Prop James receives shock Wales call
November 2, 2009
Paul James will start for Wales © Getty Images
Ospreys prop Paul James has been handed a shock start in Wales' front-row to face New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. Wales are again out to break their winless streak against the All Blacks, dating back to 1953, but do so without a host of first-choice players.
James will win his second cap as cover for his regional team-mate Adam Jones, six years after his debut against Romania in Wrexham, alongside British & Irish Lions Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rees.
James Hook starts at fullback following injury to Lee Byrne, with Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams manning the wings. Experienced Scarlets wing Mark Jones has been ruled out of the remainder of the November series with a knee injury picked up in training, meaning a call for Blues wing Tom James on the bench.
As expected, Gareth Cooper partners Stephen Jones at halfback following injury to Mike Phillips and Sale's refusal to release Dwayne Peel for the fixture.
Behind James, Newport-Gwent Dragons skipper Luke Charteris has been given the nod to start in the second-row with Alun-Wyn Jones. Ryan Jones skippers Wales and starts at No.8, with Martyn Williams completing his shcok return from injury by starting on the openside. Williams' Cardiff Blues team-mate Andy Powell wears No.6 for the first time at international level.
One area of stability is the centre, where Lions star Jamie Roberts is paired with his Blues team-mate Tom Shanklin.
"We wanted Gethin (Jenkins) to start so it was a case of seeing which of the other three props (Jones, James and Osprey Craig Mitchell) 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.
"Elsewhere the coaches have looked for consistency of selection, we have asked James to play at fullback before and it 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 and the Lions playmaker running the backline at fly-half, so we think we have a pretty good side out there."
Wales: James Hook; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Gareth Cooper; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (capt)
Replacements: Huw Bennett, Duncan Jones, Bradley Davies, Dafydd Jones, Martin Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Tom James
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