24 May, 14:08
The Irish Rugby Supporters Club is delighted to announce that tickets for the GUINNESS Series 2013 will go on sale on ticketmaster.ie at 10am on Thursday, May 30.
Last season a dismal Wales collected the Six Nations wooden spoon but two encouraging, albeit losing, World Cup displays against New Zealand and eventual champions England have created a climate of renewed confidence in the rugby-mad nation.
Meanwhile Scotland, who like Wales struggled to make it into the World Cup quarter-finals, have been buoyed by the arrival of new Australian coach Matt Williams who has put his trust in some promising young talents.
Such was the mood of optimism within Wales that centre Iestyn Harris even dared to suggest the team might be title contenders.
"We are in a situation now that we are playing some good rugby but we have to concentrate on our own game," said Harris.
"If that makes us contenders at the end then it would be fantastic," Harris added.
And he was backed up by Wales coach Steve Hansen. "There's a big difference between this year's expectations and previous ones because we can justify this year's by looking at our performances in the World Cup," said Hansen, set to return to his native New Zealand when his contract expires after the Six Nations.
But Wales will be without hooker Robin McBryde and lock Robert Sidoli, both injured. Sidoli will be replaced by the experienced Gareth Llewellyn, now just three caps shy of Neil Jenkins's Welsh record of 87 Tests.
Elsewhere Gareth Thomas, retained at full-back after starring there as an emergency measure during the World Cup, will be seeking the one try he needs to match Ieuan Evans's Welsh record tally of 33.
Meanwhile Williams, faced with several retirements after the World Cup, including those of captain and scrum-half Bryan Redpath and veteran playmaker Gregor Townsend, has been bold in his initial Test selection.
Edinburgh centre-wing Tom Philip, Borders scrum-half Chris Cusiter and Edinburgh back-row forward Allister Hogg will represent their country for the first time on Saturday.
"The three of them deserve this chance," said Williams, who said his long-term aim is to bolster Scotland's team for the next World Cup in 2007.
"They have done very well since the World Cup. A lot of players have retired since then and I have had to build a new side and I have confidence in these guys," added Williams whose team will be led by Chris Paterson, the Edinburgh fly-half.
"We haven't the resources of the English and the French in terms of personnel and our plans are longer term. But sometimes we can be too cautious. It will be a great experience for them."
Wales: Gareth Thomas (Celtic Warriors); Rhys Williams (Cardiff), Sonny Parker (Celtic Warriors), Iestyn Harris (Cardiff), Shane Williams (Neath-Swansea); Stephen Jones (Llanelli), Gareth Cooper (Celtic Warriors); Dafydd Jones (Llanelli), Martyn Williams (Cardiff), Colin Charvis (Tarbes/FRA, capt); Gareth Llewellyn (Neath-Swansea), Brent Cockbain (Celtic Warriors); Adam Jones (Neath-Swansea), Mefin Davies (Celtic Warriors), Duncan Jones (Neath-Swansea) Replacements: Huw Bennett (Neath-Swansea) or Gareth Williams (Cardiff), Gethin Jenkins (Celtic Warriors), Michael Owen (Dragons), Jonathan Thomas (Neath-Swansea), Dwayne Peel (Llanelli), Ceri Sweeney (Celtic Warriors), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff)
Scotland: Ben Hinshelwood (Worcester/ENG); Simon Danielli (Bath/ENG), Tom Philip (Edinburgh), Brendan Laney (Edinburgh), Andrew Henderson (Glasgow); Chris Paterson (Edinburgh, capt), Chris Cusiter (Borders); Simon Taylor (Edinburgh), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh), Cameron Mather (Glasgow); Stuart Grimes (Newcastle/ENG), Scott Murray (Edinburgh); Bruce Douglas (Borders), Gordon Bulloch (Glasgow), Tom Smith (Northampton/ENG) Replacements: Rob Russell (Saracens/ENG), Gavin Kerr (Leeds/ENG), Jason White (Sale/ENG), Simon Cross (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (Edinburgh), Dan Parks (Glasgow), Simon Webster (Edinburgh).
Referee: Donal Courtney (IRL)