Six Nations Key Clash Preview: Wales v France

wales france

On Friday night, France will travel to the Millennium Stadium to confront a wounded Welsh side. After being demolished by a tactically superior Ireland, Wales know that only a win will keep their hopes of a historic thirdsuccessive title alive, while the French are looking for their third win of tournament after edging past England and overpowering Italy.

But the Welsh will be playing for more than the championship, after head coach Warren Gatland issued the players with a stark warning that “if they don’t play well on Friday night it could be the last time they play for Wales”.

The home side boasts the bulk of the 2013 British and Irish Lions and the visitors typically thrive in post-Lions campaigns, but France have not beaten Wales since 2011.

Wales

Many Welshmen thought they would never live to see the day that Gatland excluded a fully-fit Mike Philips from his starting line up. But Philips will have to come off the bench to win his 83rd cap after being replaced by Rhys Webb.

Webb, who is set to make his first international start, may not fit in to Gatland’s game plan as well as his predecessor, but the Osprey will certainly be an interesting addition to a Welsh side that has been criticised for a rigid game plan, that revolves around Philips.

Luke Charteris returns to the engine room in place of Andrew Coombs, even though Coombs gave an energetic and dynamic display in Ireland. He will pack down alongside Alun Wyn Jones while the Welsh back and front row remain unchanged, although Wales will hope that Gethin Jenkins is actually match fit this week after severely struggling against the Irish despite being mummified by the treatment team.

Rhys Priestland retains the 10 jersey despite having struggled to set his potent backline in motion against Italy and Ireland, but Dan Biggar has been named on the bench and James Hook will also be waiting in the wings. Jamie Roberts will be joined in the midfield by George North, in the absence of the injured Scott Williams. Liam Williams is set to start on the wing.

France

France coach Philippe Saint-André has made one change to the side that brushed past Italy, ahead of Friday night’s clash, Wenceslas Lauret returning from injury to replace his Racing Metro teammate Bernard Le Roux.

The awesome power of the French front row will fancy their chances against their opposing front three, who struggled against Ireland and Italy. Adam Jones’ chiropractor will have to clear his schedule for the weekend, as Thomas Domingo will be looking to contort his opposite man into submission. The new squeeze scrum is perfectly adapted to Domingo’s flawless technique, while Jones has struggled.

Ireland successfully took the steam out of the Welsh attack by “kicking the leather off the ball” and France will certainly not refrain from putting boot to ball. Should Wales stick to their game plan, the massive French pack will relish the close-quarters physical confrontation, something they all engage in religiously on a weekly basis in the Top 14.

Jean-Marc Doussain is likely to retain the kicking duties despite a shaky display against Italy, but Doussain will be well aware that he cannot afford to squander opportunities, with Leigh Halfpenny in the Welsh ranks.

Front rowers Brice Mach and Vincent Debaty have been called up to the bench, along with Remi Tales. The trio replace Benjamin Kayser, Francois Trinh-Duc and Rabah Slimani, who have dropped out of the match day squad.

All eyes on

Rhys Webb has huge boots to fill, but expect the scrum half to glide and dart with nimble feet on Friday night. The Osprey has the propensity to raise the tempo of the match with his sharp distribution and snipes that will keep the French fringe defence honest. Webb will orchestrate his forwards into some abrasive advances, and his swift service should provide Priestland with the extra seconds that he desperately needs.

Amongst the French ranks, Yannick Nyanga has been the standout performer thus far. The Toulouse loose forward is one of the less-heralded members of their pack, but his performances against England and Italy have been brimming with power and precision, not to mention an insatiable work rate. The Wales flank duo of Lydiate and Warburton will have to significantly up their game to reach Nyanga’s levels.

Head to head: George North v Mathieu Bastareaud

If you are lucky enough to be watching from the stands of the Millennium, on Friday night, ensure that you have a firm grasp on your £5 pint during the seismic collisions between George North and Mathieu Bastereaud.

North is yet to find his stride in this year’s Six Nations, but we have seen glimpses of the Welshman’s destructive capabilities, while his opposite man has also been one of the poorer French performers. Both of these mutant men are renowned for their powerful carries and monstrous hits but the Welshman will be confident that he can utilise his blistering pace to get on the outside of Bastareaud.

Prediction

This French side possesses many qualities but continuity is not one of them. However, Les Blues are in fine form and their raw power and aggression will test a Welsh side that appear to be short of confidence and imagination. Wales will be determined to reignite their smouldering Six Nations campaign, but will their muscular approach be nullified by the ferocity of the French? While Wales’ superior fitness often proves to be the difference in this fixture, this Welsh side seems extremely jaded. France by 5.

