Gatland: Davies deserves recall

  • Last Updated: March 5 2014, 15:54 GMT

Wales boss Warren Gatland says it was not a difficult decision to recall British and Irish Lions star Jonathan Davies for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations showdown against England at Twickenham.

Jonathan Davies: Back for Wales
Jonathan Davies: Back for Wales

Davies has been sidelined from Test rugby for four months and has seen just 105 minutes of competitive action for the Scarlets since suffering a torn pectoral muscle during Wales' opening autumn series defeat by South Africa on November 9.

But the 25-year-old centre, a key performer in the Lions' Test series triumph against Australia last summer, returns to resume his powerful midfield partnership with Jamie Roberts.

With Davies back, George North, who deputised in the number 13 shirt against France last month, reverts to his familiar wing position, with Liam Williams dropping out.

"He (Davies) has been training really hard," Gatland said.

"He is a world-class player, so it wasn't difficult for us to make that call.

"Jonathan has been doing a lot of training in the last five weeks. He has probably been doing too much really. In terms of being fit, he is really sharp at the moment."

One other change from the side that accounted for France sees fit-again lock Alun-Wyn Jones take over from Jake Ball. Jones missed the France encounter because of a foot infection.

Scarlets pair Williams and Ball are both on the bench along with Mike Phillips, as Rhys Webb retains scrum-half duties after impressing on his first Wales start when France were crushed 27-6.

"I don't think it would be fair to drop Rhys after the way he played against France and that performance," Gatland said.

"That was a reward for a really good display by him, but also a really good display by the team."

Four teams - Ireland, England, Wales and France - are currently locked on four points at the top of the Six Nations table.

Ireland's superior points difference means they are favourites to lift the title, although their final game on Match 15 is against France in Paris.

The losers at Twickenham will effectively be out of title contention, which further raises the stakes for the 125th meeting between two fierce rivals. The countries are currently locked on 56 wins each, with 12 draws.

"It is a great stadium. I have had some good results there with Wasps and we were lucky enough to win that game (with Wales) in 2008 - more than lucky. We played pretty well there a couple of years ago," Gatland said.

"At the end of the day you have just got to look at it as a rugby pitch and two teams going out to play. I enjoy it as a place to go and I enjoy it as a stadium.

"They (England) are a good side at the moment. They are well-coached and they look like they are playing with a bit of confidence.

"There is obviously a big build-up between now and the World Cup in terms of them trying to make Twickenham a fortress and you can understand that. We know it is going to be a tough game.

"I think they are missing some key players. (Alex) Corbisiero is a big loss, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, (Manu) Tuilagi, if he doesn't start.

"If you look at the two sides, there is a massive amount more experience in our side compared to England's.

"They are obviously a team on the up and they are improving as well. I think they are missing a number of key players who, if they do come back in the next 12 months, will make them stronger."

Responding to comments by England wing Jack Nowell that the emotion Wales feel towards their next Six Nations opponents is one of "hate", Wales captain Sam Warburton said: "I don't think the boys talk about England games like that.

"They love it because the atmosphere is always so good. You sense the anticipation of the fans all week. The fans love it and we definitely feed off that.

"They are massive games to play in but hate is a very strong word."

Wales team to play England in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Twickenham on Sunday.

L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Racing Metro), G North (Northampton); R Priestland (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Perpignan), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Racing Metro), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), R Jones (Scarlets), J Ball (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), M Phillips (Racing Metro), D Biggar (Ospreys), L Williams (Scarlets).

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