GATLAND CHANGES "10" AND TARGETS SLAM
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made two changes to his Triple Crown winning side for the RBS Six Nations Championship decider against France at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5.00pm).
James Hook is preferred to Stephen Jones at fly half and Hook's Ospreys colleague and hooker Huw Bennett returns from a brief illness to replace Matthew Rees - both Rees and Jones moving to the bench.
Ospreys lock Ian Gough will lead the team out on winning his 50th cap as Wales look to take the title and grab their second Grand Slam in four championship campaigns.
And Gatland has suggested to his side that anything less than a win over Les Bleus will count as a hollow victory despite the 20-point cushion the points difference column in the Championship table offers them.
"It will be nice if we can take the Championship, but we'd like to be doing it with a win over France. To win on points difference would be something of a hollow victory," said Gatland.
"We have already achieved something in this campaign that can't be taken away from us, but we have an opportunity now to push on and do something a little bit special in front of our home crowd and to put some more smiles on Welsh faces for the second time in eight days."
Blues prop Gethin Jenkins will equal former hooker Garin Jenkins' record of 58 appearances in Welsh colours for a front row forward - although one of Garin's caps was as a replacement flanker - and prop Duncan Jones will join fellow Osprey Gough in the 50-cap club if he is called upon from the bench.
Wales will attempt a 10th Grand Slam in their history just a day after the 100th anniversary of their first in 1908, but France have won their last six visits to the Millennium Stadium and Gatland knows his side must be on their mettle.
"We have momentum which is what this tournament is all about but you can never underestimate the French," added Gatland.
"We will probably be tipped as favourites after putting a run of results together and it is how we handle that pressure which will be a deciding factor.
"France are very much an unknown quantity this year and they will not be afraid to spoil the party if we let them and they have the talent and wherewithal to do it.
"We have afforded ourselves the luxury of bringing in James Hook for the different qualities he will offer in this match, but we have pretty much said 'same again' to the boys that brought home the silverware on Saturday.
"Stephen Jones will offer us the benefit of his vast experience from the bench and he is one of a number of players who can come on and change the game for us if necessary.
"Huw Bennett comes in for Matthew Rees, but, as I've said previously, there are marginal selection decisions to make all over the field and hooker is the perfect example of one of them.
"We are confident, we have worked hard and if we continue in the same vein in which we started this campaign we believe we can come away with a deserved victory on Saturday.
"We have an historic opportunity and we intend to grasp it with both hands."
Wales took home their 19th Triple Crown after the 16 - 12 defeat of Ireland at Croke Park last Saturday and next week they celebrate their 100th international of the new Millennium.
France have won their last six matches at the Millennium Stadium, four of those against Wales in the championship - 2000 France beat Wales 36-3, 2002 France beat Wales 37-33, 2004 France beat Wales 29-22, 2006 France beat Wales 21-16. They also beat Wales 34-7 in a RWC warm-up match and then beat New Zealand 20-18 in the 2007 RWC quarter-finals.
