Ireland insist on some blue sky thinking when it comes to stadium roof
Although Howley said the Irish selection had no bearing on the Welsh line-up, aside from giving the pack more balance, Shingler also provides another lineout option to counter the threat posed by the selection of Peter O’Mahony.
As expected, Dan Biggar plays his first Six Nations game in the absence of Rhys Priestland in what is otherwise the same potent and bruising backline which played through their Grand Slam success, with Howley confirming that fullback Leigh Halfpenny will continue with the place-kicking duties.
Amongst the replacements is the uncapped Harlequins lock Olly Kohn. Born in Bristol, the 31-year-old Kohn has Welsh qualification through his late grandfather, who hailed from the Rhymney Valley.
Grand Slam campaign
For all their injury woes, the Welsh starting XV still retains 10 of the team which kicked off last season’s Grand Slam campaign with a 23-21 win at the Aviva Stadium and, with 558 Test caps between them, is still marginally more experienced than the Irish team (517 Tests).
Wales go into this game seeking to avoid an eighth successive defeat, which would be their worst run since 2003, and with the confidence of their national team reflecting that of their regions’ dismal form in Europe, but Howley intimated that they were intent on expanding on the surprisingly blunt running game and cautious emphasis on kicking in their autumn games.
“The intention is to go for it this championship. The speed of ball will depend on the conditions but the focus of our game is ball in hand and put them under pressure with our passing game. We passed considerably more times than Ireland in the Aviva last year. We expect an aerial battle as well: there will be times when all bets are off and you need to put the ball in the air and it is getting those in-game decisions right.”
“When you have some consistency in your backline – Dan is the only change from last year – you are able to be flexible in players playing off each other and unlocking what is a very good defensive 10/12/13 who have played a lot together,” added Howley.
“The key is unlocking them and we have been working on that this week and I am sure the players are confident of delivering on the weekend.”
Wales XV v Ireland
15 Leigh Halfpenny (Blues)
14 George North (Scarlets)
13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
12 Jamie Roberts (Blues)
11 Alex Cuthbert (Blues)
10 Dan Biggar (Ospreys)
9 Mike Phillips (Bayonne)
1 Gethin Jenkins (Toulon)
2 Matthew Rees (Scarlets)
3 Adam Jones (Ospreys)
4 Ian Evans (Ospreys)
5 Andrew Coombs (Dragons)
6 Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
7 Sam Warburton (Blues)
8 Toby Faletau (Dragons)
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), C Mitchell (Exeter), O Kohn (Harlequins), J Tipuric (Ospreys), L Williams (Cardiff), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).