Injuries have depleted Gatland's options in the centres with Jonathan Davies, who started all three Tests for the tourists in Australia this summer, still struggling to shake off a pectoral injury.
But Gatland is convinced about North's ability to come in off the wing to the centre.
"George (North) moves into the midfield and he brings great footwork to the role and we were impressed when he went there against Australia in the autumn," said Gatland.
"His partnership with Jamie will be important as we look to stop the directness of France and Mathieu Bastareaud."
Elsewhere Mike Phillips, who starred for the Lions in 2009 and again last summer, moves to the bench as Wales promote scrum-half Rhys Webb.
And Gatland knows the importance of beating France this weekend.
"Friday is a massive game for us" added Gatland.
"As a squad we have a huge amount of experience in this tournament and we will be calling on that this weekend.
"We see the game as a huge opportunity for us to put things right."