Wales recall James for All Black clash

Wales have handed Paul James a surprise second chance to launch his international career by naming the Ospreys prop in their starting XV for Saturday’s match against New Zealand.

James, who won his only previous cap against Romania in 2003, comes in for the injured Adam Jones at tighthead in a front row made up by British and Irish Lions duo Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins.

In the backs, James Hook reverts to full-back to plug the gap created by the loss of Lee Byrne to injury, enabling Cardiff Blues duo Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts to fill the centre berths.

“We wanted Gethin (Jenkins) to start so it was a case of seeing which of the other three props stood out in training this week,” said head coach Warren Gatland.

“Paul has edged it and we know he won’t let us down, he may have just had the one cap but he has been around this Wales squad since making the tour to North America in the summer and, at 27 years old, has had plenty of experience and should be coming into his prime as a front row forward.”

Gatland added: “Elsewhere the coaches have looked for consistency of selection, we have asked James (Hook) to play at full-back before and it is a boost for any side to be able to have someone of his calibre on the field in whatever position that may be.

“We have an experienced pairing at centre, two exciting wingers (Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams) and the Lions play-maker (Stephen Jones) running the back line at fly-half, so we think we have a pretty good side out there.

“New Zealand will be looking to get the European part of their tour off to a winning start and were pretty slick in their demolition of Australia at the weekend. We are looking forward to facing them at the Millennium Stadium again and are expecting an exciting game.”

Gatland has recalled 30-year-old Gareth Cooper to fill in at scrum in the absence of both the injured Mike Phillips and Dwayne Peel, who has not been released by his English club, Sale, as Saturday’s fixture is taking place outside the agreed international window.

The Wales coach has also been obliged to do without Mark Jones, the Scarlets winger who had been expected to start before suffering a knee injury at the weekend.

Jones is awaiting a consultant’s verdict but is likely to require keyhole surgery, according to the Wales Rugby Union (WRU).

The All Blacks have arrived in Wales on a high after beating Australia 32-19 in Tokyo at the weekend.


They have not been beaten by Wales since 1953.

Wales (15-1)

James Hook; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Gareth Cooper; Ryan Jones (capt.), Martyn Williams, Andy Powell, Luke Charteris, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul James, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: Huw Bennett, Duncan Jones, Bradley Davies, Dafydd Jones, Martin Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Tom James

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