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Gatland rings changes for fully-fit Wales

VETERAN out-half Stephen Jones has missed selection in Wales' 22-man squad for their World Cup quarter-final against Ireland, with coach Warren Gatland opting for Rhys Priestland at No 10 and the versatile James Hook on the bench.

The Wales team named by Gatland contains five changes to the one which beat Fiji 66-0 in their last Pool D game.

Leigh Halfpenny replaces Lee Byrne at full-back, Jonathan Davies takes over from Scott Williams at outside centre and Shane Williams is back from injury on the left wing.

Flanker Dan Lydiate has also overcome an injury to take over on the blindside from Ryan Jones, who moves to the bench, while Alun Wyn Davies rejoins Luke Charteris in the second row, pushing Bradley Davies into the reserves.

Hook, Williams and Lydiate were all injured during the bruising pool match against Samoa but returned to full training with the team yesterday.

The return of those players left coach Gatland in the rare position among the quarter-finalists of having a fully-fit 30-man squad available for selection. Gatland described the choice as one of the most difficult he has made in his four years in charge of Wales.

"Sometimes, in the past, we didn't have a huge playing base in Wales, so if you've had three or four key injuries it's not always about who you're going to leave out but who you're going to pick in certain positions," he said.

"It's a great position to be in to be having to make hard calls about who you leave out."

The depth available to Wales and to Gatland is emphasised by the omission of fly-half Jones and the relegation of Hook to the bench.

Gatland said Hook's recent injury had worked against his selection in the starting XV.

"Probably the big decision is the fact that he had that (shoulder) injury in the last few weeks," the coach said.

"If he'd been fit and available, we may have looked at him either at 10 or 15.

"You don't want to add too many players that haven't played in a while. A little bit of thinking was in that."

Wales: L Halfpenny, G North, J Davies, J Roberts, S Williams, R Priestland, M Phillips; T Faletau, S Warburton (capt), D Lydiate, AW Jones, L Charteris, A Jones, H Bennett, G Jenkins. Replacements: L Burns, P James, B Davies, R Jones, L Williams, J Hook, S Williams.