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Fri 21 Feb 2020 | 11:54

Preview: Wales v France

Preview: Wales v France
Fri 21 Feb 2020 | 11:54
Preview: Wales v France

SIX NATIONS ROUND THREE: Wales have opted for experience in their bid to derail Six Nations table-toppers France and stay alive in the tournament.

Wayne Pivac, who took over from Warren Gatland as Wales head coach after the World Cup in Japan, has picked a team boasting a Six Nations record of 859 caps.

France counterpart Fabien Galthie, who was brought in as an assistant for the World Cup before taking over from Jacques Brunel full time, has instead given youth its head in a team bristling with newcomers looking to shed French rugby’s recent woes.

That team has so far performed well, producing one of the best French performances in many a year in a 24-17 opening win over World Cup finalists England.

There followed a comprehensive 35-22 victory over Italy, albeit punctuated by periods when the French team took their foot off the pedal.

One thing is sure: they are heeding the philosophy of rugby league legend Shaun Edwards, Gatland’s defence guru in his successful 12-year tenure, but now plying his trade for Les Bleus.

With Wales looking to incorporate more of a running game to better chime in with their own Edwards-inspired defence, it makes for a mouth-watering prospect.

France have a terrible recent record at Cardiff, however, having last won in the Welsh capital in 2010. And Wales have won eight of the last nine games between the two sides.

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Classically close

But games between the two nations are classically close affairs: most recently, Wales beat France in the World Cup quarter-finals 20-19, helped by the red carding of lock Sebastien Vahaamahina.

“If you look at the fixtures in last couple of years, they’ve been close affairs,” Pivac said, noting France’s opening two wins.

“They come full of confidence.”

For Wales, 42-0 winners over Italy but beaten 24-14 by the Irish, Pivac said it was a question of “wanting to get back out there and righting some of the wrongs from the Ireland game”.

“It’s a very, very big test for both teams,” the Kiwi said. “For us it’s to keep us alive in the championships and for France it’s their first game away.

“Certainly from our point of view, it’s to keep ourselves alive and we’re looking for a very big performance.”

Pivac added: “Hopefully that experience will come through for us and it’ll test some of the inexperienced players in their side with any luck.”

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France team manager Raphael Ibanez acknowledged that there was a yawning gap between the two sides in terms of experience.

“You just have to find that balance between the emotional, the strategic, the tactical parts to offer the players the best conditions,” the ex-France hooker said.

Galthie was also quick to play down any significance from the lost World Cup quarter-final, saying “that was before”.

“We’re focusing on our strength of the moment, our organisation, our working technique which is different and has evolved since the quarter-final,” the former France scrum-half and captain said.

“The players have also evolved, it’s another story and we imagine another scenario.”

Ibanez, with 98 caps to his name as long-time France skipper, was more blunt: “At the end of the day, it’s a game of rugby and you have to dominate your opposite number.”

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Players to watch:

For Wales: Dan Biggar has recovered from an injury he picked up against Ireland and will be pivotal as Wales look to get back to winning ways. Justin Tipuric has been worth his weight in gold. The flank picked up the man-of-the-match award against Scotland and put in a considerable try-scoring shift in a losing effort against Ireland last time out.

For France: Charles Ollivon has been a star, the No. 7 appears to be relishing the captaincy role and seems to constantly build on his impressive form. Scrumhalf Antoine Dupont has been the stand-out player of the championship and this match should not be any different.

Head to head: The scrum is set to be a tantalising battle and the hookers will play a large role in how it plays out in Cardiff, France’s Julien Marchand has been sharp in between the props. However, Ken Owens might be the man to duel with Marchand upfront and is a reliable asset for the Welsh in what should be a tight contest. While the halfback clash between France duo flyhalf Romain Ntamack and scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and Wales’ Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies could be game-changer.

Recent Results:

Preview: Wales v France

Prediction:  This is certainly a big test for both teams, France are seeking to end their Six Nations trophy drought and securing a win over Wales will be a major confidence booster. While Wales will be eager to retain their Grand Slam trophy after Warren Gatland’s exit. It is tough on to call and certainly a devastating affair, however, Wales will win by three points.

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Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Johnny McNicholl.

France: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gael Fickou, 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 Mathieu Jalibert, 23 Thomas Ramos

Date: Saturday, February 22
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 16.45 (17.45 France; 16.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy with a high of 11°C and a low of 8°C
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Source: AFP 

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Preview: Wales V France - France | Rugby365