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."
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British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton is looking forward to bringing together players from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales for the biggest challenge of their careers - a series against world champions, New Zealand.
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The countdown is on for Judgement Day V as tickets for the big day at Principality Stadium soar through the 50,000 mark. Players and coaches alike are bursting at the seams to play in the double header with Dragons coach Kingsley Jones claiming there is a 'real buzz' about the event.
WRU TV went behind the scenes when the four regions got together to test their skill set for the BBC's Scrum V Live rugby show, at the WRU National Centre of Excellene in the build up to Judgement Day V. Blues' Matthew Morgan was one of the stars of the show while the Dragons' Cory Hill proved a surprise package...the full set of results will be revealed on tv screens on matchday
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Bedwas had to overcome a stubborn Carmarthen Quins side before winning the Foster's Challenge Cup final in Bridgend with a 23-18 victory. Bedwas captain Nicky Griffiths pays tribute to his side who have claimed the club's first piece of silverware in the modern era.
Team coach Brett Davey is aiming to keep his unbeaten run in cup finals at Principality Stadium intact when his side take on Amman United in the WRU Bowl final, after he guided Caerphilly to a 20-14 win against Cilfynydd in the semi-finals.
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