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Wales v France - Teams and Prediction

ROUND FOUR PREVIEW: With France and Wales both out to gain back some credibility, the big question on everyone’s lips is if the Les Bleus can rediscover their Six Nations form and silence the boisterous Principality Stadium in Round Four on Sunday.

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France are unbeaten in fixtures between the sides since 2019, but have had to battle on their two previous wins in Cardiff.

Both coaches, Warren Gatland and Fabien Galthié, have rung the changes, leaving plenty of uncertainty at what to expect in the Welsh capital.

Wales was the latest victims of the Irish onslaught and now the only team to have lost each of their matches in the Championship so far.

A fresh-faced side, Wales have shown plenty of endeavour in the opening three rounds. They have made the second-most passing metres this season, an average of 952 per match.

However, their total pass distance has declined round-on-round. Similarly, considerable adjustments to their kicking game were made in Round three. In the face of relentless Irish pressure, Wales made the fewest kicks they’ve made in a match this season (21) but leathered the ball as far from their try line as possible, a round-high average of 34 metres.

Dafydd Jenkins and his charges will need to regather their composure to seize an opportunity against out-of form France.

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Wales coach Warren Gatland said: “It’ll be a tough, physical challenge from France on Sunday particularly up front. We know they will start hard and it’s about us staying in the fight, having good line speed defensively and keeping our discipline. We’re looking for an 80-minute performance.

“We’re excited to be back at home for our last two matches and looking forward to getting out in front of a passionate Welsh crowd this weekend.”

The mysterious erraticism of French performances has returned. They command world-class personnel and beat Scotland at Murrayfield, but drew against bottom-of-the-table Italy last weekend.

Since the outset of the Championship, France have struggled to live up the reputation they built preceding the World Cup. Where last season they could deliver electrifying moments in the blink of an eye, their attack hasn’t been as fluid in this campaign so far. Without these moments of explosive brilliance, they’ve averaged the second-most passes per possession (5.7) searching for opportunities.

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The Les Bleus will need to rediscover their spark to seize control of the middle of the Six Nations table.

France coach Fabien Galthié said: “We want a consistency of selection but this is probably the Championship where have given out the most debuts. That can be explained by some of the red cards and injuries that have opened up spots. But also, the performance of other players.

“I have always said that players need to come and grab the jersey. That is what has happened this week, but also over the last five years.”

France boast the highest tackle success rate of any team in this year’s Six Nations (90%) and missed just 11 tackles during their most recent match against Italy, the fewest of any team in a single game this year.

France have also made a competition joint-high six try-saving tackles (tied with Italy) and just three of their missed tackles have led to a try being scored. Only Ireland have a lower tally (1) in that area. France are really putting everything in to defend their try line.

Players to watch

For France: Cameron Winnett is the standout player for Wales. Having only just turned 21, little was known about the Cardiff fullback, but he’s started his senior career in fine form, topping the charts for carry metres (322) and metres gained (262) in the Championship so far. France have brought in a completely new second row for this clash, with Toulouse duo Thibaud Flament and Emmanuel Meafou fit and available for the first time. The dynamic Flament has become a regular fixture for Les Bleus and his lineout ability and threat with ball in hand will be invaluable. Meafou, meanwhile, is a huge carrying option, who has racked up remarkable try-scoring numbers for Toulouse – with 26 tries in 91 games – an unbelievable return for a second row.

For Wales: To counter Meafou’s size – he weighs in at about 145kg – Wales has beefed up their front five as Will Rowlands starts and Dafydd Jenkins moves to blindside flank. But no player is more dangerous at the breakdown than Tommy Reffell, so it is little surprise that he is one of Wales’s top-performing players week in and week out.

Head to head

Prediction

@rugby365: France by seven points

Teams:

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams; 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dafydd Jenkins (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alex Mann, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady.

France: 15 Leo Barre, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortere, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sébastien Taofifénua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana

Date: Sunday, March 10
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.00 (16.00 French time; 15.00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

 

 

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