By Nathan Hyde (@NathanHyde2)

34 thoughts on “Six Nations Key Clash Preview: Wales v France

  1. A good analyses and I agree with everything other than the final forecast. The Millennium effect is worth 5 points and the fear of losing and facing the Gatland hairdryer worth another five. Wales will do what they did to England last year and dramatically up their game. Wales by 10

  2. Roy I do hope so

    I have a real concern we have no plan B

    Mind you I feel we play better when we freestyle it a bit more

    C,mon boys

  3. For a variety of reasons, I really want Wales to win this match, and I think they can. Gatland’s system has been well known for quite some time now, as has what is needed to beat it. The problem is not knowing what the plan is, the problem is actually stopping it. Wales’ had a tactical disadvantage in Dublin but just as big a problem was their ill-discipline and inability to keep possession. If they can deal with those issues then their size, skill and of course their supporters should all combine to overcome a French side who frankly still look to me to be achieving about 70% of their full potential

  4. I think Wales to lose by 5 is generous to Wales. I think they’re probably more likely to lose by 10-13 and will go to pieces for their remaining fixtures.

    Expect much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Scrum V panto crowd and associated clown pundits.

  5. 3 reasons why Wales WILL lose tomorrow:

    1) It’s on a Friday

    2) Rolland

    3) for once I want them to win. So they wont, obviously.

    I very much hope to be proved drastically wrong.

  6. It will go to the team that is less unfit, which is France for once. I think France will win big…it’s the 6 Nations after a Lions Tour after all.

  7. Tough Call. Im not a fan of Gatland and I sincerely believe the chap is over rated and his true coaching ability was exposed and then decimated by the antics employed by Schmidts thunderous Irish mauling and ravishing lions 2 weeks ago. Individually Wales has the most formidable back line in the world. A true coach would consistently get the best group and individual performance. Not so Gatland. Sorry Wales. The French will beat you by at least two tries or 10 points.

    1. Most formidable back line in the world? Not sure New Zealand, South Africa or Australia would agree with that one.

        1. I’d say it was the (mostly) Welsh forwards that beat the Aussies last year, the backs just added the extras.

        2. No, it was the Lions that beat the Wallabies. The Welsh hardly have the most formidable back line in the world. Phillips, Roberts, and the Welsh 10s have suffered from very inconsistent form.

    2. Wow.

      At 9 and 10 Wales massively suffer from not having world class talent there. And Cuthbert, whilst an athlete and finisher, is a liability defensively and positionally.

      Jon Davies and Halfpenny are world class and would be considered for a World XV, but how is this back line better than the Kiwi back line? I’m pretty sure only North would make it if you were to combine the two.

  8. I agree, it was the lions not the welsh won that! And if he’d have picked a more mixed squad with players from teams who beaten Southern Hemisphere sides it could’ve been a whitewash! Gatland is too narrow minded, France by 12.

  9. We were a 1/2p penalty miss away from it being a whitewash. I don’t think they did too badly. Alas, and had the Lions lost the series then it would very much have been the Welsh that lost it and not the Lions no doubt…

    I don’t buy the fitness argument. Wales do look jaded but France looked absolutely cooked 30 mins in to the England game.

    What is evident thought is that we have a problem at the set piece. We’ve not had a lineout for the best part of 10 years, and AJ is struggling to adapt to the scrum rule changes and so we’re only achieving parity (if that) at best at the moment in the scrum.

    Here in lies the Welsh problem. If we have go forward ball from a reliable set piece we know exactly what we need to do with it. If we’re starved of front foot ball then we generally have no idea what to do. Firstly we’ll try kicking it… Priestlands inability to find anything other than a covering defender is proving troublesome at the moment. We’ll try this repeatedly throughout the match.

    When the booing from the poor kicking reaches it’s crescendo, we’ll start running from deep, we’ll take it up to the line, slow down, and get enveloped by an army of defenders, this leads to an inevitable breakdown battle and usually a 50/50 penalty decision (sealing off/off feet) to be awarded by the ref.

    The third thing we’ll try is again coming from deep, and passing it across the backline, usually with a fancy miss pass, about the 30 yards back from the defensive line. This will leave Cuthbert and Williams with no choice but to cut back inside and take contact in field.

    Unless Gatland has fixed these problems in the last 13 days I don’t see how we can win. We have no reliable source of penalties anymore, we have no idea how to play when not on the front foot and some of our players are lacking form/confidence.

    The only way out of this that I can see is for France to turn up and do something inexplicable! Which is a definite possibility.

    Come on Wales, and while I’m at it… Come on England.

  10. The key, for me is the French back-row. I am not sure about this guy Lauret, but he could be the key, if he can work in tandem with Nyanga (who has been superb) and slow the Welsh ball, then I am not sure that Wales have anywhere to go.

