Fully fit squad gives Warren Gatland food for thought
Before the start of the Six Nations, much was made about the selection headache facing Warren Gatland, as the Welsh injury list grew longer and longer.
Gatland still has a selection headache ahead of this weekend’s game against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, but it’s a completely different kind.
Six of last year’s British and Irish Lions squad look like being available to Gatland once again, three of whom missed the opening games against Scotland and England.
Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau have been deemed fit and available by forwards coach Robyn McBride, while Liam Williams made his return to club action with Saracens on Friday night, and came through the return unscathed, scoring a try enroute to a 13-3 win.
Leigh Halfpenny is also available for selection; he missed the defeat to England due to illness. Gatland also has both Ross Moriarty and George North as part of his plans. Moriarty had appeared to be a doubt after a shoulder injury for England, and while he sat out club action for Gloucester at the weekend, he’s believed to be fully fit. George North made an appearance off the bench in the defeat at Twickenham, but followed that up with a try-scoring performance for the Northampton Saints against London Irish.
It leaves Gatland with some interesting calls to make. Gareth Anscombe was an able-deputy for Leigh Halfpenny against England, and but for an incorrect TMO call, would have had himself a try, but it’s unlikely to see him given the nod ahead of Halfpenny at the Aviva. Likewise, Rhys Patchell has performed well, particularly in the championship opener against Scotland. Gatland must decide whether he’s done enough to keep the returning Biggar on the subs bench.
Arguably the biggest call though is the back row, with both Taulupe Faletau and Ross Moriarty available. The latter could switch to the flank, having played at number 8 against both Scotland and England. If that is to happen to make room for Faletau, either Josh Navidi or Aaron Shingler will be unlucky to miss out, both players forming part of a staggeringly disciplined forwards pack against England.