Eight Ospreys make starting line-up - and Phillips gets bench place after Connacht comeback
Wales have made five changes, one positional, to the starting line-up who defeated Scotland at the Millennium Stadium nine days ago for the RBS 6 Nations visit of France to the Cardiff ground this Friday night (8.00pm).
Blues scrum half Richie Rees replaces his regional rival Gareth Cooper for his first international start in an otherwise unchanged back line and up front hooker Huw Bennett makes it an all-Ospreys front row in replacing the injured Gareth Williams (knee).
It's all change in the second row with Bradley Davies teaming up with his Blues partner Deiniol Jones to replace Ospreys pair Alun Wyn Jones and Jonathan Thomas. Thomas moves to the back row to fill the berth vacated by the suspended Blues flanker Andy Powell, whilst his colleague Jones has been ruled out after surgery on his elbow.
On the bench the Wales coaches have made a late call on the fitness of British & Irish Lions and Ospreys scrum half Mike Phillips, who returned to feature for 40 minutes for his region yesterday (Sunday) after a long lay-off with an ankle problem. He joins the National Centre of Excellence training camp today - meaning Cooper leaves the 34-man squad and returns to Blues duty with the Sale Sharks scrum half Dwayne Peel also welcomed at the Vale Resort HQ today.
Elsewhere on the bench both Scarlets hooker Ken Owens and Saracens prop Rhys Gill would be making their international debuts if called upon and Dragons lock Luke Charteris and Blues flanker Sam Warburton provide the back five cover.
Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop and 65-times capped Blues utility back Tom Shanklin join Phillips to cover the back line.
"Deiniol (Jones) has been in very good form for the Blues and he has the opportunity to partner his regional colleague (Bradley Davies) which should help both players settle in quickly,"
said head coach Warren Gatland.
"Bradley deserves his chance, he has been around this squad since he has been a youngster but he has worked hard and is in great physical shape and has the potential to be a great player. We are developing some strength in depth in the second row and Luke (Charteris) was impressive for the Dragons over the weekend so we will be looking for him to make an impact from the bench if he gets the chance.
"Jonathan Thomas moves to the back row but he will also hopefully have an impact at line-out time alongside Bradley and Deiniol, he runs that area for the Ospreys and has been doing a good job.
"Richie has played himself into the starting line-up and deserves his chance, but once we had decided on his selection we couldn't ignore the opportunity to bring Mike Phillips back into the fold.
"It was great to see Mike get a full half for the Ospreys at the weekend and he is someone who can give us a different option from the bench. He is a world class player and he has been champing at the bit to get back to international rugby. He may not be 100 per cent match fit but he still has probably the best pass in Northern Hemisphere rugby and is a big physical presence so we know he won't let us down."
While Ryan Jones leads the side for the 22nd time, making him equal second on 22 Tests as captain with Colin Charvis and Rob Howley behind Ieuan Evans (28), Martyn Williams wins his 94th cap joining Charvis as the most capped Welsh forward of all time. Williams and fly-half Stephen Jones will both be facing France for the 10th time.
"Martyn knows there is a young '7' in Sam Warburton waiting in the wings and Sam is keeping the pressure on,"
"But he was disappointed after the Scotland game, despite the win, and is all fired up now for France.
"We know we need to improve on our performance against Scotland, we know we will create chances but we need to work hard in defence and improve in that area as well as concentrate on maintaining discipline. Then we need to be clinical and take our points and build in attack, if we can do those things we know we are in with a chance."
Should either Owens or Gill join the front row from the bench on Friday night they will become Wales' 1,073 and 1,074 internationals.
