Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin named as Wales' centre partnership for France match

Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin will start against France (David Davies/PA)

Wales will field a new centre partnership of Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin in Sunday’s Six Nations clash against France.

They take over from established midfield pairing George North and Nick Tompkins, who have 155 caps between them, at the Principality Stadium.

It will be Llanelli 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.

The PA news agency understands that North and Tompkins were both fit for selection.

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 appointment 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 said: “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.”

Wales have lost the last four Six Nations games against France, but they tackle a struggling Les Bleus team that lost to Ireland and drew at home against Italy either side of narrowly beating Scotland.

Wales, though, have yet to win in this season’s tournament ahead of their final two fixtures against France and Italy.

Wales team to play France in Six Nations

Forwards: 1 Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), 2 Ryan Elias (Scarlets), 3 Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby), 4 Will Rowlands (Racing 92), 5 Adam Beard (Ospreys), 6 Dafydd Jenkins (Captain, Exeter Chiefs), 7 Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), 8 Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)

Backs: 9 Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby), 10 Sam Costelow (Scarlets), 11 Rio Dyer (Dragons), 12 Owen Watkin (Ospreys), 13 Joe Roberts (Scarlets), 14 Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby), 15 Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby)

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee (Dragons), 17 Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby), 18 Dillon Lewis (Harlequins), 19 Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby), 20 Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby), 21 Gareth Davies (Scarlets), 22 Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets), 23 Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby)

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