Rugby

Warren Gatland shuffles Wales pack for England clash at Twickenham

George North to make his 50th Six Nations appearance as Gatland makes seven changes to the starting XV in the loss to Scotland.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made seven changes to face England
Warren Gatland Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made seven changes to face England (David Davies/PA)

Wales boss Warren Gatland has made seven changes to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham.

Centre George North returns from injury for his 50th Six Nations appearance, lining up alongside Nick Tompkins in midfield.

Fly-half Sam Costelow, who went off injured during the first-half of Wales’ 27-26 loss to Scotland last weekend, is replaced by Ioan Lloyd, with Tomos Williams at scrum-half.

Gatland has also selected a new front-row of Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee and Keiron Assiratti, with Cardiff flanker Alex Mann handed a first Wales start following his try-scoring appearance off the bench against Scotland.

Uncapped Bath prop Archie Griffin has been named among the replacements, where he is joined by Racing 92 lock Will Rowlands.

Rowlands linked up with the Wales squad earlier this week after his partner recently gave birth, while there are also chances on the bench for Dragons pair Taine Basham and Cai Evans, who is the son of former Wales captain Ieuan Evans.

Tomos Williams will start at scrum-half for Wales against England
Tomos Williams Tomos Williams will start at scrum-half for Wales against England (David Davies/PA)

North has recovered from a shoulder problem to face England, with Lloyd now starting following an outstanding contribution after taking over from Costelow against Scotland.

And Mann’s promotion to the starting line-up was expected after James Botham’s withdrawal from the squad because of a knee injury.

Williams, Dee and Assiratti, meanwhile, all made major contributions after being introduced for the second 40 minutes last Saturday.

Wales have not beaten England at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2012, when centre Scott Williams’ late try confirmed a Triple Crown triumph.

After defeating England away from home during the 2015 World Cup, Wales have lost to their fierce rivals seven times in succession at Twickenham.

Wales went 27 points down to Scotland before staging a stunning second-half recovery, scoring 26 unanswered points, although it could not mask how poor they were prior to that.

Gatland said: “We have been critical and tough on ourselves this week.

“That first half was nowhere near the standards we expect. We simply cannot start the same way this Saturday.

“We showed in the second half against Scotland what we are capable of. Now, it is about building on that performance and playing with some tempo from the off.

“We’ve made a few changes to the starting line-up this weekend, which gives opportunities to the players coming in. We need to be accurate and keep our discipline.

“This is a massive game, not only because of the history and what it means to everyone in Wales, but it is an opportunity to get things on track a bit more.

“England are in a rebuilding phase. We will go there with a lot of confidence we can build on that second half.”

Wales team versus England: C Winnett (Cardiff); J Adams (Cardiff), G North (Ospreys), N Tompkins (Saracens), R Dyer (Dragons); I Lloyd (Scarlets), T Williams (Cardiff); G Thomas (Ospreys), E Dee (Dragons), K Assiratti (Cardiff), D Jenkins (Exeter, capt), A Beard (Ospreys), A Mann (Cardiff), T Reffell (Leicester), A Wainwright (Dragons).

Replacements: R Elias (Scarlets), C Domachowski (Cardiff), A Griffin (Bath), W Rowlands (Racing 92), T Basham (Dragons), K Hardy (Scarlets), C Evans (Dragons), M Grady (Cardiff).