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Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Wales boss Gatland warns Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones

RBS SIX NATIONS: Wales v France
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Friday, 26 February Kick-off: 2000 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC HD, Red Button and BBC Sport website; Radio 5 live, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru; text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles


France challenge excites Gatland

Coach Warren Gatland says that veteran Wales flanker Martyn Williams and skipper Ryan Jones must improve their displays against France on Friday.

Wales rescued an incredible last-gasp 31-24 win against Scotland in their last championship game in Cardiff.

But Williams, Jones and Andy Powell - now dropped for disciplinary reasons - were outshone by Scotland's back-row and must up their game against France.

"We missed, I think, 10 tackles between them [the back-row]," Gatland said.

"Martyn's missed a few tackles and he's been the first to put his hand up and needs to rectify his performance and get it right and he normally responds exceptionally well to that.

"I think what's pleased me about Martyn in the last week or so is he's recognised that as a loose-forward trio we probably didn't do so well against Scotland.

Mike Phillips understands the game that Wales wants to play better than any of our nines

Wales coach Warren Gatland

"So it's a sign of his experienced leadership in the squad, and for Ryan I think he's developed well into a captain.

"He's showing really good signs in terms of the way he's leading this team. He doesn't speak for the sake of speaking and he's starting to let his rugby do the talking.

"But he knows himself after his performance against Scotland he needs to go up a notch against France."

Williams, 33, will equal Colin Charvis' 94-cap record for a Wales forward when he runs out at the Millennium Stadium against the Grand Slam-chasing French.

"It's a great milestone for Martyn," Gatland added. "I think it's a fantastic achievement for him.

"His next milestone's trying to get to 100 [caps], which would be a brilliant achievement."

Jonathan Thomas switches from lock to back-row to fill the gap vacated by Powell's banishment from the squad after being charged with drink-driving following an incident with a golf buggy on the morning after the win against Scotland.

Thomas' move and Alun Wyn Jones' absence following elbow surgery gives Deiniol Jones and Bradley Williams the chance to impress in the second-row.

Mike Phillips in action for Ospreys v Connacht

See Phillips' return to action for the Ospreys

Jones' inclusion was the major talking point when Gatland announced the team on Monday, with Luke Charteris only getting a place on the bench despite his man-of-the-match show for the Dragons at Ulster.

Gatland also admits that picking Mike Phillips on the bench - despite the British and Irish Lions star playing just 40 minutes of rugby in four months - is a gamble.

Phillips has been selected ahead of Dwayne Peel - who has missed only a month of action recently with a groin strain - as the back-up to Richie Rees of the Blues.

While Phillips came on for the second half of the Ospreys' 19-17 win over Connacht in the Magners League on Sunday, Peel played the full game when Sale lost 19-10 to Leeds on Friday.

Gatland cited the precedents of Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery recently returning to Test action after injury and Scotland having Mike Blair on the bench against Wales following a lengthy lay-off.

Gatland said of Phillips: "Even though he's not 100% match fit, he's medically fit and he gives us something a little bit different.

"He's been passed medically fit. That's the first thing I found out. I spoke to the physios and doctor about that and medically he's available.

"Yes, he's a little bit match rusty, but we know what a quality player he is and I thought he wasn't as sharp as he possibly could have been.

Sean Davies

"But I thought one of the things when I watched him for the Ospreys was his passing was excellent - the variation of his passing - and with a week or so with us he'll get stronger.

"He knows the game we want to play. He knows it inside out and he understands the game that Wales wants to play better than any of our nines."

That group of scrum-halves includes Gareth Cooper, who started Wales' opening loss of the championship away to England and the win over Scotland but now finds himself out of the match-day squad.

Gatland admits he was wrong to pick Cooper to start against Scotland, with Rees having made a strong case for the starting nine shirt with his performances off the bench.

"I know we'd made a call on Gareth Cooper in the first two games and we were criticised for that and probably fair enough criticism in the second game, because we did make that replacement at half-time [against Scotland]," Gatland added.

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Richard Rees (Blues); Paul James, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies, Deiniol Jones (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Martyn Williams (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, capt) Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues), Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys) , Tom Shanklin (Blues).

Wales' Six Nations squad:

Backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Tom James, Richard Rees, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin (all Cardiff Blues) Dan Biggar, Andrew Bishop, Lee Byrne, James Hook, Kristian Phillips, Tom Prydie, Shane Williams (all Ospreys), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones (all Scarlets), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks).

Forwards: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins, Deiniol Jones, Sam Warburton, Gareth Williams, Martyn Williams (all Cardiff Blues), Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Paul James, Adam Jones, Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas (all Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate (both Newport Gwent Dragons), Eifion Lewis-Roberts (Sale Sharks), Rhys Gill (Saracens).

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see also
Lock Jones' shock Wales call-up
22 Feb 10 |  Welsh
France suffer double injury blow
24 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Lock Davies offered Wales support
19 Feb 10 |  Welsh
Jones boost for Ospreys and Wales
01 Apr 10 |  Welsh
Powell removed from Wales squad
15 Feb 10 |  Welsh
Six Nations table
10 Aug 06 |  Tables
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Coming up next on Scrum V...
03 Nov 08 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
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