Warren Gatland is expected to step down as Wales coach after this year's World Cup
Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Warren Gatland on Thursday named an unchanged Wales team for his final Six Nations game in charge, full-back Liam Williams having overcome a right shoulder ‘stinger’ injury.
It will be Gatland’s 50th Six Nations match with Wales, with the Kiwi coach slated to step down from his post following this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Wales head into Saturday’s match at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium as the only unbeaten team in the Six Nations tournament with four victories from four played, part of a 13-match unbeaten streak.
Victory over Ireland would ensure a record third Six Nations clean sweep of Gatland’s reign following Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, and a first Six Nations title since 2013.
The Irish, however, can still win the title should they beat the Welsh and Scotland be victorious over England in Saturday’s final game.
“We’ve named an unchanged squad and rewarded the players for the last couple of outings and the last couple of victories,” said Gatland, who took over as Wales coach at the end of 2007.
“These players are on a very good run, they are a hugely impressive group and they deserve to be going into the final weekend with everything to play for.
“It is a great reward for them for the hard work they have put in and we are all looking forward to what is going to be a huge game.”
- Emotional occasion -
Leaving the Wales set-up along with Gatland after the World Cup will be respected assistant coaches Shaun Edwards, Rob Howley and Robin McBryde, among others.
And the New Zealander admitted that Saturday would likely prove emotional.
“For a number of us as coaches this is our last Six Nations game and the fact that it is in Cardiff is extra special,” he said.
“There is bound to be a bit of emotion on Saturday and that is something to embrace.”
Alun Wyn Jones is set to move to joint fifth on the overall world Test appearance list
Captain Alun Wyn Jones will equal Welshman Gethin Jenkins’ total Test appearance record as he moves to 134 caps (125 Wales, nine British and Irish Lions) and to joint fifth in the overall world Test appearance list.
Jones again packs down with Adam Beard in the second row, with Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis continuing together in the front row, as Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty combine in the back row.
Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe are named at half-back with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies in the centre. Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams once again comprise the back three for Wales.
Williams had been an injury doubt after going off injured in last weekend’s 18-11 victory over Scotland.
But the Saracens full-back has shaken off that knock, sustained in a tackle, to be declared fit.
“He took a part in training on Tuesday, just a bit of non-contact and we had a few other players who had cuts or stitches that were in the same boat,” Gatland said of Williams.
“But he is fully training today so he is 100 percent.”
Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row cover on the bench with Jake Ball and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Dan Biggar and Owen Watkin provide backline cover.
Wales team to play Ireland in the final round of Six Nations matches at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 1345 GMT):
Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi; Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Adam Beard; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Rob Evans
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin
Coach: Warren Gatland (NZL)