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Six Nations 2021: Dan Lydiate starts for Wales against Ireland, George North stays at centre

Flanker Lydiate last featured for Wales in the 2018 Autumn internationals, but will start after being handed a recall by Wayne Pivac; North stays at centre, while Hallam Amos and Louis Rees-Zammit start in the wing positions

Dan Lydiate will make his first start for Wales since November 2018 after being named in the line-up for their Six Nations opener against Ireland on Sunday.

The 33-year-old flanker last featured for the national team in the Autumn internationals just over two years ago, but has been put straight into the starting XV for the clash in Cardiff following his recall to the squad by Wayne Pivac.

Meanwhile, head coach Pivac has handed Hallam Amos only his second Six Nations start with fellow winger Josh Adams suspended for breaching Covid-19 protocols. That, in turn, means George North stays at centre.

“We are looking forward to kicking off our campaign this weekend and putting into action two really good training weeks,” Pivac said.

“We made strides forward through the autumn and we are looking to take that into Sunday and into this tournament.”

North, who has played most of his career in the wide position, lined up in the midfield for Wales’ win over Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup last December and retains that role for the match against Ireland.

The other wing slot is filled by Louis Rees-Zammit, with the pacey Gloucester wide-man able to lay down a marker while Liam Williams serves a ban after being sent off for Scarlets in their recent PRO14 loss to Cardiff Blues.

Elsewhere in the team, hooker Ken Owens and scrum-half Tomos Williams return after missing Wales’ autumn Tests due to shoulder injuries.

Also in the pack, Adam Beard makes a return to the second row alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones, who will win his 144th cap for his country.

Wales come into the tournament having won just three Tests – against Italy, twice, and Georgia – under Pivac’s stewardship last year, but have not lost a Six Nations fixture to Ireland on home soil since 2013 and the New Zealander wants his side to give the nation a lift in the behind-closed-doors encounter.

“The Six Nations is a fantastic tournament and is important for us rugby wise, but it is important for so much more this year,” Pivac said.

“It is important for communities across the country and we want to play our part and give everyone something to look forward to and to get excited about on the weekend.”

Wales team to face Ireland

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Hallam Amos; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Nick Tompkins.

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