Dan Biggar and George North dropped by Wales for England clash

Fly-half Dan Biggar and centre George North have been left out of the Wales team for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against England in Cardiff.

he cap centurions are replaced by Ospreys’ Owen Williams and uncapped 20-year-old Cardiff centre Mason Grady, respectively.

Williams makes a first start in the Wales number 10 shirt after previous appearances at centre, with Grady partnered in midfield by Joe Hawkins.

Biggar skippered Wales during last season’s Six Nations and the summer tour of South Africa, but he delivered a below-par performance during Wales’ record 35-7 defeat against Scotland 12 days ago.

Elsewhere, head coach Warren Gatland has handed full-back Leigh Halfpenny his 98th cap – but a first Wales start since he suffered a serious knee injury in July 2021 – with Liam Williams omitted.

Wing Louis Rees-Zammit, prop Gareth Thomas and Lions forwards Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau also feature among nine changes.

Williams and North both fail to make Gatland’s matchday 23, with Biggar, Scarlets scrum-half Kieran Hardy and Saracens centre Nick Tompkins providing back division cover.

At 6ft 5in and more than 17 stones, Grady offers a similar physical presence to North and he has landed his Test match chance after just 20 first-team appearances for Cardiff.

Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit features for the first time in this season’s Six Nations after recovering from an ankle injury while Jones wins his 157th cap, replacing Exeter forward Dafydd Jenkins.

The players omitted after Murrayfield are Liam Williams, North, Biggar, Jenkins, Rio Dyer, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan.

With the game going ahead after strike action by Wales players was averted on Wednesday, Gatland’s team will aim to avoid suffering three successive defeats from the start of a Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2003.

Wales, though, will be encouraged by winning five of their last seven fixtures against England in Cardiff.

Gatland said: “We’ve given Mason Grady a first cap. He is a big lad, he has got some really lovely rugby skills and off-loading ability.

“He is quick, so he is the kind of centre that I think is going to have it all going forward.

“The message to the players has been, ‘let’s draw a line in the sand in terms of what has been going on and focus completely on the rugby’.

“For both teams this is a massive game because we win on Saturday and we can get things on track a little bit more.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Watson will make his first England start in almost two years after being recalled.

Watson replaces Ollie Hassell-Collins on the left wing after the London Irish rookie sustained a knee injury in training after the round two victory over Italy.

An impressive replacement appearance against Scotland at the start of the Championship was Watson’s maiden red rose outing since starting against Ireland in March 2021, although he played two Tests for the Lions that same year.

The 28-year-old recovered from a serious knee injury to launch his Leicester career in October but has been limited to 11 outings for his new club because of other niggles.

Steve Borthwick has otherwise kept faith with the starting line-up that produced the first win of his reign as head coach against Italy.

There are two changes to the bench with the back five cover overhaul receiving a significant overhaul.

Courtney Lawes is present in an England matchday 23 for the first time since leading the July tour to Australia, coming in for Nick Isiekwe, while Ben Curry displaces Ben Earl.


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