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Wales v Ireland – Teams, Betting & First Try scorer odds. Kick off 2:15pm on Saturday 4th February.
“We’ve picked Joe at 12. He’s a lovely footballer with some great skills,” said Gatland. “I thought for his first cap he was outstanding so we’ve given him another opportunity. There’s some real competition in the midfield at the moment, so I’m really excited about that.
“Ireland are the number one team in the world, so they’re going to be coming here with a lot of confidence.
“You don’t become the number one team in the world without having some pretty consistent performances. We know how good they are and we’re expecting a really tough contest.
“It’s important for us that we start well, but we need to be in the game at the last 20 mins.”
- QUIZ: Warren Gatland’s first XV as Wales head coach
Rio Dyer will also make his Championship bow on the wing, selected ahead of the more experienced Alex Cuthbert, who is on the replacements bench.
There is a start for another of Gatland’s former favourites, however, with Justin Tipuric picked at openside flanker ahead of the in-form Tommy Reffell.
Jac Morgan completes the back row, while Alun Wyn Jones will win his 156th Test cap alongside Adam Beard in the engine room.
Ken Owens captains the side, joined by Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis in the front row.
Taulupe Faletau starts at No.8 with Cardiff Rugby teammate Tomos Williams getting the nod at scrum-half.
Dan Biggar, who played second fiddle to Gareth Anscombe throughout the final Grand Slam of Gatland’s first spell in charge, starts at fly-half.
Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny complete the XV, while scrum-half Rhys Webb is in line to win his first Wales cap since 2020 as an impact player.
Wales team to play Ireland:
15. Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)
12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)
10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps) captain
3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)
4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)
6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)
16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 34 caps)
17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 17 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)
19. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)
20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)
21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)
22. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)
23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)
Johnny Sexton will captain the Ireland and is partnered in the half-backs by Jamison Gibson-Park. The centre combination from the Bank of Ireland Nations Series of Stuart McCloskey and Garry Ringrose is retained, with Hugo Keenan at fullback and Mack Hansen and James Lowe on the wings.
In the front row Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan are joined by Finlay Bealham, making a first Championship start, with Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan named at lock.
Josh van der Flier is named at openside, Peter O’Mahony, set to win his 90th cap, is on the blindside flank and Caelan Doris is in the number eight slot.
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 25 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 8 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 47 caps
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 9 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 15 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 109 caps (c)
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 23 caps
1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
3. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 27 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 36 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 89 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 45 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 23 caps
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 31 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 121 caps
18. Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 4 caps
19. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 68 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 33 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 100 caps
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
23. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 41 caps
Match Betting and Handicap Wales v Ireland
Ireland were -5.5 at the start of the week but all the money has come for the men in green. Ireland are now -7.5 and 1/3 in the betting.
Betting Advice Wales v Ireland
Backing Ireland -5.5 and Finlay Bealham at 5/1 to score anytime.