Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Experience counts as Coombs makes way

Andrew Coombs has been left out of Wales' team to face Scotland

Wales boss Rob Howley has sympathised with lock Andrew Coombs over his omission from Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Newport Gwent Dragons forward Coombs has been Wales' discovery of the campaign. He delivered impressive displays during his first three Test match appearances when the reigning Six Nations champions lost to Ireland but then beat France and Italy.

Howley, though, has plumped for the experience and ability of a British and Irish Test Lion in recalling Ospreys talisman Alun-Wyn Jones. "The attributes of physicality and experience will be pretty important on Saturday, particularly in the front five," Howley said.

He added: "Andrew Coombs can be extremely proud of his performances - he has been outstanding. As I said to him this morning, he couldn't have done anything more, and the fact that a British Lion with 68 caps is coming in to replace him I think shows how well Andrew has done."

It will be Jones' first Test start since he suffered a shoulder injury in the Millennium Stadium appointment with Argentina last November, and subsequently underwent surgery. "Alun-Wyn has been an integral part of this squad over the last few years," Howley said. "I am sure we will use all his experience on Saturday."

While Jones returns, though, Wales are without 97-times-capped prop Gethin Jenkins, whose calf muscle injury suffered against Italy 10 days ago has not healed in time.

One other change from Rome sees openside flanker Sam Warburton - last season's Grand Slam captain - return to the starting line-up instead of Justin Tipuric. But even though Warburton has been recalled - he suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the championship - his back-row colleague Ryan Jones remains as skipper.

Jones, who has captained Wales a record 31 times, took over from an unfit Warburton and led his country to victory against France in Paris, and then Italy in Rome when Warburton was on bench duty, and he unsurprisingly keeps the job.

"Ryan (Jones) has led the team to two wins and deserves to captain the side against Scotland," Howley said. "I don't see any reason to change the dynamics. Ryan has been a great leader over the last two or three weeks. I explained that situation to Sam. Obviously, he is disappointed. It is about the team dynamics, it is about how Ryan has led."

Howley retains the same back division for a fourth successive game, but four changes on the bench from Rome see Cardiff Blues prop Scott Andrews come in for James and Ryan Bevington replace Craig Mitchell, while Coombs and Tipuric swap places with Jones and Warburton respectively.

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