Coombs back in the running
ANDREW Coombs’ appe-tite for the dirty work makes him an attractive option as starting blindside flanker in the Six Nations title showdown with Eng-land, according to Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde.
Back row forward and captain Ryan Jones was yesterday ruled out of the Millennium Stadium clash after breaking a bone in his right shoulder against Scotland last weekend, a blow set to rule him out for six to eight weeks.
It has prompted calls for opensides Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric to join forces, just as they did in the second half of the clashes with Ireland and in Edinburgh.
But a more like-for-like replacement would be Newport Gwent Dragons forward Coombs, particulary given the physicality of Grand Slam-chasing England.
The 28-year-old, who was a back rower by trade until last season, started the first three games of the tournament in the second row before missing out to Alun Wyn Jones at Murrayfield.
However, the Wales coaching staff were quick to point out that they were delighted with Coombs’ determined displays against Ireland, France and Italy, so a recall will be mulled over before tomorrow’s team announcement.
“Andrew has played a lot of his rugby at six, even though he has been in the second row more recently,” said McBryde.
“He has shown at international level that he can be effective with ball in hand.
“He has great footwork, good offloading and he is very accurate at the breakdown in both attack and defence.
“He has that physicality about him as well, so he could well be an option for us at six.”
It appears to be a straight shootout between Coombs and Tipuric, although other options are Scarlets back row forward Aaron Shingler and bright Ospreys prospect James King, who like the Dragons man can play both lock and blindside.
While Wales ponder who will start at blindside, England could field a triumverate of sixes – captain Chris Robshaw at seven, Tom Wood at eight and either Tom Croft or James Haskell.