Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts will both start for Wales in the RBS 6 Nations Championship opener against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday (kick-off 3.00pm)

Scarlets fly half Priestland and Blues centre Roberts have recovered from knee injuries in time to take their places in a starting line-up which shows six changes to that which faced Australia at the Millennium Stadium in December and just five from that which defeated Ireland in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals six weeks earlier.

Osprey Huw Bennett is set to win his 50thWales cap, making him only the second hooker to do so (Garin Jenkins has 58 caps), in a squad which features no debutants in its ranks but has three players who will make their second appearance for their country.

Saracens loosehead prop Rhys Gill comes into the side for the injured Gethin Jenkins (knee), after winning his other cap two years ago - appearing from the bench against Ireland at Croke Park in the 2010 RBS 6 Nations.

Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, who made his debut against Australia before Christmas, makes his first start profiting from the retirement of Shane Williams, with Scarlets wing George North (who played in all 7 RWC matches last year) switching flanks to take the No11 jersey synonymous with Wales’ top try scorer.

The third player with a single cap to his name is Scarlets hooker Ken Owens, who starts on the bench after making his debut at the RWC in the Pool D clash with Namibia.

Elsewhere in the starting XV Scarlet Jonathan Davies (7 RWC 2011 appearances) is reunited with Roberts (6 RWC 2011 appearances) and Bayonne scrum half Mike Phillips (6 RWC 2011 appearances) also returns.

Davies replaces his Regional colleague Scott Williams and Phillips replaces Blues half back Lloyd Williams, with both departing players providing cover from the bench.

Ospreys and British and Irish Lions prop Adam Jones returns to the front row alongside Gill and half centurion Bennett.

The final change from the Australia match sees another Osprey Ryan Jones come into the back row for injured Dragon Dan Lydiate (ankle).

The second row duo of Ian Evans (Ospreys) and Bradley Davies (Blues) is retained, with this pairing giving the side a different look as neither figured in the RWC showdown with Ireland.

Blues full back Leigh Halfpenny, Roberts, North, Priestland, Bennett, captain Sam Warburton (Blues) and Dragons No8 Toby Faletau (the other player alongside North and Davies to play in all 7 RWC 2011 matches) are all retained from last time out in Cardiff and all figured in that historic match at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

“We have been able to retain continuity in some key areas, we have been working hard and we feel we are approaching this match with the right attitude and with some good preparation work done,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

“We are two sides who know each other well, Ireland will not have enjoyed losing to us in New Zealand, they will want to redress the balance in Dublin this weekend, but they will find us in just as determined mood.”

On the bench James Hook (Perpignan) joins the Williamses in providing cover for the backs and could win his 60thcap. Osprey Paul James joins Owens to provide front row cover and Sale Sharks No8 Andy Powell and Osprey Justin Tipuric complete the list of replacements. Dan Lydiate (ankle), Matthew Rees (calf) and Gethin Jenkins (knee) were unavailable for selection due to injury.

WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Michael Phillips; Rhys Gill, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (C), Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Andy Powell, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams


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