Wales: Louis Rees-Zammit back from injury while Mason Grady set for debut against arch rivals England

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Wales have brought back several experienced players for their Six Nations game against England in Cardiff on Saturday.

Much of the build-up has centred on the fraught relationship between the players and the Welsh Rugby Union, with the former threatening to strike.

That led to the initial team announcement, which was scheduled for Tuesday, being delayed.

Experienced line-up

However, with that feud resolved for the time being, Warren Gatland has selected an experienced outfit with Leigh Halfpenny, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric and Alun Wyn Jones returning to the XV.

Louis Rees-Zammit is also back after recovering from injury and he partners Halfpenny and Josh Adams in the back three.

There is a comparatively callow centre combination as Joe Hawkins is joined by Mason Grady, who is making his Test debut.

At half-back, Dan Biggar has been dropped to the bench, which means Owen Williams comes in and is alongside Tomos Williams.

Up front, Wales have gone for the front five which started their first Six Nations clash against Ireland as Ken Owens is partnered by Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis in the front-row, while Adam Beard and Jones are at lock.

The loose trio sees Christ Tshiunza continue at blindside after impressing against Scotland, but there is no Jac Morgan, who is out of the 23.

Tipuric takes his place on the openside and Faletau is at number eight, while Tommy Reffell provides back-row cover on the bench.

Reffell is joined among the replacements by Bradley Roberts, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Kieran Hardy, Biggar and Nick Tompkins.

Drawing a line in the sand

Gatland said: “There’s some experience coming back into the side with Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Alun Wyn Jones and also Leigh Halfpenny.

“And then we’re mixing that with giving players an opportunity. Owen Williams coming in at 10 – we need to find out about that 10 position so Owen gets a chance.

“We’ve given Mason Grady a first cap. He’s a big lad, he’s got some really lovely rugby skills and offloading ability. He’s quick, so he’s the kind of centre that I think is going to have it all going forward.

“He’s got a good rugby head on him. He’s still pretty inexperienced so the big message to him has been ‘what’s the biggest thing you need to work on?’ He said keep talking and keep communicating, so that’s been the focus for him and I’ve been really happy with him in training.

“The message to the players has been let’s draw a line in the sand in terms of what’s been going on and focus completely on the rugby.

“We know the history of Wales and England; what that means to everyone in Wales, so we’ve got to go out there and give a good performance.

“For both teams this is a massive game because we win on Saturday and we can get things on track a little bit more. For England it’s a huge game because if you look at their final two games that’s a challenge too, so it’s a huge moment in this competition.”

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Christ Tshiunza, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Nick Tompkins

Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

READ MORE: Five storylines to watch ahead of Round Three as Wales and England clash after fraught week

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