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Six Nations, Sport

Six Nations: Wales team announced to play France

Wales coach Warren Gatland has made two enforced changes for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations finale against France in Paris.

Teenage wing George North will make his Six Nations debut as replacement for knee injury victim Shane Williams, while Ospreys prop Adam Jones returns to the pack.

Jones, who has played just 20 minutes’ rugby since suffering an elbow injury in mid-January, takes over from his Ospreys colleague Craig Mitchell.

Mitchell is unlikely to play again this season after dislocating his shoulder during Wales’ 19-13 victory over Ireland at the Millennium Stadium last weekend.

Gatland has otherwise retained the side that accounted for Ireland, with North on the left-wing in a back three that also comprises Lee Byrne and Leigh Halfpenny.

North, 19 next month, scored two tries on his Test debut against world champions in November, and played against Fiji and New Zealand before suffering a shoulder and being sidelined for three months.

Wales still have an outside chance of winning the Six Nations title, but they would need to beat France by 20-plus points and hope Grand Slam-chasing England suffer a similarly sized defeat against Ireland in Dublin.

France, meanwhile, are striving to avoid a third defeat in one Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2001.

“We are going into the final round of the Championship in second place and still with a shot at the title,” said Gatland.

“That’s pleasing, but it is not good enough yet, we need to finish the job and win in France.

“That is the only element of this weekend we can control and it is vitally important that we maintain our focus on what will be one of the toughest challenges of this campaign.”

Skills coach Neil Jenkins welcomed the timely return of Jones and North.

He said: “Adam (Jones) is quite a player to have coming back into your side, he is a British Lion and one of the best players in his position in the world so we are very happy that he has timed his return from injury to perfection.

“Craig (Mitchell) has done a great job for us so far this campaign, but it is reassuring to know Adam is there to slot straight back in.

“We know now that when everyone is fit we will have real depth in that front row. It goes without saying that we will miss Shane (Williams), any side would, but George presents an entirely different prospect.

“He will want to get involved in the game and he has got all the attributes to do himself and Wales justice on Saturday.

“He will be looking forward to the challenge, we are putting no pressure on him, he will just be told to go out there and enjoy his rugby.”

On the replacements bench the same forwards – Richard Hibbard, John Yapp, Jonathan Thomas and Rob McCusker – provide cover for the pack and the experienced duo of Stephen Jones (Scarlets) and Dwayne Peel (Sharks) are also retained to provide the half-back cover.

Wing Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets) remains after closely missing out on a recall to the starting line-up, with North preferred.

“Morgan (Soddart) has been unlucky, he was definitely in the running to come onto the wing and there was not a lot in it,” added Jenkins.

“We know he won’t let anyone down if called upon and we have plenty of experience elsewhere on the bench who may well have a role to play.

“France are always tough opponents on their own patch, they have some great players and are a top class side when they get things right so we are in no doubt that this is going to be an incredibly tough game.”

Wales team:

L Byrne (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), G North (Scarlets); J Hook (Ospreys), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys).

Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), R McCusker (Scarlets), D Peel (Sale Sharks), S Jones (Scarlets), M Stoddart (Scarlets).





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