: Lee Byrne; Leigh Halfpenny, James Hook, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Richard Rees; Paul James, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Deiniol Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (Captain) REPLACEMENTS
: Ken Owens, Rhys Gill, Luke Charteris, Sam Warburton, Mike Phillips, Andrew Bishop, Tom Shanklin
15 Lee BYRNE (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,041)
DoB: 01.06.80. 6'3" / 1.91m. 15st 1lb / 96kgs
International record: 29 caps (W 13, L 15, D 1; 40 pts - 8T)
14 Leigh HALFPENNY (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,060)
DoB: 22.12.88. 5'10" / 1.77m. 12st 11lbs / 81kgs
International record: 12 caps (W 6, L 6; 48 pts - 6T, 6PG)
13 James HOOK (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,047)
DoB: 27.06.85. 6'0" / 1.83m. 14st 10lbs / 93kgs
International record: 39 caps (W 17, L 21, D 1; 214 pts - 7T, 34C, 35PG, 2DG)
12 Jamie ROBERTS (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,057)
DoB: 08.11.86. 6'4" / 1.93m. 16st 10lbs / 107kgs
International record: 18 caps (W 9, L 9; 5 pts - 1T)
11 Shane WILLIAMS (OSPREYS - Cap No 976)
DoB: 26.02.77. 5'7" / 1.71m. 12st 11lbs / 81kgs
International record: 70 caps (W 34, L 34, D 2; 245 pts - 49T)
10 Stephen JONES (SCARLETS - Cap No 966)
DoB: 08.12.77. 6'1" / 1.86m. 15st 0lbs / 95kgs
International record: 85 caps (W38, L45, D2; 754 pts - 7T, 124C, 152PG, 5DG)
9 Richard REES (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,072)
DoB: 21.05.83. 5'11" / 1.80m. 12st 7lb / 79kgs
International record: 2 caps (W 1, L 1)
1 Paul JAMES (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,021)
DoB: 13.05.82. 6'1" / 1.86m. 18st 4lbs / 116kgs
International record: 7 caps (W 4, L 3)
2 Huw BENNETT (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,017)
DoB: 11.06.83. 6'0" / 1.83m. 16st 10lbs / 106kgs
International record: 29 caps (W 17, L 12)
3 Adam Rhys JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,018)
DoB: 08.03.81. 6'0" / 1.83m. 19st 10lb / 125kgs
International record: 58 caps (W 30, L 26, D 2; 10 pts - 2T)
4 Bradley DAVIES (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,065)
DoB: 09.01.87. 6'6" / 1.98m. 18st 11lbs / 119kgs
International record: 7 caps (W 5, L 2)
5 Deiniol JONES (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 981)
DoB: 18.11.77. 6'5" 1.96m. 17st 3lbs / 109kgs
International record: 7 caps (W 6, L 1)
6 Jonathan THOMAS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,013)
DoB: 27.12.82. 6'5" / 1.96m. 17st 13lbs / 114kgs
International record: 52 caps (W 26, L 24, D 2; 35 pts - 7T)
7 Martyn WILLIAMS (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 944)
DoB: 01.09.75. 6'0" / 1.83m. 15st 2lbs / 96kgs
International record: 93 caps (W 43, L 47, D 3; 73 pts - 14T, 1DG)
8 Ryan JONES (OSPREYS, CAPTAIN - Cap No 1,029)
DoB: 13.03.81. 6'5" / 1.96m. 18st 0lbs / 114kgs
International record: 38 caps (W 22, L 15, D 1; 5 pts - 1T)
16 Ken OWENS (SCARLETS)
DoB: 03.01.87. 6'1" / 1.86m. 17st 8lbs / 112kgs
International record: Uncapped
17 Rhys GILL (SARACENS)
DoB: 30.10.86. 5'11" / 1.80m. 17st 4lbs / 110kgs
International record: Uncapped
18 Luke CHARTERIS (NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS - Cap No 1,030)
DoB: 09.03.83. 6'9" / 2.06m. 10st 5lbs / 129kgs
International record: 19 caps (W 10, L 9)
19 Sam WARBURTON (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,070)
DoB: 05.10.88. 1.88m / 6'2". 15st 11lbs / 100kgs
International record: 4 caps (W 3, L 1)
20 Michael PHILLIPS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,022)
DoB: 29.08.82. 6'3" / 1.91m. 16st 4lbs / 103kgs
International record: 38 caps (W 20, L 17, D 1; 20 pts - 4T)
21 Andrew BISHOP (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,059)
DoB: 07.08.85. 6'0" / 1.83m. 14st 12lbs / 94kgs
International record: 8 caps (W 6, L 2)
22 Tom SHANKLIN (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 993)
DoB: 24.11.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 15st 9lbs / 99kgs
International record: 65 caps (W 31, L 33, D 1; 100 pts - 20T)