8:37am Thursday 20th February 2014
WALES lock Luke Charteris knows that the heat is on to produce a big performance against France after wrestling the jersey off his former Newport Gwent Dragons teammate Andrew Coombs.
The 30-year-old, who left for Perpignan in 2012 after nine seasons at Rodney Parade, is the only change to the pack that was demolished by Ireland at the Aviva Stadium a fortnight ago after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Coombs is a tad unfortunate to miss out on the matchday squad after boss Warren Gatland opted for heavier options against the bruising French pack.
Charteris gets the start alongside Alun Wyn Jones while the Scarlets' Jake Ball, who is 6ft 6ins and 19st compared to Coombs' 6ft 4ins and 17st 2lbs, is selected on the bench.
The Dragons skipper earned his eighth cap in the 26-3 defeat in Dublin but he will watch from the sidelines tomorrow evening despite his typically wholehearted effort in Ireland.
It led to him tweeting yesterday: "Few people asking...I'm not injured, just not selected. Will hopefully play for Dragons on Sunday vs Glasgow."
"I've been in his situation before, all the boys have," said Charteris, who will win his 45th cap. "All you want to do is play and I certainly don't think he was any more to blame than anyone else (against Ireland).
"Unfortunately he has missed out this week but I am sure he will be fighting to be back for the games to come – he will be keeping me on my toes and that's what you want.
"We've always had a strong group in the second row and even with Bradley Davies and Ian Evans out there are two more in Andrew and Jake.
"That competition is good for the team and the boys in possession of the shirt are being pushed all the time."
France head to Wales with Grand Slam hopes alive following home wins against England and Italy – suddenly all is well for the country that finished bottom of the pile in 2013.
"Everyone was jumping on their backs last year but those players have all played well in the league for a number of years, so I was expecting them to be better and that's what has happened," said Charteris.
"It's going to be a big challenge because France are a good unit up front with a tight five that is strong at the set piece.
"(Flanker Yannick) Nyanga is going very well around the park for Toulouse and their back line is pretty special with Wesley Fofana and the like."
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