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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 18:54 GMT
Byrne in as Wales call up Henson
Gavin Henson has been given a bench spot by Scott Johnson
Gavin Henson has been given a bench spot by Scott Johnson
Lee Byrne will replace stricken Wales captain Gareth Thomas for Sunday's Six Nations match with Ireland in Dublin.

Caretaker coach Scott Johnson has opted to start with Byrne at full-back and resisted the temptation to bring Gavin Henson into the starting line-up.

Henson does earn a place on the bench, however, the Osprey getting the nod after completing a seven-week ban.

With wing Shane Williams ruled out with a dead leg, Dafydd James completes an all-Scarlet back three with Mark Jones.

Only outside centre Hal Luscombe will not be playing his domestic rugby in Llanelli next season, as caretaker coach Scott Johnson picks his first team of the post-Mike Ruddock era.

Midfield partner Matthew Watkins, plus half-backs Dwayne Peel and Stephen Jones - who will rejoin the Scarlets from Clermont Auvergne in the summer - complete the backline.

We know he won't play, but we are still hopeful that Gareth will travel with us to Ireland
Wales caretaker coach Scott Johnson

If the backs are sure to be familiar with each other then the forwards have a familiar look, the pack remaining unchanged from the 28-18 win over Scotland a fortnight ago.

But number eight Michael Owen takes over the captain's armband in Thomas' absence.

"The doctors tell us it is in Gareth's interest to rest and recuperate this week and his situation will be assessed on a daily basis, but we are still hopeful that he will travel with us to Ireland," Johnson said.

"We know he won't play, but he is an integral part of this team and just as when he broke his thumb part way through last year's Grand Slam and we kept him with the squad, we hope to do the same again.

"Lee (Byrne) is a natural replacement for Gareth at full-back and he has performed well already in that position both in the autumn and when required against England and Scotland this season.

"Daf (James) had an exceptional autumn series and has been unlucky not to figure so far during the Six Nations, but the injury to Shane gives him his chance.

"He is in top form at the moment and we are lucky to have such an experienced player to call into the team."

Henson is joined on the bench by Ospreys team-mate Jonathan Thomas, the lock or back-row having proved his fitness after hamstring trouble in the same Celtic League match against the Borders last Friday.

"Jonathan and Gavin both figured for the Ospreys last weekend and acquitted themselves well and Jonathan offers us versatility covering both the back and second row from the bench," Johnson added.

"Gavin is covering both the fly-half and inside centre position, which is especially important to us in the absence of Alfie (Gareth Thomas) and Ceri Sweeney."


Wales: Lee Byrne (Scarlets); Mark Jones (Scarlets), Hal Luscombe (Dragons), Matthew Watkins (Scarlets), Dafydd James (Scarlets); Stephen Jones (Clermont Auvergne), Dwayne Peel (Scarlets); Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Rhys Thomas (Blues), Adam R Jones (Ospreys), Ian Gough (Dragons), Robert Sidoli (Blues), Colin Charvis (Newcastle), Martyn Williams (Blues), Michael Owen (Dragons, capt).
Replacements: Mefin Davies (Gloucester), Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Gareth Delve (Bath), Mike Phillips (Blues), Gavin Henson (Ospreys), Barry Davies (Scarlets).



SEE ALSO
Thomas ruled out for Six Nations
21 Feb 06 |  Six Nations


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