Gatland goes for broke with surprise Phillips selection
Published 23/02/2010 | 05:00
WARREN GATLAND has never lacked the courage of his convictions, something he proved again yesterday with two selections nobody saw coming for Wales' crunch encounter against France on Friday night.
Mike Phillips, the Lions scrum-half, has been rushed onto the bench after 40 minutes of play in four months following an ankle injury, while Deniol Jones, the Cardiff Blues lock, will make his first Six Nations start after 10 years in and out of the squad.
Phillips came through 40 minutes of rugby for Ospreys against Connacht on Sunday and after reporting no reaction was immediately called into the squad, despite the call-up over the weekend of Sale's Dwayne Peel, who was himself returning from injury.
It is a bewildering time for all scrum-halves in the squad, not least Gareth Cooper, who started against England and Scotland and is now surplus to requirements. Richie Rees, a sparky presence when he came off the bench against Scotland, will now start.
Elsewhere, Jonathan Thomas has moved to blindside forward for the discarded Andy Powell after the latter's golf-cart pranks. Powell was likely to have been dropped in any case, with Thomas a more than able deputy who increases Wales' line-out options.
France coach Mark Lievremont has again kept change to a minimum as France continue their assault on the Grand Slam.
With flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo missing with a calf strain, he has turned to the experienced Julien Bonnaire in the back row. Benjamin Fall replaces the injured Vincent Clerc on the wing; Fall was first choice in the opening game against Scotland.