Joe Roberts Wales

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Joe Roberts of Wales looks on during the Summer International match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on August 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Wales Go For Joe To Face France . . . But Deny They Have Dropped George North And Nick Tompkins

By Paul Jones

Wales insist they have not dropped George North even though the 120-cap centre has been left out of the team to play France despite being fit.

Both North and Nick Tompkins have been replaced for Sunday’s Six Nations clash in Cardiff, with head coach Warren Gatland opting to pick Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin instead.

North and Tompkins have 155 caps between them but assistant coach Mike Forshaw claimed the decision was made in order to assess Roberts and Watkin.

“I don’t think they have been dropped,” said Forshaw.

“They have had two games together and they have done extremely well.

“I think it’s an opportunity to have a look at Joe. I think Joe was unlucky not to go to the World Cup.

“We just felt if we were going to have a look, this was the game to do it. We have two home games and we felt if we were going to do it we were going to do it this weekend.

Forshaw conceded that North, who be 32 next month, and Tompkins were “down” after being told they had been left out.

“They were disappointed,” he added.

“I’d be disappointed if they weren’t disappointed. Selection day is always tough because you want to be in the team, you want to play for Wales, you want to drive into the stadium this weekend.

“But George has been around a long time. Nick is an established Saracens player with a lot of experience.

“This morning they were both great. They were down yesterday which I get because I’ve been there, and know what it’s like but the two boys who have come in they’ll fully support them.

“There’s two more games to go so that could change again. I’m really excited looking at the other two combinations, and that’s the focus of everyone in the group.”

“Nick and George have been spoken to. They firmly believe in what we are doing.

“At the unit session they have been great. We need to look at Joe. He is a really promising young 13 going forward and Owen Watkin has a lot of experience.

“I suppose there is always a risk in every selection but I suppose we have to be confident in the messages we are giving and the coaching we are doing.

“Those guys will be there to prove a point I am sure and try and stay in the team the following week.

It will be Scarlets’ centre Roberts’ first Six Nations start after making his Test debut against England last summer in a World Cup warm-up match. 

Elsewhere, Wales captain, Dafydd Jenkins, has been switched from lock to blindside flanker, with Will Rowlands called up as Adam Beard’s second-row partner, while hooker Ryan Elias replaces Elliot Dee. 

Jenkins, meanwhile, makes a first appearance in the number six shirt for club or country, and he takes over from Alex Mann. Rowlands missed Wales’ opening Six Nations meeting with Scotland after his partner gave birth, and then featured off the bench in defeats to England and Ireland.

Mann is among the replacements, where his colleagues include fellow Cardiff forward Mackenzie Martin, 49 times-capped Dee and Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies.

Gatland, who did not attend the press conference, said in a statement, “There are a few changes to the team this week as there are some players that deserve an opportunity. It will be a tough, physical challenge from France on Sunday, particularly up front.

“We know they will start hard, and it is about us staying in the fight, having good line-speed defensively and keeping our discipline. We are looking for an 80 minute performance.

“We are excited to be back at home for our last two matches and looking forward to getting out in front of a passionate Welsh crowd.”


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