There was mixed news for Wales’ Lions contingent when Warren Gatland named his side to face England earlier today.
Jamie Roberts, the HSBC Player of the Tour from the Lions’ 2009 adventure in South Africa, will make his first international appearance since the summer after being named alongside side Scarlets centre Jon Davies in midfield.
Despite missing out in the centres, fellow Lion James Hook starts at full back, although his latest positional switch means Lions Test cap Lee Byrne can only manage a place on the bench.
Andy Powell wins the battle for the No8 shirt ahead of Jonathan Thomas and fellow Lion Ryan Jones, while Matthew Rees skippers the side from hooker.
The Lions’ first-choice half backs against the Springboks a year-and-a-half ago both start at the Millennium Stadium, with Mike Phillips named alongside Stephen Jones, with 2005 Lion Dwayne Peel providing back up to Phillips from the bench.
Shane Williams has recovered from injury to take a place on the left wing where he will start his first competitive match for club or country since the November defeat to South Africa.
But while Williams has been passed fit to start, fellow Lions Leigh Halfpenny, Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Tom Shanklin and Gavin Henson were all unavailable for selection, as were centre Andrew Bishop and scrum-half Richie Rees.
Scarlets fly-half cum full back Rhys Priestland could make his debut from the bench while clubmate Morgan Stoddart wins his first cap since 2008 after being named on the right wing.
Ospreys duo Craig Mitchell and Paul James take over the proping duties from Jones and Jenkins, with young flankers Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton preferred to the likes of Lions veteran Martyn Williams who missed out on a Six Nations squad place altogether.
“In the front row we have two guys who have done well at regional level and know each others games either side of our leader and the Lions hooker in Matthew Rees, so we are comfortable with the selection,” said Wales and Lions assistant coach Rob Howley.
“The second row has been consistent in recent times and we have two good youngsters who have both been playing exceptionally well coming into the back row.
“Dan (Lydiate) was magnificent for us in the autumn and Sam (Warburton) has been going great for the Blues in Europe recently and there is a nice balance there with the ball carrying abilities of Andy Powell completing the trio.
“This is going to be a battle of inches and not yards and we know the pack can dominate like they did in our Autumn games we are in with a good chance.
“We did debate selection at fly half and elsewhere in the backs but we feel we have settled on the right pairing there with the experience they offer.
“Lee Byrne misses out solely through virtue of the fact he has had limited game time after injury and he will offer us some impact from the bench, which is fairly experienced in itself and will undoubtedly be utilised during the evening.
“We are playing England at the home of Welsh rugby at the start of the Rugby World Cup year so we are looking to get ourselves of to a great start and create some momentum and I can’t think of a better place for a Welshman to do that.”
Wales (vs England in Cardiff, Friday, 7.45pm)
15 James Hook (Ospreys)
14 Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets)
13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
12 Jamie Roberts (Blues)
11 Shane Williams (Ospreys)
10 Stephen Jones (Scarlets)
9 Mike Phillips (Ospreys)
1 Paul James (Ospreys)
2 Matthew Rees (Scarlets, captain)
3 Craig Mitchell (Ospreys)
4 Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
5 Bradley Davies (Blues)
6 Dan Lydiate (Dragons)
7 Sam Warburton (Blues)
8 Andy Powell (Wasps)
16 Richard Hibbard (Ospreys)
17 John Yapp (Blues)
18 Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
19 Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys)
20 Dwayne Peel (Sale)
21 Rhys Priestland (Scarlets)
22 Lee Byrne (Ospreys)
NB Bold denotes Lion