6:43am Saturday 8th February 2014
WALES boss Warren Gatland has challenged Andrew Coombs to hit the heights of his 2013 Six Nations campaign by leading the fight against Ireland in Dublin.
The Newport Gwent Dragons lock comes in for injured former Rodney Parade favourite Luke Charteris for the mouthwatering encounter at the Aviva Stadium.
Coombs made his international bow against the Irish at the Millennium Stadium last February and went on to be one of the unsung heroes of the tournament by impressing with his work rate and tenacity.
The 29-year-old will need to be at abrasive best against the powerful home front eight that includes a formidable second row partnership of Paul O'Connell and Devin Toner.
"Andrew's been training well and gives us some mobility," said Gatland. "I thought he was excellent when he came on against Italy.
"He is just full of enthusiasm and Andrew has been around a while so has an experienced head on him, bringing some maturity into that position.
"Andrew had a great campaign last year and it's great for him to have an opportunity, especially after the autumn when he wasn't 100 per cent fit.
"He's excellent in the camp and is really well respected so I am looking forward to him playing."
Coombs' back row background will aid Wales in what is sure to be a seismic tussle at the contact area.
Gatland has recalled openside Sam Warburton and prop Gethin Jenkins in a bid to bolster their presence at the breakdown against an Irish side that boasts an impressive back row of Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry and Jamie Heaslip.
"We know that it is going to be pretty physical up front and we will be looking to compete hard at the breakdown," said Gatland.
"We have got two very good sevens, with Justin Tipuric on the bench and we know that we can move Sam over to six if we want to.
"In terms of people in the world stealing and poaching the ball and winning penalties, there is no one better. Sam is definitely one of the best in world rugby at that."
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