Preview & stats: Wales v France (Fri)

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France's Antoine Dupont
France’s captain and talisman Antoine Dupont has been passed fit after injuring his arm in training on Tuesday
Venue: Principality Stadium Date: Friday, 11 March Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and online from 19:30 GMT; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru; text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Wales will seek to end France’s bid for a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2010 when the sides meet at the Principality Stadium on Friday.

Thirteen tries so far is testament to their flair but their defence has also been transformed by Shaun Edwards.

Wales’ hopes of retaining their title are effectively over following defeats by Ireland and England.

How they could have done with their former defence coach Edwards during their 23-19 defeat by England at Twickenham in round three.

A dreadful and ill-disciplined start that saw them fall 17-0 behind and they can ill-afford to begin the same way against Fabien Galthie’s in-form France.

Recent matches between these two teams are normally tight – last season France secured a last-gasp 32-30 win in Paris to deny Wales a Grand Slam – and the hosts will need to be firing on all cylinders if they are to contain the red-hot Six Nations favourites.

If France win they will face England in Paris on Saturday, 19 March for the title and Grand Slam, while Wales will play Italy at home in their final match.

Team news

Wales have made four changes from the side that lost to England with two of them in the back row.

Josh Navidi is fast-tracked back into the side after five months out with a shoulder problem, while Seb Davies starts at blind-side flanker, in a change from his usual position as a lock.

Taine Basham is dropped and Ross Moriarty moves to the bench.

Gareth Thomas is chosen ahead of Wyn Jones at loose-head prop and veteran centre Jonathan Davies starts after Nick Tompkins sustained a concussion playing for Saracens.

France captain Antoine Dupont has been passed fit despite injuring his arm during training on Tuesday.

There is one change from the starting XV that beat Scotland as winger Gabin Villiere comes in for Damian Penaud, who has tested positive for Covid-19, while replacement lock Romain Taofifenua also drops out of the match-day 23 because of coronavirus.

Commentator’s notes

Eddie Butler: Can Wales do it? They have been improving with every game, once the opening 50 or so minutes are out of the way, that is. It may be a little bit important for the home team on Friday night to turn up before the 9 o’clock watershed.

Seb Davies, a mystery unto himself but as talented a ball-player as there is across the continent, comes into the back row, as does the rather earthier Josh Navidi. It would be interesting to see what the French analysts made of this new duo on either side of the peerless Taulupe Faletau.

This goes completely against the form book, but we are waiting for the surprise that always comes… Wales 34 France 28.

France lead the Six Nations table with Ireland in second and England third

View from both camps

Pivac on selecting Tomas Francis after his head injury against England: “We have a very experienced medical team who we think are world class.

“The return-to-play protocols set by World Rugby have been followed. They are very stringent.

“We have gone the extra mile in terms of Tomas and got an independent concussion specialist involved.

“He has the history of the player, has looked at the footage of the match and understands the protocols of World Rugby, and he is supportive of the fact that the player has been cleared to be selected.

“It is not something we do lightly, because a player’s health and well-being is in the forefront of all these decisions.”

France head coach Fabien Galthie: “Damian Penaud and Romain Taofifenua will not travel following positive Covid-19 tests.

“We’d largely been spared that until now, but that’s the way it is. We have the resources to front up against Wales.

“We are preparing for it: we are waiting for information from the Six Nations Committee to find out if and when we will be retested.

“Psychologically, it’s brutal. But we’ve got to keep going and the guys coming in are ready.”

Line-ups

Wales: 15-Liam Williams, 14-Cuthbert, 13-Watkin, 12-Jonathan Davies, 11-Adams, 10-Biggar (capt), 9-Tomos Williams; 1-Gareth Thomas, 2-Elias, 3-Francis, 4-Rowlands, 5-Beard, 6-Seb Davies, 7-Navidi, 8-Faletau

Replacements: 16-Lake, 17-Wyn Jones, 18-Dillon Lewis, 19-Moriarty, 20-Jac Morgan, 21-Hardy, 22-Anscombe, 23-Rees-Zammit

France: 15-Jaminet, 14-Moefana, 13-Fickou, 12-Danty, 11-Villiere, 10-Ntamack, 9-Dupont (capt); 1-Baille, 2-Marchand, 3-Atonio, 4-Woki, 5-Willemse, 6-Cros, 7-Alldritt, 8-Jelonch

Replacements: 16-Mauvaka, 17-Gros, 18-Haouas, 19-Flament, 20-Cretin, 21-Lucu, 22-Ramos, 23-Lebel

France's Damian Penaud scores a try against Scotland

Match facts

Head-to-head

  • France have won their last three games against Wales in all competitions, having lost eight out of the previous nine.
  • France recorded a 27-23 victory on their last Six Nations visit to Wales. It was their first win in Cardiff in the championship since 2010.
  • Les Bleus could win consecutive games in Cardiff for the first time since triumphing in the first four away meetings of the Six Nations between 2000 and 2006.
  • Six of the last seven encounters have been won by five points or fewer, at an average of just 2.5 points per victory. The anomaly was France’s 38-21 victory in Paris in October 2020.

Wales

  • Wales have won 10 of their last 11 matches at the Principality Stadium in the Six Nations. However, the only side to beat them during that run was France in February 2020
  • Their line-out success rate of 83% is the lowest of any side in this Six Nations, having lost more line-outs (seven) than any other side so far. In 2021 they had the second best rate (91%), losing just six throws across the entire championship
  • They have made more tackles on average per game (199) than any other side in this Six Nations

France

  • France have recorded 28 points or more in their last eight Tests, at an average of 33.8 per match
  • They have won their last six Test matches. It’s their best sequence of results since they recorded eight straight victories in 2004, which included a victory in Cardiff
  • Les Bleus have trailed at half-time in just one of their last 31 Test matches, going into the break ahead on 27 occasions and level three times
  • The last time they trailed after the opening half of a match was against Scotland in round four in March 2020

Match officials

Referee: Matthew Carley (Eng)

Touch judges: Jaco Peyper (SA) & Andrea Piardi (Ita)

TMO: Tom Foley (Eng)

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