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Three Blues Start for Wales Against England

13th March 2007

Wales Coach Gareth Jenkins has had to make one late change to an otherwise unchanged side to face England at the Millennium Stadium.

Jenkins initially retained all twenty-two players involved in the last-gasp RBS Six Nations defeat to Italy on his team-sheet to face England this Saturday (March 17th). However Captain Stephen Jones has a fractured wrist bone that will keep him out for up to three weeks. Gareth Thomas comes into the side at inside centre and takes over as skipper while James Hook moves to fly-half. Ceri Sweeney takes Thomas's place on the bench.

Jenkins knows he did not get the result or performance required from his team last weekend and refuses to make any excuse for the loss regardless of the controversy surrounding the final seconds of the game. He says he has genuine belief in his players and has handed them a second chance to get it right.

“This selection is very much a message to these players that we believe in them,” said Jenkins.

“We believe in their talents and we don’t think we are very far away from putting the kind of performances together that will start winning us matches. They have a second chance as a group to prove what they can do and we are all backing them to do it.

“We are a proud group and we are returning home to the Millennium Stadium after five tough weeks on the road. We have played three away matches back-to-back and we are looking forward to returning to our spiritual home in Cardiff.

“We haven’t won a game in this championship and that hurts the whole squad and management team, but we said we had been able to select our strongest side against Italy and we still believe that to be true and have endorsed that selection this weekend.

“There are things we need to change on match-day to come away with a win, but the selection process we have gone through tells us that this is the right team to beat England.

“There was a danger of making changes for changes sake and when we took all of the emotion out of the defeat last weekend and looked at the facts it became obvious to us that we have the right players in the right places.

“We made mistakes and where one or two things that could have gone our way might have changed the result, we know we only have ourselves to blame for failing to close the game down. We have learnt a harsh lesson and the same players have the chance to prove they can be better than that.

“The message is not that we got everything right last week, but that we believe this group of players is capable of getting it right and capable of beating England.

“We believe in them and we are sticking with them and giving them the chance to show how good they can be in front of our home fans this weekend.”

Fans from all over the country will once again be flocking to the Arms Park on Saturday to ensure they grab the best view of the action and to soak up the atmosphere.

The new supporters’ village set in the courtyard just in front of the Arms Park Clubhouse was a huge success when Wales played Ireland in the first match of the tournament and it is expected to be even busier this weekend.The huge screen will also show all of the day’s other rugby matches, kicking off with Italy v Ireland at 1.30pm and France v Scotland at 3.30pm.

Crowd favourite the Space Cakes will be providing live music playing some classic tracks and are sure to generate a party feeling. The supporters’ village opens from 1.00pm and is a great place to meet up before the match. For those without tickets to the game they are more than welcome to watch the main event Wales v England on the big screen under the shadow of the Stadium.

Wales: Kevin Morgan (Dragons); Mark Jones (Scarlets), Tom Shanklin (Blues), Gareth Thomas (Toulouse), Shane Williams (Ospreys); James Hook (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Scarlets); Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets). Chris Horsman (Worcester), Ian Gough (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Alix Popham (Scarlets), Martyn Williams (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys)

Replacements: T Rhys Thomas (Blues), Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Brent Cockbain (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Blues), Ceri Sweeney (Dragons)