Fri, 10 Apr 2020

Cap-heavy Wales seek to derail rejuvenated French

News24
21 Feb 2020, 16:12 GMT+10

Cardiff - 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 Rugby 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.

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."

France team manager Raphael Ibanez acknowledged that there was a yawning gap between the two sides in 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 scrumhalf 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."

Teams:

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

Substitutes: 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

Substitutes: 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

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