CARDIFF, February 24 – Star centre Gavin Henson is in line to make his first Test appearance for Wales in almost a year after being named on the bench for the Six Nations champions' meeting with France in Paris on Friday.
Henson has recovered from the calf injury which kept him out of the his country’s wins over Scotland and England in their opening two matches.
But head coach Warren Gatland has opted to stick with the all-Cardiff midfield partnership of Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts.
Gatland makes just one change to his starting line-up from the one that started the 23-15 win over England earlier this month, Shane Williams making his anticipated return on the left wing after recovering from an ankle injury.
He displaces Mark Jones while Andrew Bishop makes room on the bench for Henson’s return. Henson last played international rugby when Wales clinched last season’s title by beating France in Cardiff.
His return to the fold had been thrown into doubt last week when he was forced to apologise, along with fellow internationals Andy Powell, Jonathan Thomas and Rhys Thomas, for his late night revelry in the wake of the England win.
Gatland said the return of Williams, who has scored 45 tries in 62 Tests, would sharpen his side’s cutting edge for a clash that could decide the destiny of this season’s title.
"A fit Shane Williams is a player any coach would want in their side so it was a natural decision for him to come in for Mark Jones, with no disrespect to Mark who did a good job for us against England," the New Zealander said.
"France are one of the top sides in the championship and they are always going to be tough opposition, especially at home, and this is a must-win game for them if they are to keep their title hopes alive.
"We also know how tough it will be for them with a short six-day turnaround for many of their players who have featured in domestic rugby this weekend.
"We had a similar experience ourselves in between the Scotland and England games and found it hard going, so that is something we must try to take advantage of."
Lee Byrne; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Michael Phillips; Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (capt); Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Gough; Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: Huw Bennett, John Yapp, Luke Charteris, Dafydd Jones, Dwayne Peel, James Hook, Gavin Henson