France v Wales: Everything you need to know
Wales will aim to continue their recent dominance over France in the Six Nations on Saturday, as Rob Howley’s team attempt to claim fourth place in the rankings ahead of the draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
A victory for the visitors in Paris, combined with England beating Ireland in Dublin, will see Wales potentially secure more favourable opponents in the pool stage for the next quadrennial showpiece tournament, which will be staged in Japan in 2019.
Wales survived a tough draw for the last World Cup, progressing from a group that also contained Australia and hosts England.
Eddie Jones and his side have already retained their Six Nations crown and are looking to wrap up a second successive Grand Slam by coming out on top at Aviva Stadium, leaving Les Bleus and their guests scrapping for the possible consolation prize of second spot, depending on other results, at Stade de France.
Having defeated Ireland 22-9 in Cardiff last weekend, Wales are looking to make it six consecutive wins over France, who beat Italy 40-18 in Rome in their previous outing.
HEAD TO HEAD
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?
George North’s try and the boot of Dan Biggar settled last year’s meeting between these teams in favour of Wales, who won 19-10 in the third round in Cardiff to maintain an unbeaten start to the 2016 tournament.
France had beaten Italy and Ireland at home in their opening two games under Guy Noves, who then suffered the first defeat of his reign at Principality Stadium.
Virimi Vakatawa (France)
Wales will have to be wary of the fleet-footed Vakatawa who, along with Italy’s Giovanbattista Venditti, has beaten 13 defenders in this season’s tournament, the joint most of any back. He averages a defender beaten every 15 minutes, the best ratio of any player to play more than 80 minutes in the 2017 competition, meaning the visitors must be wary of the Rugby Sevens star’s dropped shoulder and clever side-steps.
Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Touted by some as a potential British and Irish Lions captain, the leadership credentials of Jones were questioned in certain quarters after apparent indecision over whether to order his players to go for a penalty or kick for touch in the defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield last month. The focus will be on the new skipper’s longevity this weekend, though, as he becomes the first Wales player to make 100 starts.
France: Brice Dulin, Noa Nakaitaci, Remi Lamerat, Gael Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Camille Lopez Baptiste Serin; Cyril Baille, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yoann Maestri, Fabien Sanconnie, Kevin Gourdon, Louis Picamoles.
— FF Rugby (@FFRugby) March 16, 2017
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 15, 2017
Guy Noves (France): “When you see the intensity, the rigour, the pragmatism, the lucidity and the accuracy in all Wales’ movements, their defensive physicality… you saw the Irish, who are one of the best teams in the world, fell apart and couldn’t put in place their game.
“We still have a lot of work to do. If we play and make as many mistakes [as we did against Italy], we won’t survive against Wales. That’s for sure.”
Rob Howley (Wales): “We’re all aware of May, and the Rugby World Cup draw is pretty important.
“That’s been something in the back of our minds, things motivate us in different ways whether it’s through fear or through ambition, they [the players] will use it.”
– Louis Picamoles has made 15 offloads so far, almost double that of any other player (Noa Nakaitaci – 8), while he has also beaten the most defenders of any player (20).
– Liam Williams has made more clean breaks than any other player in the Six Nations this year (9) and is one of eight players tied at the top of the try scoring charts after four rounds (3).
– Should Brice Dulin score in this match he would be just the third Frenchman after Philippe Bernat-Salles (5 games in 2001) and Wesley Fofana (4 games in 2012) to score in four consecutive Six Nations matches; Dulin’s three previous tries have been spread over the last four seasons (2014, 2015, 2017).
– George North has scored 10 tries in his last nine Six Nations games; his two tries against Ireland meant he became the first player to score 3-plus tries in four consecutive editions of the Five/Six Nations.
Join free and tell us what you really think!Join Free