Gareth Anscombe will start at fullback as Warren Gatland opted to shake up his Wales team ahead of their opening Six Nations match against Ireland on Monday morning New Zealand time.

With Liam Williams failing to prove his fitness and Leigh Halfpenny also sidelined, former Blues and Chiefs utility Anscombe starts in the No 15 jersey alongside winger George North.

With Gatland naming a bold line-up - including a first start for winger Tom James since 2010 - Joel Tipuric will complete a dual-openside combination with skipper Sam Warburton.

The Kiwi coach has indicated a change in direction after the World Cup, with veteran prop Gethin Jenkins relegated to the bench in favour of 23-year-old Rob Evans.


'We are excited by the make-up of the squad, it's very experienced along with one eye looking to the future,' said Gatland. 'Rob gets a start at loose-head, he's played well for us before and deserves a chance looking ahead to the next few years.

'We have been impressed with Tom James' form for Cardiff Blues and we are excited by the mix of the back-row which has played well together before. We have a very experienced bench, with a lot of caps there and hopefully they will come on and make an impact.'

Tipuric's inclusion sees stalwart flanker Dan Lydiate named among the replacements, with Alex Cuthbert also featuring on a 364-cap bench, making way for James.

Lions centre Jonathan Davies returns alongside Jamie Roberts after missing the World Cup, while Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar restore their recent half-back combination.

'It's great to see Jonathan back and alongside Jamie, which makes a pretty experienced midfield,' said Gatland. 'Gareth Anscombe at full-back also gives us the option of having two first receivers.

'It's going to be a physical game. Two years ago they strangled us out of the match and played well and we have to rise to that challenge on Sunday.'

No 8 Toby Faletau completes the back-row, packing down behind Alun-Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris in the engine room.

Scott Baldwin and Samson Lee join Evans in the front-row for the trip to the Aviva Stadium, where Gatland will go head-to-head with coaching rival Joe Schmidt.


Wales team to play Ireland at the Millennium Stadium:

Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins), Tom James (Cardiff Blues), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing 92), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, CAPT), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Priestland (Bath Rugby), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues).

- Daily Mail