Wayne Pivac has made just one change to Wales’ starting XV ahead of their visit to the Aviva Stadium to take on Ireland this weekend in the Guinness Six Nations.
After the 42-0 victory over Italy last weekend, the main question was what Pivac would do with George North, Johnny McNicholl and Nick Tompkins.
The Ospreys wing started at outside centre last week, with McNicholl on the wing, but he has shifted to his most comfortable position for Ireland, with Tompkins slotting in at 13 and the Scarlets player dropping to the bench.
There were a few concerns about North playing at outside centre at Test level, but he answered many of his critics last week, looking very dangerous going forward.
Ireland will be a sterner test, though, which may have influenced Pivac’s thinking here, but Tompkins certainly made a great case to start against Ireland with his try-scoring display from the bench.
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The 24-year-old centre was making his debut alongside McNicholl and he impressed the most out of the two, which is why Pivac’s decision to start him has been welcomed.
There is absolutely no point in playing North out of position when a much more naturally suited player took their opportunity with aplomb last week.
The 95-cap North has had his critics over the past couple of years but has the experience and credentials that his coach may want in Dublin.
Very strong and versatile choice of backs on the bench! Tomkins fully deserves his start after last week!
— Daniel Davies (@danfeebz) February 6, 2020
Nick Tompkins' outstanding debut rewarded with a starting jersey for the trip to Dublin. Fine with North to the wing where he plays his best stuff. Adam Beard on the bench for some grunt! New halfbacks replacements too. On balance, I like it. https://t.co/Xz4AqP2rZS
— Robert Giannotti (@robertgiannotti) February 6, 2020
The very fact that he was willing to start him at outside centre shows the confidence Pivac has in him and is an early sign that he will be a mainstay in the Kiwi’s Wales team.
Therefore, this effectively led to a shootout between Tompkins and McNicholl to see who would start this weekend. On balance, the right decision has been taken based on the performances at the Principality Stadium.
Glad to see the North at 13 experiment has concluded at its most logical end point. Surprised Webb hasn't made the 23 but we are in a really strong position at scrum half at the moment.https://t.co/2zalSMxKph
— James Phillips (@JJP_LFC) February 6, 2020
Glad Dai Tompkins starts (Gwlad even!) & that North moves to wing – if McNicholl had made the 15 after 5 missed tackles Ireland would've treated him like a revolving door between them & the line. Biggar looks better than ever #Wales #Cymru #SixNations #GuinnessSixNations https://t.co/kkhR18MY2N
— Meirion Jones (@MeirionTweets) February 6, 2020
This is what much of the Welsh public feel, as the unease regarding the injury crisis at outside centre would have abated with the performance of Tompkins.
It is understandable that Pivac has not made sweeping changes to the starting XV given the performance against Italy, but the bench sees some new arrivals, including Rhys Carre, Adam Beard, Gareth Davies, Owen Williams and McNicholl.
Personally I like the look of this – I think Tompkins offers more than Owen Williams in attack but Williams has the edge on defence so maybe they are making a statement with this selection.
— Gareth Lewis (@Gareth_Lewis_) February 6, 2020
Great team. The 15 I would’ve chosen & a very strong bench. Ireland away is always a very difficult game but, with this lineup, I think we’ll make a very close game of it. https://t.co/xnbzxtCA0E
— Ivan the Terabyte (@IvanTheTerabyte) February 6, 2020
With both teams having won their opening fixture, the hopes of a Grand Slam will be shattered on Saturday for one in what promises to be one of the contests of the Championship.
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