    The use of Webb from the start is interesting, as whilst he may well produce quicker ball, he still needs the runners, and it will necessitate the likes of Roberts, North, Cuthbert, Faletau and Hibbard to work to an increased cadence, which could increase the likelihood of isolations and turnovers.

    Or, it could work.

    My guess is that Wales will come into the game late, once Tipuric replaces Lydiate, and they may just sneak it.

  11. After vowing never to go to another Friday night game after England 3 years ago (not because of the result but because of the retreat from Moscow effort to get home ) courtesy of a relatives bout of Winter vomiting sickness I am now clutching a ticket and counting down until 3 pm when I’m scooting out of work .

    So irrational optimism is kicking in and to reverse the usual comments I am hoping a different Welsh side will turn up and that we will win by 8 .

    My optimism doesn’t extend to the trip home though and I’m sure I’ll be stumbling around Cardiff in the early hours in the pouring rain no matter what the result.

    1. Cheers Kev at least you’ll have a cheaper pint in the man cave than my £5.00 at the stadium as the article says .

  12. £5 per pint !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    well some one has to pay for the stadium

    wales by 8 lets have the confidence
    Cmon boys

  13. i don’t think this is that tough to call. It’s worst french team for years and Wales players will put out statement that they are still in with shout in this championship.

    Remenber ireland beat them well last year and they improved every game after that. Noth to score 2 tries and wales to win well i think.

  14. Rumour has it Alun Wyn Jones is injured and out of the squad, which is a big advantage for France. Think they might take it, unfortunately.

  15. If wales turn up and give it everything they will find holes in the french defence that can be un organized at times. France have only been playing at about 70% of there potential and were lucky to beat england at home so if wales turn up they have a good chance here.

  16. As a neutral I’m looking forward to this and a few pints.

    Wales by 10 or France by 24 – no, a close match – Wales by 3 or maybe France by 1 – no wales by 1 – yeah there is my prediction Wales by 1. DEFO! If I turn out to be correct does that make me the most astute commentator here?

    I love all this pissing in the wind – At this stage before Ireland v Wales match it was too close to call!

    DDD

    1. Ding Done Denny – cant find you any more in the Supermarkets – Did you sell out to Tescos? What pints do you drink? I reckon you should join Sky or the BBC – your insight and decisiveness is pretty unique for this blog. Keep em rolling.

      I reckon the Bulgarian spectators might teach us all a thing of two about curling.

      As for big game tonight – France. As for the even bigger game tomorrow – Ireland. Both victories will be monumental. The Welsh leek will wilt like their sheep do on a stormy windy evening and the English Bull Dog will bow and lick the majestic face of the Irish Wolfhound.

      Also Guinness will annihilate Carling, Carlsbourg and Budweiser hands down.

      Let the games commence!

      1. Hola Brendán! Muchas gracias! – Que bueno eres!

        TV on HD only!

        Weaned off mothers milk and onto GUINNESS long ago!

        Blue lobster ready for tomorrow’s celebrations. Aprés les rosbifs! Mon ami

        DDD

      2. Ah Brendan, your predictions not going so well so far. Let’s hope you get another fail tomorrow. Come on England.

  17. If AWJ is indeed ruled out it will be a disaster for the welsh, Jake Ball is not an adequate replacement, better off bringing Coombs straight into the starting line-up, he was one of the very few who half performed vs Ireland, Ryan Jones very rarely let’s Wales down, he could give a decent 30 mins if required even though he has been out a while.
    If it’s Charteris ( nowhere near fit) & Ball then Wales can write it off …..

    1. I’m glad to say your concern was unfounded Ball and Charteris played there part very well against an irate Pape and a lonely Maestri

  18. All praise to irrational optimism.just got in pity the poor buggers still trying to cross the Severn bridges to get to the game that is .mighty clash in the centre where priestland took a dislike to basteraud for some reason !! Off to bed to sleep it off come on England do us a favour .

  19. Well, what can one say about that, why did they not do that two weeks ago
    £5 a pint does not seem so bad now eh?

    My view of the referee has not changed

    So we are supporting England today, my wife is Irish so a tuff day ahead lol
    Best get the single malt out

    Enjoy Pontylad{is that pontypool ?}

  20. I’m also delighted to say my fears were unfounded Lukov !! Ball & Charteris both had stormers , can’t think of an under par performance by anyone tbh, amazing change in the performance from two weeks ago. With AWJ & hopefully JD back for the next game against England things are looking up.

  21. Pontylad: my old stamping ground: I used to live in Cwmbran many moons ago

    Well after the dust has settled, glad of a win, glad to see the effort even though the execution was average.
    Poor France turned up and we gave away to many penalties
    As for the Ref: words still fail me: lol

    So bring on England, we need to go up quite few gears to beat them

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