Warburton not ready, says Williams

Sam Warburton

Sam Warburton missed Wales’ 16-10 win over Ireland in August 2015

Shane Williams believes Wales coach Warren Gatland should leave captain Sam Warburton and full-back Liam Williams out of his side for the Six Nations match against Ireland on Sunday.

Both players have started only one game since recovering from injuries.

“I wouldn’t pick Liam and Sam because they have been injured for some time and I just think one game isn’t enough,” said Wales’ record try-scorer.

Gatland names his team for the Aviva Stadium game at 11:00 GMT on Wednesday.

“If both these players were fit they’d probably be in the starting line-up,” added Williams.

“But to play once at club or regional level and then play international level is not enough.”

Liam Williams required surgery after injuring his foot against Australia

Strong squad, short of recent action

Gatland has a much stronger-looking squad than he had at his disposal for much of the World Cup, but has to decide whether to risk players at international level who have played very little domestic rugby.

Opsreys scrum-half Rhys Webb and Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny are still out of the reckoning.

Williams played 60 minutes for Scarlets last weekend – his first rugby since limping off during Wales’ 15-6 defeat by Australia on 10 October.

Flanker Warburton has played just once for Cardiff Blues in the last two months, against Calvisano on 22 January, because of an ankle injury.

And blind-side flanker Dan Lydiate has not played since suffering a shoulder injury while playing for the Ospreys against Dragons on New Year’s Day.

Dan Lydiate has not played a game since New Year’s Day

Cover in the back row

The official line coming from the Wales management is that Williams and Lydiate are both fit to play.

In the absence of Halfpenny, Williams is comfortably the leading candidate for the number 15 shirt and impressed on his return for Scarlets.

Bristol’s Blues-bound Matthew Morgan would be wild-card selection at full-back but a gamble Gatland would appear unlikely to take against the defending Six Nations Champions.

In the back row, however, Gatland has Ospreys open-side Justin Tipuric at his disposal who, in the words of Shane Williams, “would not leave a hole if he fills in for Sam [Warburton].”

Another option could be to include Tipuric and Warburton if Lydiate is not deemed ready – as Gatland did in the World Cup match against Australia.

Midfield strength

Those selections aside, Gatland has his first-choice centre partnership of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies back in tandem, although without the cutting edge of Scott Williams off the bench with the Scarlet out for the season.

At half-back Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies are expected to continue their partnership from the World Cup and George North’s lack of tries for Northampton is unlikely to keep him out of one of the wing berths.

Whether it is Alex Cuthbert, Hallam Amos or Tom James on the other flank is more of a debate.

In the front five one question could be whether Bradley Davies or Luke Charteris accompany Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

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