Wales recall 'hard-nosed' Lydiate for Ireland Six Nations clash

Julian Guyer
·3-min read

Wales coach Wayne Pivac hailed Dan Lydiate as a "hard-nosed player" after recalling the Ospreys flanker following two years of Test exile for Sunday's Six Nations Championship opener against Ireland.

The 33-year-old won the last of his 64 Wales caps against Australia in November 2018.

Some pundits have questioned whether Lydiate's best days are behind him but Pivac believes his grit and defensive skills are just what struggling Wales need.

Pivac's side endured a miserable 2020, managing just three wins -- two against Italy and one over Georgia -- in 10 matches.

The 2019 Grand Slam champions finished a lowly fifth in the Six Nations and have lost their past four Tests against Ireland, although the Irish have not won a Six Nations match in Cardiff since 2013.

"He's a form player at club level," Pivac said of Lydiate after announcing his team on Friday. "He's come into the camp and trained very well. He deserves a start in our opinion.

"He'll bring a lot of experience and he's a hard-nosed player. He's what we need in round one."

Blindside flanker Lydiate will line up alongside No 8 Taulupe Faletau and openside Justin Tipuric in a back-row boasting a combined tally of 225 Wales caps.

In the backs, Ospreys wing George North remains at centre.

North, who will be winning his 99th Welsh cap, partners Johnny Williams in a Wales midfield missing injured Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies.

It means North retains the centre role he filled in Wales' last match against Italy on December 5, when Williams was injured and Davies started alongside him.

"That's been our plan with Jonathan Davies' injury," said Pivac. "George did well there in the Italian game. We're comfortable with him there."

- Amos 'swap' for Adams -

With both Liam Williams and Josh Adams suspended, Gloucester's Louis Rees-Zammit comes in on the right wing, with Hallam Amos on the left wing.

Williams was sent off during the Scarlets' Pro14 defeat by the Cardiff Blues last month, while Adams is serving a two-match ban imposed by the Welsh Rugby Union after breaching coronavirus protocols by attending a family gathering.

"Louis was always starting on one wing, with George in the centre. I see this as more of an opportunity for Hallam Amos," explained Pivac.

"It was a straight swap. We’d intended to pick Josh Adams there but that's been well-publicised."

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, international rugby union's most-capped player of all time, is set for his first game since suffering a knee injury nine weeks ago.

Hooker Ken Owens and scrum-half Tomos Williams return after shoulder injuries for a behind-closed-doors match that will be Wales' first match at the Principality Stadium since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic after their Cardiff headquarters was turned into a temporary medical facility.

Pivac has previously talked about building squad depth ahead of the 2023 World Cup but is well aware of the need to win on Sunday.

"In round one, we're obviously after a result," he said. "Getting off to a good start and Ireland is the focus."

Wales (15-1)

Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Johnny Williams, Hallam Amos; Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate; Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Adam Beard; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Wyn Jones

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Josh Navidi, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins

Coach: Wayne Pivac (NZL)