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Warburton returns for Wales against Ireland & Halfpenny reaches 50

Wales have made three changes from the side the beat Italy 23-15 at the weekend for their match against Ireland on Saturday.

All three changes come in the forward pack, with captain Sam Warburton returning to the starting XV in place of Justin Tipuric, who takes Warbuton’s place on the bench. Dan Lyidate and Toby ‘Taulupe’ Faletau retain their places in the back row alongside the captain.

Andrew Coombs comes into the second row alongside Alun Wyn Jones in place of the injured Luke Charteris, with the Scarlets Jake Bell set to make his debut in the second row from the bench.

The final change sees Gethin Jenkins come in for Paul James at prop alongside his Ospreys colleagues Adam Jones and Richard Hibbard. Ryan Bevington drops out of the 23 to accommodate James on the bench alongside ken Owens and Rhodri Jones.

The backs are unchanged from that victory over Italy, with Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts maintaining their combination in the centre despite the return to fitness of Jonathan Davies.

Leigh Halfpenny will win his 50th Test Cap when he starts at full back, an incredible stat for a 25 year old. George North an Alex Cuthbert flank him on the wings with Liam Williams on the bench.

Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland continue their half back combination, with Rhys Webb and James Hook retaining their spots on the bench.

Speaking of his changes to the starting XV, Welsh Head Coach Warren Gatland said:

“It’s great to bring Sam and Gethin back into the side and it’s a good opportunity for Andrew Coombs to start as well. Last weekend was a good hit out for a lot of reasons, but we still have things to work on and we know how important this game is.”

“We haven’t lost an away match in the Six Nations since 2011 and we have to have the belief and confidence that we can do it again this weekend.”

“It’s going to be tough, both sides won their opening game, we will have to be physical and take it to them. We feel in most tournaments we get stronger as it goes on and that will need to be the case this weekend.”

Wales XV v Ireland Saturday, 14.30, Aviva Stadium, Dublin:

Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Sam Warburton (CAPT – Cardiff Blues), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Liam Williams (Scarlets).

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