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Players offered chance for redemption as Rob Howley names unchanged Wales team

Wales boss Rob Howley has offered his players a chance for redemption after naming an unchanged team to face RBS 6 Nations opponents Ireland on Friday.

Despite Wales suffering a first defeat at Scotland's hands for 10 years last time out, Howley will send the same starting XV and replacements into battle when Ireland arrive in Cardiff.

It is a selection that might surprise many pundits and supporters, but interim head coach Howley said: "As coaches, we discussed giving the opportunity to the side to redeem themselves for the second-half performance against Scotland.

"There were too many unforced errors in our game from 40 to 55 minutes, after a really dominant first half on the back of one of the best games in the Six Nations against England.

"Obviously, I know things have been said in the week about some players' performance. But as a coaching team, we have talked about the opportunity just to go out again.

"There is an opportunity to go out at home in front of our own supporters and deliver a performance which the players are proud of and for the supporters to support that. It will be a huge game."

Bath forwards Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris, who had been tipped in some quarters to start, again feature among the replacements.

And openside flanker Justin Tipuric will win his 50th cap, packing down alongside back-row colleagues Sam Warburton and Ross Moriarty.

A number of Wales players came under an intense media spotlight following a second-half implosion in Edinburgh when Scotland scored 20 unanswered points.

But Howley has not reached for any panic button, opting to say "same again" as Wales look to derail Ireland's Six Nations title hopes.

Wing George North is among those retained, despite questions being raised about his defensive work at Murrayfield, and he forms Wales' back three with Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams.

Howley, meanwhile, said that Charteris suffered concussion while in club action last Saturday.

"He has gone through the HIA process and wasn't able to train over the weekend," Howley added.

"So, because of that lack of preparation time we have decided, with a six-day turnaround, it's common sense for him to be on the bench and come on if needed.

"Luke passed the HIA on the day, he has done checks up until this point. He just has his contact protocol to go through, and he will be fine."

If Wales lose on Friday, it will be the first time since 2007 for them to suffer three successive defeats in one Six Nations campaign, while losses in both remaining fixtures against Ireland and France would put them outside the top-ranked eight nations for May's 2019 World Cup draw.

"In sport, sometimes fine margins make a huge difference, and we need to get on the positive side of them," Howley said. "We expect a reaction on Friday night.

"The challenge for us is to make sure we deliver a performance this week.

"Every player has a point to prove when you pull the national jersey on. That's the challenge of international rugby. It's about handling the pressure from one minute to 80 minutes. That's the challenge for all of us.

"Winning is pretty important on Friday night, as everyone knows. International rugby is about winning. It's the same in cricket, football or rugby. That is the same consistent message to our players.

"We missed out on six or seven try-scoring opportunities against Scotland.

"It's about being clinical and keeping hold of the ball. The disappointment was the unforced errors in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Scotland had 99 per cent possession, and we had one per cent in that period."

Tipuric, who made his Test debut in 2011, joins a small group players who have reached 50 caps when the majority of their appearances came as a replacement.

Friday night will be the Ospreys forward's 24th start for his country, following former hooker Huw Bennett, who reached a half-century of Wales appearances through 21 starts and 29 runs off the bench.


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