George North to start at centre for Wales in Six Nations opener against Ireland

Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent
·2-min read

George North will start at centre when Wales launch their Guinness Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Cardiff on Sunday.

Ospreys wing North, who wins his 99th cap, is partnered by Johnny Williams in midfield as Wales go into action without Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has handed recalls to 33-year-old Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate and Cardiff Blues wing Hallam Amos, and captain Alun Wyn Jones plays his first game since suffering a knee injury nine weeks ago.

North retains the centre role he filled in Wales’ last match against Italy on December 5, when Williams was injured and Davies started alongside him.

Lydiate last featured for Wales in November 2018, while Amos and Gloucester’s Louis Rees-Zammit take the wing positions in a department where Liam Williams and Josh Adams are both suspended.

Williams was sent off during Scarlets’ Guinness PRO14 defeat against the Blues last month, and Adams is serving a two-match ban imposed by the Welsh Rugby Union after breaching Covid-19 protocols by attending a family gathering.

Elsewhere, 77 times-capped hooker Ken Owens and scrum-half Tomos Williams return after missing Wales’ six autumn Tests due to shoulder injuries, and Adam Beard is also back as skipper Jones’ second-row partner.

Pivac oversaw just three wins – against Italy twice, and Georgia – from 10 starts last year, and his team finished a disappointing fifth in the Six Nations.

Wales have also lost four successive Tests to Ireland, although their opponents this weekend have not won a Six Nations fixture on Welsh soil since 2013.

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

“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.”