France v Wales: Teams and Predictions
NATIONS CUP WARM-UP: France head coach Fabien Galthie denied there will be any negative impact after off-field problems between the country’s federation and league ahead of hosting Wales in a warm-up Test on Saturday.
The fixture was in doubt until last week before both bodies had agreed on a maximum of three appearances for each squad player and just five days preparation for the campaign which also includes the newly-created Autumn Nations Cup.
Galthie’s men welcome Ireland on October 31 in a possible Six Nations title decider after facing Wayne Pivac’s side, who they beat earlier in the year in Cardiff.
“We were prepared for it. We felt quickly the usual two weeks given to France were at risk of melting like snow in the sun,” Galthie said earlier this week.
“With these players, we never start from zero. The little details which we’ve put in place since we’ve been together, like recovery, will help us have a connected but autonomous team. We will be ready,” he added.
Pivac has handed captain Alun Wyn Jones his 148th international cap ahead of potentially breaking Richie McCaw’s record of Test appearances next weekend against Scotland in their own rescheduled Six Nations fixture.
“He is showing no signs of slowing down. We’ve not got enough time to say enough about what we think about Alun Wyn Jones,” former Scarlets coach Pivac said.
“He’s not one that wants us to be talking about him at the moment – that’s how much of a team man he is. He’s a fantastic asset to this group,” he added.
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Centre Jonathan Davies returns to the Test scene after an absence since last year’s Rugby World Cup due to a knee injury.
Davies, who will make his 88th Test appearance this weekend, will line-up alongside four-time international Nick Tompkins for the first time.
“Like any new pairing, it’ll take a bit of time, but it’s starting to gel in training,” Pivac said.
“The experience of Jonathan with him will help immensely, with Jon being one of the best in the world defensively in that 13 jersey,” he added.
The duo will face les Bleus’ Gael Fickou and in-form Virimi Vakatawa who was instrumental in guiding Racing 92 to last weekend’s European Champions Cup final.
“In that 13 channel he’s a threat with ball in hand, he’s also a strong defensive player,” France defence coach Shaun Edwards told AFP this week.
“He’s very good at pilfering the ball at the breakdown and for me to work to with a player of that quality is exactly where I want to be. I rate him extremely, extremely highly,” he added.
Les Bleus have beaten Wales just twice in the past 10 meetings with just one home victory since 2011.
This weekend’s fixture at the Stade de France will be played behind closed doors due to increasing cases of coronavirus in the French capital.
“Unfortunately we can’t have fans, everyone knows the fans are the inspiration behind the team so that’s difficult. Probably home advantage is not quite as big as it was when you did have crowds,” Edwards said.
“We just have to be happy that we’re all back together as a group and we’re back playing rugby.”
@rugby365com: France by three points
France: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Thomas Ramos, 23 Arthur Vincent.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias 1 Rhys Carre.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Davies, 20 James Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.
Date: Saturday, October 24
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 (20:00 UK and Ireland time, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Ian Tempest
TMO: Brian MacNeice
Source: AFP, with additional reporting by @rugby365com