France v Wales - Teams and Predictions
GRAND SLAM: Wales head to Paris on Saturday 80 minutes away from a Six Nations Grand Slam but face a deeply talented France side with title aspirations of their own.
The visitors will clinch a second tournament clean sweep in three years with a win, but can claim the title at the Stade de France with a draw.
Les Bleus must beat Wayne Pivac’s men and then Scotland, in a game rescheduled for March 26, and claim bonus points in both to lift the Championship trophy for the first time since 2010
“We know we’re going to be in for a very big challenge. They have quality right across the park and they come up with some great plays,” Pivac said.
“We’re going to have to have our wits about us. They bring a lot of attacking threats and they’ve got a very good attacking kicking game.
“It’s two teams that are starting to play some really good rugby and it makes for a mouth-watering final match,” he added
🎥 Nous avons suivi les joueurs du #XVdeFrance toute la journée d’hier ! Plongez au coeur de la préparation des Bleus à 3 jours du choc face au Pays de Galles 🏴#NeFaisonsXV pic.twitter.com/5c6NmhjL79
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) March 18, 2021
The sides have three wins apiece in their previous six meetings, which include a World Cup quarter-final and a success for Fabien Galthie’s side in Cardiff last February.
That defeat was one of seven in Pivac’s first year after succeeding Warren Gatland and inheriting his fellow Kiwi’s well-bonded squad.
Wing Louis Rees-Zammitt is the only member of the starting lineup who has yet to be part of a Grand Slam team.
“They have a strong culture, of course, a monstrous amount of collective experience,” Galthie said.
“They know how to bounce back because their tournament last year was very difficult. Until Saturday they’re on top of the table,” Galthie added.
Lock Adam Beard is the only change by either coach from last weekend’s fixtures. He starts alongside international record cap holder Alun Wyn Jones, who is seeking his fourth Six Nations Grand Slam, as many as Ireland, England and Scotland combined.
They will face the hulking French second row of Romain Taofifenua and Paul Willemse.
“Jones is their leader, their captain and he’s always very busy, as you see every weekend. He likes to play with the ball in his hands so we have to be aware of him,” Taofifenua said.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 19, 2021
Players to watch
For France: Despite the defeat to England, the France squad are unchanged. Scrumhlaf Antoine Dupont has been phenomenal and with his lethal snipes, he could cause huge problems for Wales. Prop Mohamed Haouas could have a major impact if he manages to stay on the field. While the second row of Paul Willemse and Romain Taofifenua will have to be in fine form especially at the lineouts.
For Wales: Lock Adam Beard returns to the starting line-up. Beard, who started the first three matches for Wales, comes back into the starting side alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones. The loose trio Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi tent to be very relentless at the breakdowns. In the back Liam Williams is also one to perform, while Dan Biggar could also be a game-changer.
Head to head:
The halfback battle is set to be intense with France’s flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert and scrumhalf Antoine Dupont going head to head with Wales’ flyhalf Dan Biggar and scrumhalf Gareth Davies. The second-row clash is another one to keep a close eye on Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones along with Adam Beard will have to be in fine form against Paul Willemse and Romain Taofifenua.
@rugby365com: France by three points
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julian Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Swann Rebbadj, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Arthur Vincent.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Botham, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Uilisi Halaholo
Date: Saturday, March 20
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 (20.00 UK Time, 20.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 11°C and a low of 3°C
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England) & Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Wayne Barnes (England)