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But having ended a six-year hiatus from the national side James found himself on the sidelines again, just two games into the Six Nations campaign.
His fellow Cardiff Blues wing, Alex Cuthbert, whose form dipped alarmingly during the World Cup, comes into the starting line-up for France’s visit to Cardiff on Friday night and James drops out of the squad altogether.
Gatland has made two other changes, the others less eye-raising than the seemingly harsh omission of James, who was solid if unspectacular against Ireland and Scotland.
The coach had initially delayed the matchday squad announcement until today to give Luke Charteris an opportunity to prove his fitness.
But Gatland sprung a surprise by naming his team 24 hours early, knowing the Friday night kick-off is just too soon for the Racing 92 lock.
With Charteris missing, Bradley Davies comes into the starting line-up while Jake Ball, back from injury, is among the replacements.
Jonathan Davies, though, is no longer an injury doubt having overcome a groin muscle problem and once again starts in midfield with Jamie Roberts.
The only other change sees the expected return of Dan Lydiate to the Welsh back row. As a result the captain, Sam Warburton, moves back to his preferred position of open side while Justin Tipuric is the unlucky man to drop out of the back row.
“We have made a couple of changes, one injury-enforced with Luke Charteris missing out with a knee injury, but Bradley Davies deserves a starting spot as well so it’s a good opportunity for him,” said Gatland in announcing his squad.
“We have made two other personnel changes with Alex Cuthbert and Dan Lydiate coming into the starting team. They have trained well and will suit the game France will potentially bring as well.
“We initially thought we would have to wait until later in the week to have a final update on injuries but we know where we are earlier than expected and have told the squad, hence announcing today as well.
“It’s set to be another huge Six Nations weekend, France come to Cardiff unbeaten in the campaign so far and impressing under Guy Novès. We are looking to continue our unbeaten run and will be looking for another step up after the victory over Scotland.”