Six Nations 2015: George North inclusion a surprise - Thomas

Gareth Thomas
Six Nations 2015: France v Wales
Venue: Stade de France Date: 28 February, 2015 Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, HD, Red Button, S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV.

In his 2015 Six Nations column for the BBC Scrum V website, former Wales captain Gareth Thomas reacts to Warren Gatland's four changes for Saturday's game against France - a team he says are as unpredictable as ever. Thomas spent three seasons at French club Toulouse and hopes Wales' French-based players will have the bragging rights after Saturday.

Liam Williams had to stay in the team because of his time against England and his full match against Scotland. He has been the outstanding form player and it was very difficult not to keep him.

I'm a little bit surprised to see George North coming straight back in to the side having missed the win in Scotland after suffering concussion against England.

Warren Gatland spoke quite critically about North before the England game, saying he needed to be involved a lot more and I don't think he did as much in that game to assure him of his place.

North has good memories of Paris after his try there two years ago which saw his father run on to the field to celebrate.

Being dropped could be a good thing for Alex

I don't see much difference between Alex Cuthbert and North. Neither is playing to his full potential.

North's dad joins try celebrations

When you get dropped you go away and have a good look at yourself and consider what you have to do to get back into the team. In that way it could be a good thing for Alex.

The line-out was a bit shaky against Scotland. France - however they've performed this year - have had a really solid scrum and a solid line-out.

Any team that's got a solid scrum or a solid line-out is going to be dangerous so Richard Hibbard and Jake Ball have been the casualties of the line-out failure.

I do think it's good to bring Racing Metro's Luke Charteris into the side, not only for his experience of French club rugby but because of his height and his ability to disrupt the French ball and to have a good target.

You can have the best back three in the world but ultimately against France you have to have a platform to play off.

A pack full of grunt

From this present French team to any other French team that I can remember, they are very much the same in that you have no idea what to expect from one week to the next.

With the coaching structure you never quite understand what Philippe Saint-Andre's coaching plan is and they've obviously got a lot of imports.

Luke Charteris
Racing Metro's Luke Charteris is one of five French based players in Wales' Six Nations squad

They have the flair and one thing they definitely have is a pack full of grunt. They have the ability to be a good team but it's typically a case of waiting to see what kind of French team will turn up.

They have this scary ability to turn it on when least expected.

I'm sure there's a lot of fun and banter been going on for the French-based players in the Wales squad in the build-up to Saturday's game.

When you play your club rugby in a country and you are then playing against that country as an international, then the build-up to that game is all fun and light-hearted because ultimately you want to walk into the changing rooms afterwards with the bragging rights.

It feels good, especially as a foreigner, when you can walk in there and gloat a little bit.

From a Welsh perspective it's good we've got players playing in France as they have an insight into the mentality of the French players.

Wales must tighten line-out

Paris is a great place to go and showcase your skills because France is probably one of the countries in the world where they really appreciate you trying things.

I've been there a few times and won and I think the best way of being victorious is to let loose.

This is a very strong Welsh team and I believe they can win. But for that to happen, the one thing they need to do is tighten up their line-out and their scrum because this French side is a very physical, strong team.

Roger Lewis, who has announced he will stand down as Welsh Rugby Union chief executive after this autumn's World Cup, has put a lot of faith in Warren Gatland and I think that faith has been repaid.

Roger Lewis
"Roger is a good friend and he's very passionate about Wales being successful as a rugby nation"

He brought somebody in that has made sure we're favourites going into tournaments.

Roger is a good friend and he's very passionate about Wales being successful as a rugby nation. Anybody that matches my passion deserves my utmost respect.

He came into the WRU at a time when, when as a national team and a national game, we were struggling. But he's leaving behind a Welsh team that, in terms of performances and results, has done very well of late.

He leaves his job in a lot better state than when he came into it, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.


Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); George North (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Paul James (Bath), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets).


Brice Dulin; (Racing Metro); Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Remi Lamerat (Castres), Wesley Fofana (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Sofiane Guitoune (Bordeaux Begles); Camille Lopez (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Morgan Parra (ASM Clermont Auvergne); Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Metro), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon), Rabbah Slimani (Stade Francais), Romain Taofifenua (Toulon), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), Bernard Le Roux (Racing Metro), Damien Chouly (ASM Clermont Auvergne).

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Vincent Debaty (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Jocelino Suta (Toulon), Loann Goujon (La Rochelle), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Toulon), Remi Tales (Castres), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon).

Gareth Thomas was speaking to BBC Wales Sport's Aled Williams