22.02.20 - Wales v France - Guinness Six Nations - Alun Wyn Jones of Wales

Alun Wyn Jones returns from injury to captain Wales for Six Nations opener

Pivac announces his 23-man squad to face Ireland in Wales’ first Six Nations match this Sunday

HEAD Coach Wayne Pivac is hoping that the return of several crucial players will ensure Wales gets the positive start they need in their first Six Nations game on Sunday.

He will be under increasing pressure due to Wales’ poor performance last year, with their fifth place finish. The limits on sporting events due to the pandemic means all eyes will be on the national side.

“The Six Nations is a fantastic tournament and is important for us rugby-wise, but it is important for so much more this year.

“It is important for communities across the country and we want to play our part and give everyone something to look forward to and to get excited about on the weekend,” said Pivac.

Several key players will be returning from injury, with Ken Owens making his comeback after missing the autumn campaign. He will be lining up alongside Alun Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis.

Alun Wyn Jones returns to captain the national side after suffering a knee injury during Wales’ Autumn Nations Cup victory over Italy in early December.

He will be partnered in the second row by Adam Beard, who most recently appeared against Ireland last February.

It is an all British and Irish Lions back-row with Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside Dan Lydiate, who will make his first start since November 2018.

Tomos Williams will also make his first appearance back after injury and will partner Dan Biggar at half-back.

George North during Wales v France – Rugby World Cup Quarter Final (20.10.19)

This match will also see George North earn his 99th international cap for Wales. He will be joined in the centre by Johnny Williams.

Hallam Amos, Louis Rees-Zammit and Leigh Halfpenny take up their positions in the back-three.

Front-row cover will be provided courtesy of Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones and Leon Brown, with Will Rowlands and Josh Navidi completing the forwards.

Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy and Nick Tompkins will provide the back-line cover.

Two notable absences from the squad are Cardiff Blues winger Josh Adams and fullback Liam Williams. Adams has been suspended for two matches after breaking coronavirus restrictions while attending a family gathering.

Williams has been banned for three games after being awarded a red card for diving into a ruck headfirst during the Scarlets’ game against Cardiff Blues in January.

After their 24-14 loss to Ireland last year, Pivac is hoping that the Wales side can build on their work from a mixed autumn campaign.

Pivac added: “We are looking forward to kicking off our campaign this weekend and putting into action two really good training weeks.

“We made strides forward through the autumn and we are looking to take that into Sunday and into this tournament”.

Bookies have placed Wales as the marginal underdogs heading into this weekend, with the side at 5/4, according to William Hill.

Scenes like these will not be possible as all matches will be played without fans in attendance.

Wales’ return to the Principality Stadium will not have the usual reception from cheering fans due to current Coronavirus restrictions.

The Welsh side return to the capital after a year-long absence, with their 2020 Autumn Internationals fixtures taking place at Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli.

However, Wales’ Head Coach has stressed that their experiences without crowds during the autumn will help and his focus is on building the players’ spirits within the camp.

Wales v Ireland kicks off at 3pm GMT on Sunday, February 7 on BBC and S4C.

Full squad announcement:

  • Wales: 1. Wyn Jones (30 Caps), 2. Ken Owens (77 Caps), 3. Tomas Francis (52 Caps), 4. Adam Beard (21 Caps), 5. Alun Wyn Jones (CAPTAIN) (143 Caps), 6. Dan Lydiate (64 Caps), 7. Justin Tipuric (80 Caps), 8. Taulupe Faletau (81 Caps), 9. Tomos Williams (20 Caps), 10. Dan Biggar (87 Caps), 11. Hallam Amos (22 Caps), 12. Johnny Williams (2 Caps), 13. George North (98 Caps), 14. Louis Rees-Zammit (4 Caps), 15. Leigh Halfpenny (93 Caps).
  • Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee (33 Caps), 17. Rhodri Jones (17 Caps), 18. Leon Brown (12 Caps), 19. Will Rowlands (5 Caps), 20. Josh Navidi (24 Caps), 21. Gareth Davies (57 Caps), 22. Callum Sheedy (4 Caps), 23. Nick Tompkins (8 Caps).