Rugby World Cup: Shane Williams to start for Wales against Ireland

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Wales’ hopes of making their first World Cup semi final appearance since the inaugural tournament in 1987 have been given a huge boost with Shane Williams named in the team to face Ireland this Saturday.

Wales announced earlier in the week that they had a fully fit squad to choose from, but seeing Williams’ name confirmed on the teamsheet will be something to celebrate for Wales fans.

Dan Lydiate is also back in the starting XV and replaces Ryan Jones at blind-side, while Alun Wyn Jones comes in for Bradley Davies at lock.

However, the big surprise is that James Hook has been benched.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has overlooked the versatile back with Leigh Halfpenny starting at full-back, Jonathan Davies at centre and Rhys Priestland continuing at outside-half.

Meanwhile, Ireland have named an unchanged team from the one that defeated Italy in their last game and everything is set for a close game – as Gatland knows all too well.

“There’s a lot of history between Wales and Ireland,” he said to The Guardian.

“They have qualities and world-class players but it is going to be tough to call. On the day, Ireland can beat us and we can beat them.

“Some people might say we have achieved something getting to a quarter-final and coming out of the pool of death.

“But I know we have an ambitious and quality group of players.”

Wales head into the game as narrow outsiders at 6/5 with Ireland in at 4/5 to make their first ever World Cup semi final.

WALES: Halfpenny, North, Davies, Roberts, Williams, Priestland, Phillips, Jenkins, Bennett, Jones, Charteris, AW Jones, Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau

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