Six Nations 2015: George North returns as Wales make four changes
Head coach Warren Gatland also recalls Samson Lee, Luke Charteris and Scott Baldwin for tough France encounter in Paris
George North returns to the Wales starting XV as Wales make four changes to their side to face France in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday.
After an enforced two-week break following a double concussion picked up in Wales’ opening-round defeat to England in Cardiff, the Northampton Saints comes in on the right wing for Alex Cuthbert, who has failed to fire in the opening two rounds.
We have made some tough calls and there were some tight decisions but it is a very strong team we are putting out.
The remaining changes all come up front as head coach Warren Gatland reworks his tight five.
Scarlets tighthead prop Samson Lee has recovered from concussion to take his place in the front row after sitting out the win over Scotland at BT Murrayfield, while Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin is preferred to Richard Hibbard, who drops to the bench, with Gethin Jenkins retaining his place to give Wales the same front row from their 12-6 win over South Africa in November.
Racing Metro lock Luke Charteris is promoted from the bench to replace Jake Ball in the second row where he partners Alun Wyn Jones, who was man of the match in Edinburgh, with Wasps lock Bradley Davies coming on to the bench.
The back-row remains unchanged with Ospreys blindside Dan Lydiate and Newport Gwent Dragons number eight Taulupe Faletau continuing to line up with captain Sam Warburton, who equals Ryan Jones’ record of 33 matches Wales captain.
“We have made some tough calls and there were some tight decisions but it is a very strong team we are putting out,” Gatland said.
“We have a lot of strength in depth at second row; it is a chance for Luke Charteris to get a start and we have been impressed with Bradley Davies as well.
“It is nothing against Jake, but we have a lot of strength in depth and it’s an opportunity to see the other two.
“It’s a chance for Scott Baldwin to start as well, the last time he started he went well in the victory over South Africa.
“It is great to have Samson back available and it was a tough call in the back three, but we have decided to go with Liam and George.”
Wales defeated France in Cardiff last year, but have a losing record at the Stade de France with four of the seven matches since the introduction of the Six Nations going in favour of the home side.
We felt we improved against Scotland and we are looking for another improvement this weekend.
Les Bleus have failed to impress in their win over Scotland in Paris and defeat to Ireland in Dublin, and could provide a real test for Gatland’s side if they finally get their act together for a full match.
But Wales took bragging rights on their last visit to the French capital with a superb late North try putting some gloss on a hard-fought 16-6 win.
After improving significantly to defeat a stubborn Scotland outfit nine days ago, Gatland has demanded a further step up for their third round encounter.
“We felt we improved against Scotland and we are looking for another improvement this weekend,” Gatland added.
“It’s a tough competition to go on the road and ask for that, but that is what we are looking for.”
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); George North (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Gloucester Rugby), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys); Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets).