Gavin Henson handed start against England

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The Independent Online

Gavin Henson has been handed his chance to push for World Cup selection when Wales face England at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Henson will line-up in midfield alongside Jamie Roberts, who moves to outside centre, making a first start against England since the 2008 RBS 6 Nations Championship.

The 29-year-old has said he needs to produce something "pretty special" as he pursues a World Cup place after missing out in 2003 and 2007.

Henson is one of four changes from the team beaten 23-19 by England last weekend as Wales go into their penultimate World Cup warm-up game.

The versatile James Hook replaces full-back Morgan Stoddart, who broke his leg at Twickenham and will miss the World Cup, with Stoddart's Scarlets colleague Rhys Priestland continuing in the fly-half role following an accomplished showing five days ago.

The other switches are up front, where Newport Gwent Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns gains a first Test start, and his club-mate, lock Luke Charteris, takes over from Bradley Davies in the second row.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has otherwise retained the team on duty at Twickenham, although there are potential opportunities off the bench for young forwards Josh Turnbull and Justin Tipuric.

Flanker Sam Warburton will again skipper the side, but former Wales captain Ryan Jones is ruled out because of a calf problem.

Gatland insists converting last week's encouraging performance into a positive result is important as they seek to build confidence for the tournament, which gets underway next month in New Zealand.

"We need the win this weekend - it's as simple as that," he said.

"We've told the players that, for us to be regarded as contenders at the Rugby World Cup, we need to beat England at home this weekend, to send out that message to everyone that we are contenders.

"We have the toughest pool at the tournament and in less than a month's time we will be facing South Africa in our opening match. It is vitally important that we go into that match with the sound of Welsh fans ringing in our ears, fans who have cheered us on to victories in the final two matches of our warm-up campaign against England and against Argentina next week.

"We have retained the majority of the side who travelled to London last week and told them that we want more of the same. There are one or two players we have brought in to have a look at but the reason we have deliberately not made wholesale changes is that we need to win this game and we believe these are the players who can do that."

Assistant coach Rob Howley added: "This selection has been about consistency and about putting in a performance on Saturday which will enable us to build to the World Cup.

"Rhys is retained after impressing under difficult circumstances last week, James comes in at full-back and we all know what quality he has to offer in a Wales shirt and Gavin gets his chance.

"We were impressed with both Lloyd and Luke coming off the bench last week, Lloyd particularly deserves an opportunity to make his first start for his country and Luke will form a new partnership with Alun Wyn Jones which we think can go well.

"We have also brought Josh Turnbull and Justin Tipuric onto the bench, two young players who have impressed us in training and who will be hungry to make their World Cup claims, and Aled Brew will give us physicality and pace out wide if required."

Wales team to play England at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday:

J Hook (Perpignan); G North (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G Henson (unattached), Shane Williams (Ospreys); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James (Ospreys), L Burns (Newport Gwent Dragons), C Mitchell (Exeter), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), AW Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), R Bevington (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), A Brew (Newport Gwent Dragons).