Byrne in as Rees misses out

Full-back named in starting XV after avoiding suspension

Last Updated: 05/02/10 3:33pm

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Rees: groin injury

Rees: groin injury

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As expected Lee Byrne will start for Wales in their RBS Six Nations opener against England, although hooker Matthew Rees misses out through injury.

Lions cap Rees has suffered a recurrence of a groin injury and has been replaced in the front row by Cardiff Blues hooker Gareth Williams.

Williams will pack down alongside two more Lions front-rowers, props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, and will earn his eighth cap after being called up following impressive domestic and European form this season.

While disappointed to lose Rees, Wales coach Warren Gatland has every faith in his replacement, stating: "Gareth Williams has been in great form for his region and produced some impressive performances in recent weeks.

"We are obviously disappointed for Matthew, but he returned to us with a sore groin after playing at the weekend and he has not responded as quickly as we would have liked to treatment.

"Gareth is surrounded by a wealth of experience, not just in the front-row, but throughout the forwards.

Byrne gets the nod

"We have a pretty settled pack at the moment, with our captain (Ryan Jones)

playing particularly well at number eight for the Ospreys and Andy Powell settling into the blindside role with some great performances for the Blues."

Meanwhile, Byrne will take his place at full-back after winning an appeal on Tuesday night against a two-week ban imposed on him following his brief appearance as an illegal 16th player during Ospreys' Heineken Cup victory over Leicester 11 days ago.

His availability has allowed Gatland to pair James Hook with Jamie Roberts in the centres.

If Byrne had been suspended it is likely that Gatland would have switched Hook to full-back where he performed during Wales' autumn Tests this season.

Elsewhere, Tom James edges out his Blues colleague Leigh Halfpenny for the right-wing role, while Blues scrum-half Gareth Cooper also starts, filling the vacancy created by injuries to Lions number nines Mike Phillips and Dwayne Peel.

Gatland's starting XV features 10 players who toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions last summer, boosted by Byrne and Adam Jones both returning after missing the autumn games through injury.

On the bench, uncapped Richie Rees has been selected and the former London Irish scrum-half could make his international bow at Twickenham.

Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); T James (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Cardiff Blues); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), G Williams (Cardiff Blues), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Powell (Cardiff Blues), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt)
Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), P James (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), R Rees (Cardiff Blues), A Bishop (Ospreys), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)

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