WALES: Lee Byrne; Mark Jones, Tom Shanklin, Gavin Henson, Shane Williams; James Hook, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (Captain)
REPLACEMENTS: Matthew Rees, Duncan Jones, Ian Evans, Gareth Delve, Dwayne Peel, Stephen Jones, Sonny Parker
15 Lee BYRNE (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,041)
DoB: 01.06.80. 6'3" / 1.91m. 15st 4lbs / 97kgs
International record: 18 caps (W 7, L 10, D 1; 25 pts - 5T)
14 Mark JONES (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 984)
DoB: 07.11.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 14st 5lbs / 91kgs
International record: 38 caps (W 16, L 20, D 2; 60 pts - 12T)
13 Tom SHANKLIN (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 993)
DoB: 24.11.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 15st 9lbs / 99kgs
International record: 51 caps (W 24, L 26, D 1; 90 pts - 18T)
12 Gavin HENSON (OSPREYS - Cap No 990)
DoB: 01.02.82. 6'0" / 1.83m. 15st 7lbs / 98kgs
International record: 27 caps (W 15, L 11, D 1; 130 pts - 3T,29C,18PG,1DG)
11 Shane WILLIAMS (OSPREYS - Cap No 976)
DoB: 26.02.77. 5'7" / 1.71m. 12st 13lbs / 82kgs
International record: 55 caps (W 28, L 25, D 2; 200 pts - 40T)
10 James HOOK (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,047)
DoB: 27.06.85. 6'0" / 1.83m. 14st 3lbs / 90kgs
International record: 24 caps (W 10, L 13, D 1; 173 pts - 6T,31C,25PG,2DG)
9 Michael PHILLIPS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,022)
DoB: 29.08.82. 6'3" / 1.91m. 16st 4lbs / 103kgs
International record: 32 caps (W 16, L 15, D 1; 20 pts - 4T)
1 Gethin JENKINS (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,006)
DoB: 17.11.80. 6'2" / 1.88m. 18st 9lbs / 118kgs
International record: 57 caps (W 24, L 31, D 2; 15 pts - 3T)
2 Huw BENNETT (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,017)
DoB: 11.06.83. 6'0" / 1.83m. 17st 5lbs / 110kgs
International record: 17 caps (W 10, L 7)
3 Adam Rhys JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,018)
DoB: 08.03.81. 6'0" / 1.83m. 20st 5lb / 129kgs
International record: 47 caps (W 25, L 20, D 2; 5 pts - 1T)
4 Ian GOUGH (OSPREYS - Cap No 964)
DoB: 10.11.76. 6' 6" / 1.98m. 18st 9lbs / 118kgs
International record: 49 caps (W 22, L 24, D 3; 5 pts - 1T)
5 Alun-Wyn JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,046)
DoB: 19.09.85. 6'5" / 1.96m. 18st 9lbs / 118kgs
International record: 20 caps (W 8, L 12; 15 pts - 3T)
6 Jonathan THOMAS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,013)
DoB: 27.12.82. 6'5" / 1.96m. 17st 5lbs / 110kgs
International record: 43 caps (W 21, L 20, D 2; 35 pts - 7T)
7 Martyn WILLIAMS (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 944)
DoB: 01.09.75. 6'0" / 1.83m. 15st 13lbs / 101kgs
International record: 80 caps (W 37, L 40, D 3; 68 pts - 13T, 1DG)
8 Ryan JONES (OSPREYS, CAPTAIN - Cap No 1,029)
DoB: 13.03.81. 6'5" / 1.96m. 18st 0lbs / 114kgs
International record: 20 caps (W 12, L 7, D 1; 5 pts - 1T)
16 Matthew REES (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 1,033)
DoB: 09.12.80. 6'0" / 1.83m. 16st 9lbs / 106kgs
International record: 20 caps (W 9, L 10, D 1; 10 pts - 2T)
17 Duncan JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 997)
DoB: 18.09.78. 6'0" / 1.83m. 17st 8lbs / 112kgs
International record: 49 caps (W 22, L 25, D 2)
18 Ian EVANS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,045)
DoB: 04.10.84. 6'8" / 2.04m. 18st 3lbs / 116kgs
International record: 11 caps (W 5, L 5, D 1; 5 pts - 1T)
19 Gareth DELVE (GLOUCESTER RUGBY - Cap No 1,043)
DoB: 30.12.82. 6'3" / 1.91m. 17st 13lbs / 114kgs
International record: 7 caps (W 4, L 3; 5 pts - 1T)
20 Dwayne PEEL (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 994)
DoB: 31.08.81. 5'9" / 1.76m. 13st 8lbs / 86kgs
International record: 61 caps (W 27, L 32, D 2; 25 pts - 5T)
21 Stephen JONES (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 966)
DoB: 08.12.77. 6'1" / 1.86m. 14st 12lbs / 94kgs
International record: 69 caps (W31, L36, D2; 603 pts - 6T,111C,114PG,3DG)
22 Sonny PARKER (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,007)
DoB: 27.08.77. 6'1" / 1.86m. 15st 13lbs / 101kgs
International record: 30 caps (W 15, L 15; 30 pts - 6T)
For further information please contact:
National Squad Communications Manager
WRU Indoor Arena, Vale of Glamorgan Hotel, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan, CF72 8JY
M: 07825 981 128
Tel: 01443 238 255
Fax: 01443 238 386