Wales: Leigh Halfpenny ruled out of Six Nations opener against Ireland as Liam Williams parachuted into XV

Wales have been forced into a change to their starting line-up that will face Ireland in the Six Nations opener after Leigh Halfpenny was ruled out.

The full-back suffered a back spasm in training and has been replaced by another experienced operator, Liam Williams, for the Principality Stadium fixture.

Halfpenny was poised to win his 98th cap for his country in the Six Nations clash in Cardiff, but that will have to be put on hold for the 34-year-old Scarlet.

Liam Williams comes in at 15

Wales forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys revealed the news on Thursday as Warren Gatland’s second stint as head coach looks to get off on a positive note.

“Unfortunately, Leigh had a back spasm this morning and Liam will be playing,” said Humphreys ahead of the meeting against the world’s number one outfit.

“I think it’s more disappointing for him as a person. He is an unbelievable professional and an unbelievable person.

“He has got to pick himself up again. You feel for him that he’s got to pull out at this late stage.

“Liam is good to go.”

Halfpenny had been set for his first international start in 19 months after being included in the team on Tuesday, but now Williams will join Josh Adams and Rio Dyer in the back three, with Joe Hawkins and George North forming the midfield combination.

Elsewhere in the backline, Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar link up in an exciting half-back combination against Ireland in Cardiff this week, with Rhys Webb, Owen Williams and Alex Cuthbert the options off the replacements bench to head coach Gatland.

Closed roof at Cardiff ground

Wales announced on Thursday that the roof at the Principality Stadium will be closed on Saturday, which will only add to the atmosphere in the venue.

Ireland won last year’s Six Nations clash with Wales 29-7 at the Aviva Stadium, but in 2021 it was Wales who came out on top 21-6 on their home soil.

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Wales (revised): 15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Alex Cuthbert

Date: Saturday, February 4
Venue: Principality Stadium
Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (RA), Luke Pearce (RFU)
TMO: Tom Foley (RFU)

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