Warren Gatland gives fringe a chance in final home game

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Warren Gatland has named an experimental Wales side to face Ireland for his last game in charge of the home team at the Principality Stadium.

It is also the last chance for players to impress ahead of the head coach naming his 31-man World Cup squad on Sunday, the day after the game, and the final opportunity for supporters to see the team in action at home before they head over to Japan.

The only survivor from the starting XV that beat England two weeks ago is James Davies, who departed early in the game after picking up a nasty head knock. The man who replaced him, Josh Navidi, is named as the starting number eight and will also captain the side for the first time.

It caps a meteoric rise for the Cardiff Blues back rower, who just over two years ago thought he may be stuck as a one-cap wonder forever, but after impressing against the Pacific Nations during the Lions summer of 2017 he has not looked back, winning 16 caps in the intervening period and becoming a key player.

Aaron Shingler completes the back row at openside and they sit behind a much-changed tight five, led by a front row featuring Rhys Carre, who will make his international debut at loosehead in just his third senior competitive start.

Alongside him hooker Ryan Elias will win just his third test cap, while Samson Lee packs down at tighthead for just the third time at international level in the last calendar year. An all-Ospreys second row sees Adam Beard joined by Bradley Davies, who wins his first cap since last summer.

In the backs Aled Davies gets the nod at scrum-half, with Jarrod Evans making his first international start at fly-half, suggesting he is leading the race to play backup to Dan Biggar in Japan.

Owen Watkin and Scott Williams are believed to be in direct competition for the final centre spot in the 31-man squad, with both selected to start on Saturday, Watkin wearing 12 while Williams wears 13 in his first cap since last summer.

Then it’s an all-new back three as another debutant, Owen Lane, is named on the wing opposite Steff Evans with Hallam Amos at full-back, with all three potentially vying for just one berth in the final squad.

The bench is a mix of experience and experiment as Elliott Dee, Jake Ball and Ross Moriarty are named, while Rob Evans and Tomos Williams return from injury. Rhys Patchell will have to use his limited minutes to prove he is fit and in-form, while Leon Brown and Jonah Holmes are real outsiders to make the plane.

Wales: Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Scott Williams, Owen Watkin, Steff Evans, Jarrod Evans, Aled Davies; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, Josh Navidi (c)

Replacements: Elliott Dee, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Jake Ball, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Jonah Holmes

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