Wales denied a Grand Slam by France's 32-30 win in Paris but they lift the title

Wales Six Nations Squad 2021

Wales’ dreams of a fifth Six Nations Grand Slam were ended by a 32-30 defeat by France in Paris, but they were still crowned champions six days later.

France’s own title hopes were ended after they lost 27-23 to Scotland in the final championship match – Duhan van der Merwe’s late try the match-winner – so Wayne Pivac’s side remained top of the table on 20 points with four wins from five matches.

Related: Wales win the 2021 Six Nations

Wales team to play France – Saturday 20 March

Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Tomos Williams, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

RUGBY WORLD VERDICT

Given the injuries Wales had at the start of the championship, Wayne Pivac will have been delighted to have a fully fit squad to choose from, writes Sarah Mockford. Adam Beard has been in great form throughout the championship and, having been given the week off for the Italy match, he should return refreshed for this Grand Slam decider in Paris, ready to put those long limbs to use in lineouts and mauls.

This could well be their biggest set-piece challenge of the tournament, but if they can get parity this should be a competitive contest, particularly given the dogged mindset of this Wales team. Elsewhere Pivac will be hoping for more of the same – strong in defence (Jonathan Davies and George North will need to keep Virimi Vakatawa in check) and clinical whenever they get opportunities in the French 22.

The return of Tomos Williams to the match-day 23 is a boost because if it’s close going into the final quarter, the scrum-half could provide that requisite spark from the bench. Two points (a draw or losing and try bonus points) would guarantee Wales the title – but they’ll be chasing the win to secure a second Grand Slam in three years.

Wales team to play Italy – Saturday 13 March

Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomos Francis, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Lloyd Williams, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

RUGBY WORLD VERDICT

If Italy were hoping that Wayne Pivac would rest some of his big guns, that wish has been dashed. And rightly so, because now is no time for Wales to tinker with a Triple Crown-clinching line-up, writes Alan Pearey.

Cory Hill for Adam Beard – rested due to a “heavy workload” – is the only unenforced change to the side that put 40 points on England.

Pivac has resisted the urge to give Callum Sheedy and Willis Halalolo a start in the back-line, preferring to stick with Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies, 176 caps between them.

Wales Six Nations squad 2021 Dan Biggar

Controlling influence: stand-off Dan Biggar in action during the round-three win against England (Getty)

No 8 Taulupe Faletau, 84 caps under his belt, was not afforded a breather last weekend because of his Bath commitments. Some felt he could be spared a little bit, perhaps brought off the bench late on in Rome when the result was in the bag.

It’s easy to see the logic but why take the risk? Faletau is right on top of his game. Wales are two matches from an unlikely Grand Slam. Keep the continuity, don’t give Italy a sniff. To change the side unnecessarily is to encourage assumption.

The mind goes back to 2009, when Ireland were going for a Grand Slam that they ultimately achieved. They shuffled their resources for a round-four match in Scotland and almost paid the price. It’s not a gamble worth taking when you are three from three.

The only way Wales will fail on Saturday is if they are complacent. Italy usually have one big performance in them in a Six Nations. By picking such a strong XV, Pivac has ensured that whatever the Azzurri bring to the table, it will not be enough to derail Wales’ bid for a remarkable clean sweep.

Wales Six Nations squad 2021 Wayne Pivac

Unswayed: Wayne Pivac has stuck with the men that have put Wales top of the table (Athena Pictures)

Wales team to play England – Saturday 27 February

Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomos Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

RUGBY WORLD VERDICT

The big calls are in the back-line, writes Alan Pearey. Not long ago Wales looked worryingly short of options in midfield. Now a centre threequarter lurks around every corner.

Pivac has chosen to ignore the merits of Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin, starters at Murrayfield a fortnight ago, as well as Johnny Williams, who wore 12 against Ireland. Willis Halalolo, who impressed after coming on early against the Scots, is again on the bench.

In selecting George North and Jonathan Davies, he has banked on experience – oodles of it. North was always likely to get the 13 shirt and the chance to finally bring up his caps ton for Wales after his recent eye and foot injuries.

Davies, Man of the Series on the 2017 Lions tour, is a Rolls-Royce of a player. He is not long recovered from an ankle injury but offers defensive expertise and untold wisdom. He is no longer a man for slashing breaks but still a man to facilitate them for others.

Wales Six Nations Squad 2021 – Team to face England Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies returns after injury to add a reassuring presence to the Welsh midfield (Athena Pictures)

Liam Williams, the self-proclaimed ‘bomb defuser’, produced one of his greatest performances when England last visited in the Six Nations. His selection means sacrificing the goal-kicking of Leigh Halfpenny – who failed an HIA two weeks ago – but Dan Biggar has kicked 428 Test points. He can do the job off the tee.

Which leaves Kieran Hardy, Wales’ third different starting scrum-half in as many games. It’s a bold call. Hardy has three caps, replacement Gareth Davies has 59. Both like to inject pace in the game and both will have big roles to play.

The pack warrants less discussion but look out for Wyn Jones. No front-rower has ever won Player of the Tournament but the Welsh loosehead has been superb in this championship.

Does it look like a winning line-up? Even without the customary crowd advantage, Rugby World believes so. Wales will win by a score and keep the Grand Slam dream alive.

Wales team to play Scotland – Saturday 13 February

Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Nick Tompkins, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomos Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tupuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, James Botham, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

Wales team to play Ireland – Sunday 7 February

Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Johnny Williams, Hallam Amos; Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tupuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Josh Navidi, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins.

