George North is set to make his first appearance for five months after being named on Thursday in the Wales team for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match away to Ireland in Dublin.
The powerful Northampton winger suffered three concussions last season, while he has not played since being knocked unconscious on March 27 during Saints’ English Premiership victory over Wasps.
However, he is set to win his 50th cap this weekend after coming through all the required concussion protocols and tests.
Saturday’s match will also be a Test debut for Exeter prop Tomas Francis, born in York, northern England but qualified for Wales via a grandparent.
Saturday’s match will be a final chance for players to press their claims for inclusion in Wales’ final 31-man squad for the England-based World Cup, with coach Warren Gatland due to unveil his tournament party on Monday.
Lock Alun-Wyn Jones captains the team, with regular skipper Sam Warburton not involved in the match-day 23.
On paper, this is a far stronger Wales team than the one Gatland selected for a 35-21 defeat by Six Nations champions Ireland in Cardiff nearly three weeks ago, with Jamie Roberts in midfield and an experienced back row of Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate also in the starting side.
“The squad are looking forward to travelling over to Ireland for what is a big warm-up fixture,” said Gatland.
“We have trained well over the past few weeks, and Saturday is a chance for a lot of players to get their first taste of rugby this campaign,” the New Zealander, a former Ireland coach, added.
“It’s always a great game in Dublin, and there is an important factor to this match, with the Rugby World Cup squad announced just a few days later.”
Wales, beaten semi-finalists at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, complete their warm-up program against Italy at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on September 5, before launching their pool campaign against Uruguay 15 days later.
The Welsh have been drawn in a so-called ‘group of death’ also featuring England and Australia, which means at least one of rugby’s major nations will fail to qualify for the quarter-finals as only two sides go through from each pool to the last eight.
Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate; Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Bradley Davies; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Paul James, Aaron Jarvis, Luke Charteris, James King, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Hallam Amos