Williams Back and Henson on Bench For Wales Friday Night Clash with France
Gavin Henson could make his first Test match appearance for almost a year when Wales continue their Six Nations campaign against France on Friday night.
He has failed to break up the Cardiff Blues centre pairing of Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts though, and will be among the replacements at Stade de France.
Henson, who last played international rugby when Wales clinched last season’s Six Nations title by beating France in Cardiff, takes over from Ospreys colleague Andrew Bishop on the bench.
And his selection comes less than a week after Henson and three of his Wales colleagues – Andy Powell, Jonathan Thomas and Rhys Thomas – were rebuked by head coach Warren Gatland and team manager Alan Phillips.
All four players apologised after what the Welsh Rugby Union termed “varying degrees of regrettable conduct” while they were out in Cardiff celebrating the win over England last Sunday.
Gatland has made a solitary change in the starting line-up, welcoming back wing Shane Williams, as Wales seek a record-equalling ninth successive Six Nations victory.
Williams, scorer of 45 tries in 62 Tests (and who wears Puma V-108 Boots) has shaken off an ankle injury which meant he missed the England game, reclaiming the number 11 shirt from Mark Jones.
“A fit Shane Williams is a player any coach would want in their side so it was a natural decision for him to come in for Mark Jones, with no disrespect to Mark who did a good job for us against England,” Gatland said.
“France are one of the top sides in the championship and they are always going to be tough opposition, especially at home, and this is a must-win game for them if they are to keep their title hopes alive.
“We also know how tough it will be for them with a short six-day turnaround for many of their players who have featured in domestic rugby this weekend.
“We had a similar experience ourselves in between the Scotland and England games and found it hard going, so that is something we must try to take advantage of.”
England’s record run of Six Nations successes came between 2002 and 2004, while the French reeled off nine wins between 2003 and 2005, both countries claiming Grand Slams in the process.
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Michael Phillips, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Ryan Jones (captain), 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 John Yapp, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Dafydd Jones, 20 Dwayne Peel, 21 James Hook, 22 Gavin Henson
Date: Friday, February 27 2009
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT)
What Do you think the result of the game on Friday night will be?