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Shanklin Starts for Wales

19th February 2007

Wales coach Gareth Jenkins has made seven changes to the starting line-up which lost to Scotland for the RBS Six Nations clash with France at Stade de France tomorrow, (Saturday 24th February) kick-off 2000hrs GMT.

Blues centre Tom Shanklin makes his first start of the 2007 Championship, replacing regional team-mate Jamie Robinson, who moves from outside centre to the bench, with Scarlet Mark Jones moving from the right to left wing in a positional switch and Shane Williams on the opposite side.

There are seven changes in all, including a new front row line-up with Gethin Jenkins (Blues) and Chris Horsman (Worcester) recalled at prop and Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees named to make his first Six Nations start.

Blues hooker Rhys Thomas joins Ospreys prop Duncan Jones on a bench which sees a return to international rugby for Cockbain after more than a year away (he hasn't played for Wales since injuring his hamstring during the win over Fiji at the Millennium Stadium on 11th November 2005).

"It's obviously a boost to have someone of Shane's ability and experience back in the fold and the same applies to Tom Shanklin who makes his first start of this campaign and also Lee Byrne who has been called into the squad," said Jenkins.

"But it's also fair to say we would have preferred to be easing these players in under different circumstances. None of the three individuals mentioned have played much rugby in recent weeks, but that is the situation we are in and the likes of Tom, with 37 caps, and Shane who is nearing the half century are more than capable of meeting the challenge ahead.

"Lee Byrne also has experience of international rugby in the specialist full back position under his belt and he has come back to fitness at just the right time for us.

"Up front we have looked at the physicality of our front row and have presented a different dynamic for the French match than that against Scotland.

"We were not at our best in that area at Murrayfield and we have looked for extra power in the scrum this time out.

"The back row has been an asset to us and we feel we have the right balance in this pack to compete on level terms with France.

"France have a big physical presence up front which we will need to combat, they operate a blitz defence and take their opportunities well in attack. We need to break the physical dominance they put on a game and we have strong views about how we want to take the game to them.

"France is always a tough place to go and they have proved they are the best team in this Championship in the first two rounds, but we are at a stage where we need to get back out there on the pitch and show what we have to offer as well."

WALES: Lee Byrne; Shane Williams, Tom Shanklin, James Hook, Mark Jones; Stephen Jones (captain), Dwayne Peel; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Chris Horsman, Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones, Alix Popham, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones

REPLACEMENTS: T Rhys Thomas, Duncan Jones, Brent Cockbain, Johnathan Thomas, Mike Phillips, Ceri Sweeney, Jamie Robinson