Wales v Ireland, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium
Warburton holds onto openside berth
ESPN Staff
January 31, 2013
New Zealand do their best to bring down Wales captain Sam Warburton on the charge. Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 24, 2012
Sam Warburton will line up in the familiar position of openside flanker against Ireland on Saturday © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Sam Warburton
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Teams: Ireland | Wales

Sam Warburton has held off the challenge of Justin Tipuric and will line-up in his usual openside flanker berth when Wales kick off their Six Nations defence against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Speculation had been rife that Warburton's position was under-threat and that he may be moved across the back-row to the blindside as a result of Tipuric's outstanding form and an injury to first choice No.6 Dan Lydiate. But caretaker coach Rob Howley has kept faith with Warburton and Tipuric will start on the bench with Aaron Shingler and Toby Faletau set to pack down at blindside and No.8 respectively.

Uncapped Dragons lock Andrew Coombs is promoted in the wake of an injury crisis that has sidelined fellow second rows Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies. Coombs, a former computer software salesman who made his Dragons debut less than three years ago, will partner Ian Evans, who has not started a game since November due to knee trouble. "It's a great opportunity for Andrew, who has been performing well at regional level, to show what he can do on this stage," Howley said.

Adam Jones returns from a knee injury at tight-head prop after missing a fruitless autumn campaign that extended Wales' losing run to seven Tests while Dan Biggar fills the fly-half role vacated by an injured Rhys Priestland. Winger George North is also back on the left wing while Harlequins lock Olly Kohn is poised for his first cap from the bench following his surprise call-up.

"As a squad, we have worked hard over the past two weeks and go into Saturday excited and confident at defending our title," said Howley. "The Six Nations is all about momentum, and we know we have to hit the ground running against Ireland."

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Andrew Coombs, Ian Evans, Aaron Shingler, Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau

Replacements: Ken Owens, Craig Mitchell, Paul James, Olly Kohn, Justin Tipuric, Liam Williams, Scott Williams, James Hook.

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