Wales Six Nations Squad 2021

Following injuries to Dan Lydiate, Tomos Williams, Johnny Williams and Hallam Amos in the opening fixture against Ireland, Wales called up James Botham, Lloyd Williams and Willis Halaholo.

Lydiate has been released from the squad due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Dillon Lewis has also been released from the squad due to a neck injury with Sale prop WillGriff John coming in.

Scrum-half Kieran Hardy, who scored a try in the win over England, suffered a hamstring injury in that match so has been released from the squad to continue his rehabilitation at the Scarlets.

Rhodri Jones has also been replaced in the squad by Ospreys prop Nicky Smith after picking up a calf injury in training.

Forwards

(DoB/Club/Position/Test debut/caps)

Jake Ball (21 Jun 1991/Scarlets/Lock/2014 v Ireland/50)
Adam Beard (7 Jan 1996/Ospreys/Lock/2017 v Samoa/25)
James Botham (22 February 1998/Cardiff Blues/Flanker/2020 v Georgia/6)
Leon Brown (26 Oct 1996/Dragons/Prop/2017 v Australia/17)
Rhys Carre (8 Feb 1998/Cardiff Blues/Prop/2019 v Ireland/12)
Elliot Dee (7 Mar 1994/Dragons/Hooker/2017 v Georgia/37)
Ryan Elias (7 Jan 1995/Scarlets/Hooker/2017 v Tonga/17)
Taulupe Faletau (12 Nov 1990/Bath/No.8/2011 v Barbarians/86 (+4 for Lions))
Tomas Francis (27 Apr 1992/Exeter Chiefs/Prop/2015 v Ireland/57)
Cory Hill (10 Feb 1992/Cardiff Blues/Lock/2016 v Australia/31)
Willgriff John (4 Dec 1992/Sale Sharks/Prop/Uncapped)

Alun Wyn Jones (19 Sep 1985/Ospreys/Lock/2006 v Argentina/148 (+9 for Lions))
Wyn Jones (26 Feb 1992/Scarlets/Prop/2017 v Tonga/35)
Josh Navidi (30 Dec 1990/Cardiff Blues/Flanker/2013 v Japan/28)
Ken Owens (3 Jan 1987/Scarlets/Hooker/2011 v Namibia/82 (+2 for Lions))
Will Rowlands (19 Sep 1991/Wasps/Lock/2020 v France/7)

Nicky Smith (7 Apr 1994/Ospreys/Prop/2014 v Fiji/39)
Justin Tipuric (6 Aug 1989/Ospreys/Back-row/2011 v Argentina/85 (+1 for Lions))
Aaron Wainwright (25 Sep 1997/Dragons/Back-row/2018 v Argentina/29)

Backs
Josh Adams (21 Apr 1995/Cardiff Blues/Wing/2018 v Scotland/32)
Hallam Amos (24 Sep 1994/Cardiff Blues/Wing/2013 v Tonga/23)
Dan Biggar (16 Oct 1989/Northampton Saints/Fly-half/2008 v Canada/92)
Gareth Davies (18 Aug 1990/Scarlets/Scrum-half/2014 v South Africa/62)
Jonathan Davies (5 Apr 1988/Scarlets/Centre/2009 v Canada/88 (+6 for Lions))
Jarrod Evans (25 Jul 1996/Cardiff Blues/Fly-half/2018 v Scotland/6)
Willis Halaholo (6 Jul 1990/Cardiff Blues/Centre/2021 v Scotland/4)
Leigh Halfpenny (22 Dec 1988/Scarlets/Full-back/2008 v South Africa/95 (+4 for Lions))
Kieran Hardy (30 Nov 1995/Scarlets/Scrum-half/2020 v Georgia/4)
George North (13 Apr 1992/Ospreys/Wing/2010 v South Africa/102 (+3 for Lions))
Louis Rees-Zammit (2 Feb 2001/Gloucester Rugby/2020 v France/9)
Callum Sheedy (28 Oct 1995/Bristol Bears/Fly-half/2020 v Ireland/9)
Nick Tompkins (16 Feb 1995/Dragons/Centre/2020 v Italy/10)
Owen Watkin (12 Oct 1996/Ospreys/Centre/2017 v Australia/26)
Johnny Williams (18 Oct 1996/Scarlets/Centre/2020 v Georgia/3)
Liam Williams (9 Apr 1991/Scarlets/Full-back or wing/2012 v Barbarians/71 (+3 for Lions))
Lloyd Williams (30 Nov 1989/Cardiff Blues/Scrum-half/2011 v Argentina/31)
Tomos Williams (1 Jan 1995/Cardiff Blues/Scrum-half/2018 v South Africa/23)

Wales Six Nations Fixtures 2021

(All kick-off times are GMT)

Round 1

Sun 7 February, Wales 21-16 Ireland Louis Rees-Zammit produces sensational finish

Round 2

Sat 13 February, Scotland 24-25 Wales Louis Rees-Zammit stuns the Scots

Round 3

Sat 27 February, Wales 40-24 England Wales lift Triple Crown

Round 4

Sat 13 March, Italy 7-48 Wales Double for Owens as Wales brush Italy aside

Round 5

Sat 20 March, France 32-30 Wales Late Brice Dulin try denies Wales a Grand Slam

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