues).