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Wales boss Gatland announces Six Nations squad for England opener

Wales rugby union coach Warren Gatland has named his side to play England, with George North set to return on the wing.

Fellow British and Irish Lions Richard Hibbard returns at hooker as the other change from the side which beat South Africa 12-6 in November.

Captain Sam Warburton is set to win his 50th cap, while Leigh Halfpenny will start at full-back, with Wales odds-on favourites at 8/15 to beat England in the Six Nations opener at the Millennium Stadium.

Ospreys pair Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar will resume at half-back, and Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies will link up again in the middle of the park, as Wales announce their squad two days earlier than originally scheduled.

Gatland has defended his decision to name his squad early, saying he wanted to give his players the best possible chance of winning: “We decided to name the team early to give the players the best possible chance of preparation,” he said.

“It was a tough call on the two changes we have made from the side that beat South Africa, but its good to have these and other tough selection decisions and it’s a strong position to be in.

“We are excited about kicking the tournament off [on Friday] against a strong England side in front of a packed Millennium Stadium.”

Wales squad to face England: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, Capt), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets).