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Wales Online
Mark Orders

The likely Wales team to play Ireland in Six Nations as Gatland assesses injuries and form and players come into camp

Warren Gatland’s first Wales selection saw him include 13 Ospreys in his run-on side — a pick that not everyone saw coming.

Fifteen years on, as he starts his second stint as Welsh national coach, how many from the Llandarcy-based region will he include in his side to begin the Six Nations against Ireland a week next Saturday?

The Ospreys have been in blistering form, after all, doubling the French champions and beating the English champions in their own backyard last time out.

But let’s see.

Read more: Ross Moriarty's miserable week ends with the Wales star being forced off the field with a worrying injury

Experience has shown that Gatland is beyond difficult to read.

But, as the players head into camp to start preparations for the championship, here’s our best guess at the matchday 23 he'll will run with against the Irish.

15. Liam Williams (Cardiff)

This could be a close call. While Williams has been having a stop-start time of it because of injuries, Leigh Halfpenny has banged in four 80-minute performances in a row, doing what one of the most sure-footed full-backs in the game does.

There again, Williams toured with the Lions under Gatland in 2021 and has shown before he can engage peak form swiftly. Maybe, the call could be made on performances in training. You can read more here about the making of the humble Welsh boy who went on to hit great heights

14. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys)

Attacking opportunities may have been few and far between for him for the Ospreys against Leicester Tigers on Friday evening, but he covered, chased, tackled and contested breakdowns, even pulling off a turnover. He also packed an aerial presence. An in-form Test player, then.

Louis Rees-Zammit, of course, is injured, but expect the youngster to play a huge part in the tournament when fit.

13. George North (Ospreys)

The Ospreys have been easing him back after the horrendous facial injury he sustained before Christmas. Appearing as an early replacement against Leicester, North offered himself unfailingly as a carrier. Gatland has the youthful enthusiasm, power and speed of Mason Grady as an option but North’s know-how and proven Test match quality, acquired over more than a dozen years, could prove vital for a match that’s likely to set the tone for Wales’ campaign.

12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens)

Heading into this weekend, Nick Tompkins had started 11 matches for Saracens this term and won 10 of them. He’s hugely respected at the North London club and his form has been good. Keiran Williams and Joe Hawkins will pose a challenge, but maybe Tompkins’ tried-and-tested international experience will swing the verdict.

11. Josh Adams (Cardiff)

A Gatland favourite and he’s an even better player than when the Kiwi’s first stint as Wales head coach ended. There have been nine tries from him in 10 games this season. If he’s not assured of his position, no-one is.

10. Dan Biggar (Toulon)

Not as straightforward a pick as some might imagine, with Owen Williams performing so well for the Ospreys: five starts, five wins, five very good performances from him. Home-based, Williams will also be available for every training session, too, rather than have to head back to his club during fallow weeks.

But it would still be a big call to pass over Biggar, a player whose will to win and Test match nous are so important to Wales.

9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff)

There is a school of thought that asks why name a 34-year-old in your squad if you are not going to start him? It’s a decent query to ponder. Rhys Webb, the gent in question, has also been delivering at regional level. But the rib injury he picked up against Montpellier may not help him.

And Williams is a quality No. 9. That said, Gatland will monitor this position ultra-closely before making his call. He'll be looking for a general. The spot is there to be claimed.

1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys)

The Ospreys have the best scrum in Wales and Thomas is an important part of it. Gatland rates Wyn Jones, but Jonathan Humphreys would have seen at close-quarters in the summer and autumn exactly what Thomas offers, with the west Walian also an excellent defender.

2. Ken Owens (Scarlets)

He’s captain and so looked nailed on for his place even before Dewi Lake’s injury mishap at Welford Road. Bradley Roberts is explosive, but all the dynamite in the world isn’t likely to affect Gatland’s decision here: The Sheriff will start.

3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys)

Not indispensable — no one is — but still very important to Wales’ hopes of doing well in this championship. See the bit on Thomas and the Ospreys scrum. Francis is good at the pushing and shoving game.

Dillon Lewis will offer an alternative when back up to speed after injury, while Leon Brown is a tank who can do major damage off the bench. In time, Brown could start, but it’s Francis for now.

4. Adam Beard (Ospreys)

Beard has engaged some of his best form of late. His defence is sound, his work at mauls is peerless and he has few betters at the lineout. He has also developed a tough mental outlook. In short, he's one who shouldn't worry too much about this selection.

Adam Beard of Ospreys (Huw Evans Picture Agency)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)

Jones' work alongside Beard went under the radar a shade against Leicester. The pair helped ruin the English club’s lineout, with Jones pilfering two throws and Beard another, while Jones also disrupted at every turn. He also came up with many tackles, knocking big ball carriers back behind the gain-line.

There’s a case for the relentlessly physical Rhys Davies coming into contention, but Jones is likely to prove the man for this particular mission.

6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys)

Three turnovers, more than 50 metres made as a carrier, a try, plus many tackles. How good was Morgan against Leicester on Friday evening? Sensationally good. There — that just about covers it.

7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)

Some will wonder how Tommy Reffell can possibly be left out after his effort against the Ospreys. The answer is because he’s up against one of the most complete rugby players Wales has ever produced. Tipuric has been key to every strong performance by his region of late, a master openside who doesn’t stop competing or thinking on the pitch.

You'd imagine Gatland would be in no about about his worth.

8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff)

First name on the team-sheet. Nothing more to say.


Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Rhys Davies, Christ Tshiunza, Rhys Webb, Owen Williams, Keiran Williams.

Leon Brown is favourite for the tight-head bench spot, with Dillon Lewis yet to play after his recent injury.

Wyn Jones is someone Gatland has a lot of time for, while he’ll enjoy Rhys Davies’ physicality. Christ Tshiunza or Tommy Reffell? Different players, but Wales are not exactly short of turnover specialists with Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau in their ranks, so Reffell may have to be patient, world-class at the art of ball-pilfering though he undoubtedly is.

Whether Webb features will depend on his fitness after the rib injury he sustained a week last Saturday, while Owen Williams has delivered against the French champions and the English champions and Keiran Williams could offer explosive impact.


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