I’m really happy with the Wales team that Warren Gatland has announced today for the game in Dublin this weekend. These warm up games may not count for a lot, but speaking to other fans I get the feeling we need a huge performance, if not a victory, to underline the strengths of our talented pool of players and lay down a marker of intent for the World Cup. Indeed, victory over this current Ireland team on their home turf would be a huge confidence boost.
Alun Wyn Jones is deservedly one of the first names on the team sheet, and I feel his imposing presence will have a massive impact on the game, especially when our defence is being tested. He is captain this week in the absence of Sam Warburton, and will lead a largely experienced pack. Tomas Francis, the front-row debutant, needs a massive game – I haven’t seen much of the Aviva Premiership in the last year, but given Exeter’s ascendency in recent seasons, I’m expecting him to compete fiercely at scrum time and demonstrate his dynamism around the park.
Justin Tipuric’s inclusion – albeit at Warburton’s expense – offers us that little extra running flare and exceptional support play. Plus, of course, this weekend will see the long awaited return of George North. This is a huge game for him! Jonah Lomu has reportedly said that North is carrying ‘the weight of the nation’, and I’m sure he will be relieved to get some game time under his belt. Hopefully we will see him return to his incredible international form of the 2012-13 season.