Wales mix it up for Ireland

Date published: February 3 2016

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Wales have named their side to face Ireland in their Six Nations opener in Dublin on Sunday, with Gareth Anscombe, Tom James, Rob Evans, Justin Tipuric and Jonathan Davies all handed starts.

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 loosehead and will earn his fourth cap in his third match against Ireland.

In the backline James, who last played for Wales in November 2010, and made his debut back in 2007, will win his tenth cap on the wing. James will form a new look back-three alongside Anscombe and George North. Anscombe, who made his international debut against Ireland last August, will make his first Six Nations start as he lines up at full-back.

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 while 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 loosehead, 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: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton (c), 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Alex Cuthbert.

Date: Sunday, February 7
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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