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'He is a big man, we're up against big men': The reason why Wales have made one change to Grand Slam-chasing pack and shaken-up their bench

By Liam Heagney

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Grand Slam-chasing Wales coach Wayne Pivac has explained the thinking behind his recall of Adam Beard to the starting XV for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations game in France while also changing up half of his bench.

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Second row Beard sat out last weekend’s round four win away to Italy, Pivac claiming the Wales forward had been left feeling banged up from his February exploits in the wins over England, Scotland and Ireland.

However, rather than stick with Cory Hill, who started in the Stadio Olimpico pack, Pivac has shown his loyalty towards Beard who will scrum down in Paris alongside skipper Alun Wyn Jones.

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“We think Adam has been playing well up until the rest last week. He is a big man, we’re up against big men,” explained the Wales coach about why he is backing Beard to deliver at the Stade de France.

“He has done a great job running the lineout, as Cory did in the game against Italy. It’s just a switch for those two – and Cory has played well in the games where he has come off the bench and had real impact. So we would like that combination to continue.”

The inclusion of Beard is the only change to the Wales starting XV, but the demotion of Hill to the bench is one of four changes to the replacements from the game in Italy. Hill, Nicky Smith, James Botham and Tomos Williams are all included as reserves with Rhys Carre, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright and Lloyd Williams missing out.

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“Nicky Smith coming in, it’s really one of experience in an area of the game,” said Pivac regarding why he has gone for the 38-cap front row as his reserve loosehead rather than stick with Carre. “The propping exchanges, they [France] have got some big men.

“Experience is going to come into it and we are looking at fine margins in these sorts of games. Really that experience is what we went for in that position. James gives us good coverage across the back three (in the pack). He is a young guy full of energy, as they all are at this time as you can imagine.

“Early in the week we named Gareth (Davies at scrum-half) and it was just a matter of whether Tomos would be ready in time to take some part. That was cleared up Tuesday afternoon, so Tomos comes onto the bench.”

While Saturday’s Grand Slam decider will be a new experience for Pivac, the Kiwi is buoyed by so many of his players and staff having been in this position before. For instance, of the starting XV, only Louis Rees-Zammit wasn’t around when the Welsh won the 2019 Grand Slam under Warren Gatland and that knowledge is proving comforting.

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“Everybody is excited. It’s a great week. You have seven weeks to get here and it has finally come and we can openly talk about what is at stake. We are very lucky that in our changing room we are going to have 14 of the starting 15 that won a Grand Slam before and certainly there is plenty on the bench that have as well and plenty in the management. There is a lot of experience to call in in these situations which is a good place to be really.

“The team is very focused. They have worked very hard and as you can see throughout the tournament we have sort of built as we have gone. You don’t become the perfect team overnight, it takes time and we are nowhere near perfect.

“We know that but certainly we have got our own motivation and with the amount of guys who have been in this position before, it’s not new to them and certainly they are very focused on an 80-minute performance this week without worrying about any external motivation.”

France’s Grand Slam hopes were dashed by defeat in England last Saturday, but they can still win the title as they also have a back match versus Scotland to play. Pivac accepts they will be dangerous opponents.

“They are a very good side. We know that from the two games we have had against them. I thought they played well and controlled that game (against England) for large parts and were probably desperately unlucky at the end.

“Look, we know we are going to be in for a very big challenge. They have quality right across the park. They come up with some great plays – the try from the lineout (at Twickenham) was an excellent play so we are going to have to have our wits about us.

“They bring a lot of attacking threats and they have also got a very good attacking kicking game. Our back three in particular are going to have a lot of work to do.”

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'He is a big man, we're up against big men': The reason why Wales have made one change to Grand Slam-chasing pack and shaken-up their bench

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