Team news is in as we preview France’s Six Nations trip to face Wales at the Principality Stadium on Friday (Kick off 8:05pm).
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The build-up to the game has been largely taken up by how will Wales wrap Dan Biggar up in cotton wool and prevent the big bad French team from targeting him. In reply the big bad French team have said that Jamie Roberts targeted Jules Plisson when he last faced Wales.
Cue: It’s going to be physical. It’s going to be a bruising game. The players are going to drop like flies and the bench will be key. France have been disappointingly poor so far in this Championship. Joe Schmidt is still wondering what magic Guy Novès conjured up to get his side over the line against Ireland. But one team is still playing for a Grand Slam while Ireland lick their wounds and downplay their chances against the old enemy.
France may have flattered to deceive, but still have a Grand Slam to play for. But this is the biggest test of the Novès era. Forget a Grand Slam decider against England. This will show how France have developed. Wales punished a slow start from the Scots two weeks ago and that cost Vern Cotter’s men the game. Another performance like the one we saw against Ireland or Italy, and the Grand Slam hopes will be no more.
Head Coach Talk:
“They are two from two, and that makes them dangerous. There is no side that’s easy in the Six Nations. The weather conditions in the first couple of weeks weren’t conducive to playing open, expansive rugby. It’s the worst Six Nations that has ever been, for all of us, if I am to believe what I have read in the newspapers!
“They have won two games, that’s what makes them tough, and a new coach coming in has given them some confidence and it’s going to be a tough game. There were a lot of things said about the previous regime and a lost of unrest in that team.”
“I think it means nothing (that France haven’t Wales since 2011). Wales occupies a place in the world rankings ahead of France that they deserve. We will try to achieve the best possible outcome, with all the admiration that is due to this (Wales) team, because in the past, they have always caused problems for France.
“Welsh rugby is a very robust. Welsh players are very strong. The three quarters line (centres/wing) is the most impressive in world rugby. We must find solutions to overcome them. Will it be the kicking game, penetration, go through the front… We’ll see ! Ideally, we should be able to adapt, especially as our history is just beginning.”
Key Duel: The Back Rows
Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton & Taulupe Faletau v Wenceslas Lauret, Antoine Burban & Damien Chouly.
The French back-row was the winning of the game against Ireland and in a similar vein the back-row conflict is going to go a huge way in deciding the game this weekend. France have sacrificed Yacouba Camara who is in reserve while Lydiate showed Gatland enough in the final quarter against Scotland. His inclusion sees Warburton’s switch to seven which should give the British & Irish Lions captain the chance to have a bigger impact on the game. Antoine Burban made his Six Nations debut two years ago in a 26-24 victory against England and this could be an even bigger test. The Welsh trio should have enough to come out on top.
Prediction: Wales by 5
Team News & Lineups:
Wales make three changes, two tactical with Dan Lydiate and Alex Cuthbert recalled to the starting lineup in place of Tom James and Justin Tipuric. Bradley Davies replaces the injured Luke Charteris in the second row.
Well, there is no room for David Smith in the French team. Imagine that. But with injuries to Teddy Thomas and Marvin O’Connor, Novès has put faith in another debutant, with Djibril Camara coming in on the wing. Yoann Maestri pays the price for his hit on Jonathan Sexton by being benched while Maxime Machenaud replaces Sébastien Bezy at scrum-half. Machenaud was instrumental in the defeat of Ireland in Paris and will prove vital against Wales. But France needed an hour to wake up against Ireland. They might not get the luxury in Cardiff.
15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies.
1 Rob Evans, 2 Scott Baldwin, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Bradley Davies, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Taulupe Faletau.
16 Ken Owens, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Anscombe.
15 Maxime Médard, 14 Virimi Vakatawa, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Maxime Machenaud.
1 Jefferson Poirot, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Paul Jedrasiak 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Antoine Burban, 8 Damien Chouly.
16 Camille Chat, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Vincent Pelo, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Sébastien Bezy, 22 François Trinh-Duc, 23 Gaël Fickou.