France accused of 'cheating'
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Grand Slam-chasing France will go in search of their first Six Nations win in Cardiff for a decade with Welsh accusations they are “cheats” ringing in their ears when the Championship resumes this weekend.
Wales prop Wyn Jones has upped the ante ahead of Saturday’s match by accusing France of illegal tactics at the scrum.
“They’ll be a big pack, but probably ill-disciplined with that, especially at scrum time,” said Jones.
“We know they will hit and chase and cheat,” added the front-row forward, conveniently ignoring the point that all teams try to get away with as much as they can at the scrum.
Jones’ blatant attempt to ‘paint a picture’ for referee Matt Carley does at least suggest France, who enjoyed home wins over both World Cup finalists England and Italy in the opening two rounds of this Six Nations, are worth the beating again.
France, bidding for a first Grand Slam in 10 years, have lost their last three matches against Wales.
But they were on course to beat them in a World Cup quarterfinal last year until Sebastien Vahaamahina’s red card proved pivotal in an eventual 20-19 loss in Oita.
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‘Know what to expect’
Their latest meeting has been given added spice by the fact former Wales defence guru Shaun Edwards is now a member of France’s backroom staff.
“We know what to expect at the Principality Stadium,” said France No.8 Gregory Alldritt.
“We know if we play just 50-60 minutes in Wales, it’s not the thing to do.”
Both countries now have new coaches, with Fabien Galthie in charge of France and Wayne Pivac succeeding fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland as the boss of reigning Six Nations champions Wales.
Ireland, like France, remain on course for a Grand Slam after downing Scotland and Wales in Dublin.
But in a tournament where away wins are often hard to come by, Ireland now travel to London to face England at Twickenham on Sunday.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell is in the odd position of knowing the visitors’ chances will be boosted if his son Owen Farrell, the England captain and first-choice goal-kicker, has a bad match.
Both Farrells have insisted it’s business as usual with Andy – promoted from within the Irish set-up after Joe Schmidt’s time in charge ended with a disappointing first-round exit at the World Cup – sticking with the same starting side that beat 2019 Grand Slam winners Wales.
England produced one of their best performances under coach Eddie Jones when beating Ireland 32-20 in Dublin during last year’s Championship.
But George Ford has insisted England are still smarting from a 15-24 loss at Twickenham in 2018 that saw the Irish to a Grand Slam.
“We remember two years ago,” said England flyhalf Ford. “With Andy being primarily a defence coach, we understand they are going to be hard to break down from an attack point of view.”
Coach Eddie Jones is set to name his side on Friday, with fit-again centres Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade providing the Australian with additional midfield options.
Elsewhere, Italy face Scotland in Rome on Saturday in a match set to decide the destiny of the ‘wooden spoon’.
Italy have now lost 24 successive matches in the Six Nations, with their last win in 2015, but new caretaker coach Franco Smith still has some leeway.
The stakes are arguably higher for Scotland’s Gregor Townsend, who has decided against selecting Finn Russell this tournament after falling-out with the flyhalf.
Russell was missing again when Townsend, himself a former Scotland flyhalf, named a team showing three changes to play Italy.
Townsend will likely face some awkward questions over the ongoing exile of the talented playmaker should Scotland lose at the Olympic Stadium.
“It’s a different Italy team to the one we’ve played in the past,” warned Townsend.
“In their opening two games of the Championship they have played with real ambition and width.”