Gatland heaps praise on Mitchell
Wales coach Warren Gatland has hailed the impact of unheralded prop Craig Mitchell on his team's RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Gatland has resisted any temptation to recall Adam Jones to his front row to face Ireland at the weekend after the British and Irish Lions tighthead began his comeback from an elbow injury as a substitute in the Ospreys' Magners League victory over Glasgow last Saturday.
"Adam hasn't had any rugby, only a few minutes," said Gatland, who has retained the pack on duty against Italy and Scotland last month. "It's a vote of confidence in someone like Craig Mitchell and the job he has been doing."
He added: "I don't think he has had enough credit for his work-rate around the field. He's been absolutely outstanding in terms of the number of rucks he has hit and the tackles he's made.
"We all know what Adam Jones can do, what quality he is, and for us it's thinking long-term with a bit of depth going forward to the World Cup."
Asked about the possibility of Jones being involved against France in Paris next week, Gatland added: "It's a possibility. But it's quite hard to throw a player in at the deep end who hasn't played for eight weeks, basically."
Gatland has restored James Hook to the fly-half role for a game Wales must win to keep alive their Six Nations title hopes.
Stephen Jones, starting number 10 against Italy, is on the bench, with fit-again Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies returning in midfield alongside Jamie Roberts and Cardiff Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny recalled instead of an unlucky Morgan Stoddart.
Gatland has otherwise kept the team that triumphed at Stadio Flaminio, which means scrum-half Mike Phillips and number eight Ryan Jones both winning their 50th caps, although Jones has been troubled by a tight calf muscle and did not train on Tuesday.
Versatile Hook won plaudits for the way he piloted Wales to victory over Scotland from fly-half three weeks ago, before Davies' hamstring injury meant an unavoidable midfield switch in Rome.