Joe Hawkins will make his Guinness Six Nations debut against Ireland on Saturday, starting at inside centre for just his second Wales cap.
Hawkins, who made his international bow in the Autumn Nations Series, is one of eight Ospreys players in Warren Gatland’s first XV since returning to the top job.
The 20-year-old, who captained Wales during last year’s Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series, has been selected ahead of Nick Tompkins and the uncapped pair of Mason Grady and Keiran Williams and starts alongside George North.
🏴 𝐂𝐘𝐌𝐑𝐔 𝐗𝐕 🏴
Your Welsh 23 to face @IrishRugby at @principalitysta
💪 Amdani!#WelshRugby | #GuinnessSixNations
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) January 31, 2023
“We’ve picked Joe at 12. He’s a lovely footballer with some great skills,” said Gatland. “I thought for his first cap he was outstanding so we’ve given him another opportunity. There’s some real competition in the midfield at the moment, so I’m really excited about that.
“Ireland are the number one team in the world, so they’re going to be coming here with a lot of confidence.
“You don’t become the number one team in the world without having some pretty consistent performances. We know how good they are and we’re expecting a really tough contest.
“It’s important for us that we start well, but we need to be in the game at the last 20 mins.”
- QUIZ: Warren Gatland’s first XV as Wales head coach
Rio Dyer will also make his Championship bow on the wing, selected ahead of the more experienced Alex Cuthbert, who is on the replacements bench.
There is a start for another of Gatland’s former favourites, however, with Justin Tipuric picked at openside flanker ahead of the in-form Tommy Reffell.
Jac Morgan completes the back row, while Alun Wyn Jones will win his 156th Test cap alongside Adam Beard in the engine room.
Ken Owens captains the side, joined by Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis in the front row.
Taulupe Faletau starts at No.8 with Cardiff Rugby teammate Tomos Williams getting the nod at scrum-half.
Dan Biggar, who played second fiddle to Gareth Anscombe throughout the final Grand Slam of Gatland’s first spell in charge, starts at fly-half.
Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny complete the XV, while scrum-half Rhys Webb is in line to win his first Wales cap since 2020 as an impact player.
Wales team to play Ireland:
15. Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)
12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)
10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps) captain
3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)
4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)
6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)
16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 34 caps)
17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 17 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)
19. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)
20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)
21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)
22. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)
23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)