Francis starts as Welsh chase Grand Slam

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Exeter Chiefs prop Tomas Francis lines-up in an unchanged Wales side as they chase the Grand Slam against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

By Mark Stevens

Exeter Chiefs prop Tomas Francis starts in an unchanged Welsh squad as they chase Grand Slam glory against Ireland in this Saturday's Guinness Six Nations clash in Cardiff.

With four victories to their name already this season, Warren Gatland has decided to stick with his winning formula in what will be his 50th Six Nations match for Wales.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will equal Welshman Gethin Jenkins’ total test appearance record as he moves to 134 test caps (125 Wales, 9 British & 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 Francis - who will win his 40th Test cap - continuing together in the front-row. Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty comprise the back-row.

Behind, Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe are named at half-backs with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies in the centre. Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams once again comprise the back-three.

Looking ahead to the game, Gatland said: “We’ve named an unchanged squad and rewarded the players for the last couple of outings and the last couple of victories. 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 of what is going to be a huge game. For a number of us as coaches this is our last Six Nations game and that fact it is in Cardiff is extra special. There is bound to be a bit of emotion on Saturday and that is something to embrace.”

Wales team to play Ireland

15. Liam Williams (55 Caps)
14. George North (82 Caps)
13. Jonathan Davies (72 Caps)
12. Hadleigh Parkes (14 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (10 Caps)
10. Gareth Anscombe (25 Caps)
9. Gareth Davies (40 Caps)
1. Rob Evans (34 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (63 Caps)
3. Tomas Francis (39 Caps)
4. Adam Beard (12 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (124 Caps, capt)
6. Josh Navidi (15 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (63 Caps)
8. Ross Moriarty (30 Caps)


16. Elliot Dee (17 Caps)
17. Nicky Smith (27 Caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (11 Caps)
19. Jake Ball (31 Caps)
20. Aaron Wainwright (7 Caps)
21. Aled Davies (15 Caps)
22. Dan Biggar (69 Caps)
23. Owen Watkin (12 Caps)

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