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James returns for Wales

25th November 2010

Cardiff Blues winger Tom James has been brought straight into the Wales starting line-up to face New Zealand this Saturday

Cardiff Blues winger Tom James has been brought straight into the Wales starting line-up to face New Zealand this Saturday

Warren Gatland has made wholesale changes for the final Invesco Perpetual Series ’10 clash, leaving just three players in place from the 16 – 16 draw with Fiji last time out.

Scarlets wing George North and Ospreys duo Lee Byrne (full back) and Adam Jones (prop) are the only players retained in their starting positions, although both Ryan Jones (Ospreys) and Dan Lydiate (Dragons) keep their places in a back row re-shuffled to accommodate Blues flanker Sam Warburton on the openside and Jones at No 8.

Warburton’s return from injury is a boost to head coach Warren Gatland’s squad, as is his regional colleague Gethin Jenkins’ return to fitness – both from calf injuries – in time to face the All Blacks.

Jenkins slots into the front row alongside Scarlets and Wales captain Matthew Rees, who returns at hooker.

It’s all change in the second row with the pairing against both Australia (a 16-25 loss) and South Africa (a close fought 25-29 defeat) earlier in the series, Blues lock Bradley Davies and Osprey captain Alun Wyn Jones, reunited.

Half backs Stephen Jones (Scarlets) and Mike Phillips (Ospreys) are recalled after also starting Wales’ first two matches of the campaign.

Elsewhere in the backs the centre pairing of Tom Shanklin (Blues) and James Hook (Ospreys) is another that is re-united from the Springboks outing, although both players also faced the Wallabies, with Hook at full back on that occasion.

And James, who was called up to the Wales squad on Monday, is handed a starting spot after last featuring during the RBS Six Nations outing against England nine months ago.

The Blues flyer directly replaces Aled Brew (Dragons) who filled the berth vacated by injured Osprey Shane Williams (shoulder) against Fiji.

On the bench Wales have opted for a five forwards and two backs split with Andy Powell (Wasps), returning from a groin problem to join Martyn Williams (Blues) and Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys) providing cover across the back row, with Thomas as well as the starting Jones both able to fill in at lock.

The front row is supported by prop Paul James and hooker Huw Bennett, both Ospreys, and their regional colleague Andrew Bishop provides cover for the backs alongside scrum half Richie Rees (Blues).

“Back row is one position where we have a great deal of competition for places, with Dan Lydiate going particularly well at the moment,” said Gatland.

“Sam Warburton gets his chance to start and Ryan Jones, having not played a lot of rugby this season, has a chance to play at No 8, but we are also conscious that we have a strong bench to call on to come on and make an impact in that area.

“With the likes of Martyn Williams, Andy Powell and Jonathan Thomas all giving us options.

“We have tried something a little different in that area with a five/two split as we know we will need to be at maximum intensity for the full 80 minutes against the All Blacks. 

“Gethin Jenkins is back in the front row, Matthew Rees also returns and with Adam Jones in the best shape I’ve seen him in we know we are strong there.

“We are very happy with the tight five and we have two young physical locks who are getting better with every game.

“Tom James was injured when we named the squad at the start of the series, but he did well for the Blues last Friday night in the game against Ulster, scoring a try in a game they should have won. He has genuine pace and that along with size and physicality and some experience at this level are what we are going to need against New Zealand.


WALES: Lee Byrne; George North, Tom Shanklin, James Hook, Tom James; Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees (c), Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Ryan Jones

Replacements: Huw Bennett, Paul James, Jonathan Thomas, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Richie Rees, Andrew Bishop