Sportin Wales Co-Founder Alex Cuthbert On Wales Selection Shake Up

Wales host France this Sunday on the back of three losses in this years Six Nations, hoping to change their fortunes.

In their bid for a first win this Six Nations, Wales head coach Warren Gatland has opted to shakeup his midfield selecting exciting centre Joe Roberts for only his second cap alongside Ospreys’ Owen Watkin.

This is at the expense of 120 cap British and Irish Lion George North and Saracens’ Nick Tompkins.

Neither are injured, with the decision a tactical one.

Wales’ defence coach Mike Forshaw faced the press today and said this was an opportunity to have a look at Roberts in particular who he says was “unlucky” to miss out on World Cup selection.

Speaking exclusively to us, Sportin Wales co-founder and Wales international Alex Cuthbert says it may be a case that Gatland has now “seen enough of Tompkins and North” and with no title to play for this Six Nations it’s an ideal opportunity to try different combinations.

“The way the attack has gone it’s not quite clicking and I think the centres are getting the brunt of that,” said Cuthbert.

“Hopefully with Roberts’ speed and ball skills, they can get it clicking again.

“The driving maul in the 22 has been strong for Wales but I just want to see a bit more from the attack.”

Forshaw himself said he sees Roberts as a “really promising young 13 going forward” and with his left foot kicking gives Wales “a little bit of a different dimension with his kicking.”

Watkin on the other hand hasn’t been seen since starting the game against Scotland at 13 and Cuthbert feels his move to 12 will be an asset to Wales’ defence.

“There’s a big onus on Watkin and Sam Costelow this week to stop France getting across the gainline and getting their fast ruck speed game going,” said Cuthbert.

“Nick [Tompkins] probably hasn’t been as physical as he usually is so hopefully Watkin, who’s good at strips, can stop France.”


Forward changes

There are further changes in Wales’ pack with captain Dafydd Jenkins moving to six to accommodate the added physicality of Will Rowlands in the second row.

“I called it before the Six Nations,” said Cuthbert.

“I think it’s a good call to have Jenkins at six for physicality and then with Adam Beard’s lineout ability combined with Rowlands, who’s incredible around the park.

“If France get one over you up front it’s a difficult day.”

The only other change to the starting lineup sees Ryan Elias return to the starting lineup, swapping places I the starting lineup with Elliott Dee.

This appears to be in a bid to strengthen the scrum, an area which Cuthbert admits was “under the pump” against Ireland.

“I think they’re just trying to look at everyone,” said Cuthbert.

“I expect to see changes again next week for Wales against Italy.”


Rotation but pressure to win remains

While Forshaw was at pains to stress that the team selection and rotation wasn’t a white flag to sacrifice a victory, Cuthbert feels it is crucial Wales get a win this weekend.

“The minimum target in the Six Nations is two wins,” said Cuthbert.

“Anything less is a failure and if Wales lose this game the narrative changes to having to win against Italy.

“Hopefully Wales can start well and not as badly as last time at home against Scotland.

International rugby is a game won up front and Cuthbert predicts, Sunday won’t be any different.

“The front five and discipline will be the winning and losing of this game,” said Cuthbert.

“France are not as disciplined as they usually are so maybe Wales can get the upper hand there.”

Wales team to face France

Cam Winnett; Josh Adams, Joe Roberts, Owen Watkin, Rio Dyer; Sam Costelow, Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Kieran Assiratti, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Dafydd Jenkins (capt), Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Elliott Dee, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Alex Mann, Mackenzie Martin, Gareth Davies, Ioan Lloyd, Mason Grady.