The fourth round of the championship kicks off with Friday night lights in Cardiff
Six Nations Wales v France Preview
Lights, camera, action…
Last year it was Wales heading to Paris in search of what would have been a second Six Nations Grand Slam in three years only for a late Brice Dulin try under the Stade de France floodlights to deny them the clean sweep, albeit that they still won the title.
This year it is France heading to Cardiff hoping to keep their own Grand Slam bid on track having won their first three matches of the tournament and been described as the best team in the world.
While Wales’ trophy cabinet has been pretty full over the past decade, France haven’t won the Six Nations since 2010 and getting their hands on that silverware is seen as a key step on the road to next year’s home Rugby World Cup.
Can they make it four from four? Or will Dan Biggar’s side upset the odds?
On paper, France’s power game should see them to a comfortable win, but how often have we seen unfancied Welsh teams grind out victories they seemingly had no right to do, particularly in Cardiff?
If France strike quickly and clinically early on against Wales, as they did against Ireland and Scotland, it’s likely they will dominate this Friday night fixture. They have the personnel to put Wales’ front five under serious pressure, the physicality to punch holes in the reigning champions’ defence and the smarts of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack pulling the strings in attack.
Yet if Wales can keep it tight going into half-time, as they did against Scotland, they can ramp up the pressure on the tournament favourites. When this happened to France in the autumn against New Zealand, they had the wherewithal to pull clear once again – but that was on home soil, the Principality Stadium is a different beast… Well, it usually is.
The fact that there are still tickets on sale for this match, plus the roof being open due to the pandemic, suggests the atmosphere might not be quite as intimidating as it has been previously. And that only makes les Bleus bigger favourites against les rouges.
Here’s what else you need to know in our Six Nations Wales v France preview.
What’s the big team news?
Much of the talk in the lead-up to this match has involved Tomas Francis. The Wales prop was taken off for an HIA against England in the last round, passed and returned to the field, although footage suggested he should have been removed from the match as he showed signs of concussion.
Wayne Pivac said Wales have “gone the extra mile” with Francis, with an independent concussion specialist clearing him to play against France.
Elsewhere, Jonathan Davies replaces Nick Tompkins (concussion) in midfield and Gareth Thomas comes in at loosehead for Wyn Jones.
The biggest changes come in the back row where Seb Davies and Josh Navidi replace Ross Moriarty and Taine Basham. Navidi has been thrust straight into the starting XV after recovering from injury while Davies offers “more size” according to Pivac.
In terms of the France line-up, Covid has struck, with Damian Penaud and Romain Taofifenua testing positive and being ruled out.
Gabin Villiere returns to the starting team after recovering from a sinus injury, with Yoram Moefana switching wings.
On the bench, Taofifenua’s absence sees France revert to a more traditional five-three split between forwards and backs, with Toulouse wing Matthis Lebel in line to make his Test debut after being called back to the squad following the positive results.
What have the coaches said?
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “The sides want to play an entertaining brand of rugby and you’ve got a team who are probably the in-form side in the world. We’ve had great games against them and I think it’ll be a cracker.”
France coach Fabien Galthie: “Wales? Wonderful team, wonderful stadium. When you arrive at the stadium and get off the bus, you can hear a Welsh chorus all the way up the stairs into the dressing room. It grips you, gives you goosebumps.”
Any interesting statistics?
France can equal their highest-ever world ranking of second if they beat Wales by more than 15 points to climb above New Zealand. They last sat second on 8 October 2007.
- This match features the two players who have made the most carries in the championship so far – Gregory Alldritt (41) and Liam Williams (38).
- France are on a three-match winning run against Wales, which includes their last meeting at the Principality Stadium in 2020. However, they haven’t won back-to-back championship matches in Cardiff since doing so in 2004 and 2006.
- Wales have nearly twice as much international experience as France with 880 caps in their match-day 23 to les Bleus’ 446.
- France are on their best winning run since 2006 having won their last six matches.
- Only once in their last 31 Tests have France trailed at half-time, against Scotland in 2020. They have led 27 times and been level three times.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Wales v France, Friday 11 March, Principality Stadium
Surprisingly, there are tickets still available for this match via the WRU site.
This match kicks off at 8pm and it will be broadcast live on BBC One and S4C (UK) and RTÉ (Ireland). There will also be live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live.
If you want to tune in from outside the UK & Ireland, check out our ‘how to watch’ guide for wherever you are in the world.
Matthew Carley is the referee for this one and will be assisted by Jaco Peyper and Andrea Piardi. Tom Foley is the TMO.
Six Nations Wales v France Preview: What are the line-ups?
Wales: Liam Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (captain), Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Dewi Lake, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ross Moriarty, Jac Morgan, Kieran Hardy, Gareth Anscombe, Louis Rees-Zammit.
France: Melvyn Jaminet; Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos, Matthis Lebel.
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