Guinness Six Nations 2023 Rugby Coverage

Guinness Six Nations - France Host Wales With Title Hopes On The Line

Guinness Six Nations - France Host Wales With Title Hopes On The Line

France host Wales at the Stade de France in Paris for their 2023 Guinness Six Nations match-up. Les Bleus hold on to title ambitions.

Mar 16, 2023
Guinness Six Nations - France Host Wales With Title Hopes On The Line

After obliterating England, France is still in with a shot of winning the Six Nations but first must overcome Wales before relying upon England to deliver a shock defeat to table toppers Ireland.

France is without question the favourites heading into their tie with Wales and will have the added bonus of being spurred on by a noisy Stade de France crowd. Le Bleus are also fresh off their hottest performance in recent memory after they dismantled England 53-10 in a stunning performance at Twickenham.

The win was their first at the home of English rugby since 2007 and laid down a marker of intent, not just for the remainder of the tournament but the upcoming World Cup as well.

To retain their Six Nations crown, Les Bleus are first tasked with dismantling a rugged Welsh outfit that is fresh off a first win of the year, having beaten Italy 29-17 in Rome.

That result puts less pressure on Warren Gatland and his men, as the threat of a wooden spoon and a first whitewash since 2003 looks to be avoided.

Though, if Italy defeat Scotland with a bonus point and Wales leaves Paris with nothing, the wooden spoon will be theirs.

The men in red have already endured a disappointing championship and so will be desperately seeking a win in Paris to give themselves something to celebrate.

To achieve this goal, Gatland has made six changes to the side that beat Italy last week, recalling Dan Biggar into the squad to start alongside former Ospreys teammate Rhys Webb.

Nick Tompkins and George North will start in the centres for the first time under Gatland, while Louis Rees-Zammit slots in at full-back to cover for the injured Liam Williams.

Tompkins and North became mainstays of Wayne Pivac's Wales, so they have valuable experience playing together, but face the tough task of suppressing the electric pairing of Jonathan Danty and Gaël Fickou, who ripped apart the English midfield last week.

Danty in particular, was a menace at the breakdown and will take some stopping this time around.

Elsewhere, Alun Wyn Jones returns to start in the second row alongside Adam Beard, while Aaron Wainwright comes into the back row to replace the injured Jac Morgan to make his first international start since 2021.

However, the day will belong to veteran Taulupe Faletau who will be making his 100th Test appearance in a Welsh shirt.

“Getting 100 caps is a great recognition for what he’s achieved in the game,” Gatland said of Faletau.

“It’s fantastic for him and his family and hopefully, we can go out there and give him a really good performance and something for him to remember.

“Last weekend was really important for us. It was a step in the right direction, but there’s still lots for us to work on.

“I think France last weekend put in probably one of the best performances seen in a long, long time. They’re the number two team in the world.”

Fabien Galthié has only made two changes to the side that beat England last weekend, as Uini Atonio is set to make his 50th appearance in the front row, while lock Romain Taofifénua steps up to cover for the injured Paul Willemse.

The breakdown will be a big focal point for both sides come Saturday, especially after France dominated that facet of the game incredibly effectively at Twickenham.

Added to that, the kicking battle will have a huge sway on the lay of the land. If newly appointed full-back Rees-Zammit struggles under the high ball and the breakdown turns sour for Wales, it could quickly become an afternoon to forget for the visitors.

How they front up to those two challenges will largely determine the final score.  

France will be gunning for the win and a big one at that. If they come away with a bonus point, they may very well retain their title. However, to achieve that, they will need Ireland to come away from their clash with England without a single point.  

It’s still all to play for heading into the final weekend of Six Nations rugby.


France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Ethan Dumortier, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (c); 1 Cyril Baille, 2 Julien Marchand, 3 Uini Atonio, 4 Thibaud Flament, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 6 Francois Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Gregory Alldritt. 

Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Bastien Chalureau, 20 Sekou Macalou, 21 Maxime Lucu, 22 Yoram Moefana, 23 Melvyn Jaminet 

Wales: 15 Louis Rees-Zammit, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens (c), 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Taulupe Faletau. 

Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Leigh Halfpenny.

Written by Stefan Frost