Warren Gatland has backed George North to be a success in the Welsh midfield
Warren Gatland has backed George North to shine in midfield as he prepares for his first Test start at centre.
Hopefully we can get the ball in George's hands as early as we can and give him the chance to use that footwork and create some space
The Wales head coach has made three changes to his side for this Friday's clash with France, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams and Luke Charteris all starting the game at the Millennium Stadium.
With Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies and Ashley Beck all out injured, Wales are light of midfield options. It means Northampton Saints man North partners Jamie Roberts at centre for Wales, the two men lining up against Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud in what looks sure to be a big-hitting battle.
"George has had a few games at centre - we had some other discussions in terms of who we could play there but George has started there for Northampton and come into that position for us," said Gatland.
"He's an imposing figure to defend against, he takes a lot of stopping and that was part of our decision making as well as knowing we have to stop Bastareaud and bring him down.
"Hopefully we can get the ball in his hands as early as we can and give him the chance to use that footwork and create some space."
North moved to centre in Wales' last encounter - a 26-3 defeat to Ireland in Dublin, with Williams coming in on the left wing. Both begin in the same positions on Friday while Webb will make his first international start, replacing Mike Phillips at nine.
"We felt it's an opportunity for Rhys Webb - we felt like he needed some game time with the Ospreys and he played well at the weekend," Gatland added.
"Mike's been first choice for a long time and it's important we give someone else an opportunity in that position. Rhys is different to Mike as a player - we don't want him to be the same as Mike, we want him to do what he's good at doing.
"He has to play to his own strengths - a good kicking game, bringing runners off him around the fringes and that's what we want him to do.
"We've made a change at nine and with some other players, we've had some really honest discussions. It's a chance to put the disappointment from Ireland behind us, for them to redeem themselves and put things right."
Wales skipper Sam Warburton, who starts in an unchanged back row, said: "Everyone has knuckled down in training and there has been a lot of attention to detail. Everyone was desperate to play and it's good to have that nervousness in team selection meetings. The guys who have the chance to play have to give it their all.
"Beating France on Friday is our only target - everyone is looking forward to a home game and a win is a must."
Wales Head Coach Rob Howley talks to WRU TV's Sebastian Barrett about the 36-man squad he has just named for the forthcoming Under Armour series, which includes two uncapped players, Ospreys duo Sam Davies and Rory Thornton.
Head coach Rowland Phillips is deligthed he can now call BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park home for his Wales Women's side, who launch their international season next month with games against Scotland and UK Armed Forces in the heart of the capital city.
Wales Sevens star Sam Cross has put his home town club of Brynmawr on the map after winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics with Team GB. His club have now honoured him by naming their players bar after him, as WRU TV discovered at the official launch, recently.
One of the newest members of the Principality Premiership, Bargoed admit it's proving to be a steep learning curve at the highest level, but are determined to become a force to be reckoned with. WRU TV visited the club last weekend when they took on Llanelli.
Table-topping Aberavon travel to north Wales to tackle RGC 1404 as both teams defend unbeaten starts to the season in the Principality Premiership. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie visited the Wizards to see how their preparations were going for the game of the weekend.
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
Both Bargoed and Swansea were seeking their first win of the Principality Premiership season this afternoon. It proved a fruitful day for the hosts - not only did they win, but Bargoed claimed a try bonus point.
Cardiff managed to keep their unbeaten record at home intact, but only just as Bridgend made them work extremely hard before the Blue and Blacks secured a hard fought Principality Premiership win at the BT Sport Arms Park last night.
Former Wales back row Andy Powell gives a guided tour of The Wern, home of Merthyr RFC, who are determined to prove a lot of people wrong and make their mark in their first season in the Principality Premiership.