George North's two tries drive Wales past Ireland in thundering win

Payne made his long-awaited return with Ulster on Friday but has since suffered bruising

Payne made his long-awaited return with Ulster on Friday but has since suffered bruising

Wales interim head coach Rob Howley has resisted calls to freshen up his team by naming an unchanged line-up for Friday's Six Nations clash with Ireland.

The result means England will be crowned Six Nations champions should they beat Scotland on Saturday. Nevertheless, his performance will be scrutinised in great detail by those in Ireland following the final whistle on Friday night.

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In an enthralling encounter in Cardiff, Ireland stamped their intent right from the off when Garry Ringrose repelled Wales talisman Alun Wyn Jones in the tackle, to allow Jack McGrath to force an early turnover.

Backs: Leigh Halfpenny; George North; Jonathan Davies; Scott Williams; Liam Williams; Dan Biggar; Rhys Webb.

He scored a try against Italy, playing through the pain barrier after suffering a thigh injury, then missed the England game before experiencing an afternoon to forget as Scotland - and their wings Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser in particular - sent Wales packing.

"As far as I am concerned, when you are taking part in global rugby as a player, as a coach, you are under constant pressure". Wayne Barnes made some controversial decisions on that day and has not refereed Ireland since.

The breakdown was also a source of Irish frustration, with Barnes penalising the visitors with regularity in the opening 20 minutes as Wales raced into a 12-0 lead, before then changing his stance. Indeed, of the eight games the English whistle blower took charge of during the Corkman's time in the hot seat, Ireland only recorded one win.

North, the strapping right winger, crossed in each half under the Principality Stadium roof at the end of a week when he was given a "warning" by the Welsh management for a poor defensive display in the recent loss to Scotland.

Ireland regrouped, and Jackson stroked over a penalty, just as Sexton readied for a return to the fray.

Ireland barely resembled the team that had defeated New Zealand in November, hustled into mistakes and even struggling on their own throw.

Interestingly for Gatland, some of them go to head-to-head.

Wales flanker Justin Tipuric is set to win his 50th cap after being named in an unchanged team from the one that lost to Scotland. Smart play from Scott Williams and Rhys Webb, with a lovely wide pass to Leigh Halfpenny, meant that the Irish defensive line was back-peddling by the time North got his hands on the ball.

Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), N Smith (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), L Charteris (Bath), T Faletau (Bath), G Davies (Scarlets), S Davies (Ospreys), J Roberts (Harlequins).

Ireland No8 Jamie Heaslip will be making his 100th Test appearance.

Replacements: N Scannell (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), J Ryan (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), P O'Mahony (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht), P Jackson, T Bowe (both Ulster).

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