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Six Nations | Group Stage
Mar 18, 2023 at 2.45pm UK
Penaud (10', 77'), Danty (34'), Atonio (44'), Fickou (49')
North (8'), Roberts (56'), Williams (66'), Dyer (80')

Preview: France vs. Wales - prediction, team news, head to head

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Six Nations clash between France and Wales, including predictions, team news and their head-to-head record.

Fresh from their biggest and perhaps best-ever Six Nations victory, France will look to keep the Championship race going down to the wire when they host Wales on Super Saturday.

Fabien Galthie's side know that a bonus-point win would temporarily lift them to the top of the pile, putting the pressure on Ireland to get a result against England in the final match of the tournament later in the day.

Match preview

France celebrating a try against England during Six Nations fixture on March 11, 2023.© Reuters

France may boast 10 Grand Slam titles and three World Cup finals in their history, but few standalone results will live quite as long in the memory as last weekend's trip to Twickenham.

For so long an unhappy hunting ground for them, Rugby HQ proved to be a bountiful treasure trove of tries for Les Blues this time around as they crushed England in Le Crunch.

The first of their seven tries came in the very first minute, setting the tone for an utterly one-sided contest which France eventually won 53-10 - England's heaviest home defeat in their entire history, and France's joint-biggest Six Nations victory against any opposition, equalling a 56-13 triumph over Italy in 2005.

To do that away to their biggest rivals, having not won at Twickenham for 18 years before that, was a result for the ages, with a performance to match as France were fearless and flawless en route to what must rank as one of the greatest displays of any team in Six Nations history.

Indeed, the only minor blot on the victory, at least when it is looked back on in years to come, is that it is likely to be meaningless in the Six Nations title race - although it did at least take the defence of their crown to the final weekend.

France's Romain Ntamack celebrates scoring their first try with teammates on February 26, 2023© Reuters

Last year's Grand Slam winners need a bonus-point win and for Ireland to lose to England, or to win and Ireland to lose with a 20-point swing between the two games, in order to claim back-to-back titles for the first time since 2006 and 2007.

All they can do for their part is win against Wales, and a repeat of the extraordinary England annihilation would just pile that extra bit of pressure on Andy Farrell's side to complete the job against their wounded visitors in Dublin later on Super Saturday.

With eight wins from their last nine Six Nations games, and nine wins from their last 10 at home, the odds point towards France at least picking up the win, particularly with Wales having endured a forgettable tournament of their own.

Turmoil off the pitch for much of the campaign has overshadowed some poor performances on it too, with Warren Gatland's side finding themselves in an effective Wooden Spoon decider in Rome last weekend.

Wales did at least avoid defeat there, running out 29-17 winners, but there were still worrying signs as Italy carried for far more metres and also made a tournament-high 11 line breaks, beating the previous highest tally for this year's Championship which occurred in Scotland's win over Wales in round two.

Wales' Taulupe Faletau celebrates scoring their third try with teammates on March 11, 2023© Reuters

A trip to a French side that was so devastating in attack last weekend is the last thing they need, then, and with a worse points difference than Italy, any defeat would still see them claim the unwanted Wooden Spoon for the first time since 2003 if the Azzurri can beat Scotland in Edinburgh earlier in the day.

Gatland will be hoping that the off-field issues are now behind his team, though, and with a first win of his second spell under their belt, they can now begin to look forward after a far more clinical display against Italy.

Wales scored tries from three of their four line breaks in Rome, which is a far cry from their opening three games when their failure to turn visits to the 22 into points proved to be their biggest weakness.

Even so, having lost six Six Nations games on the bounce before that win over Italy last weekend, it would take a major shock for them to topple France and win back-to-back games in this competition for the first time since claiming the Grand Slam in 2021.

Defeat would mean that they have lost at least four of their five games in back-to-back Championships, something which has not happened since 2002 and 2003.

France Six Nations form:

  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W

Wales Six Nations form:

  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W

Team News

France's Antoine Dupont in action on February 11, 2023© Reuters

Unsurprisingly given their historic humiliation of England, France have kept changes to a minimum with only two made from last weekend.

One of those is enforced, with the injured Paul Willemse making way for Romain Taofifenua in the second row, while the other sees Uini Atonio return from suspension to go straight back into the front row in place of Dorian Aldegheri, who is left out of the 23 altogether.

Thomas Ramos scored 23 of France's points against England and looks certain to end the tournament as the top scorer, with more than twice as many points as any other player and his closest rival Finn Russell ruled out for Scotland.

Ramos is also one of three French players who may have their eye on finishing as the top try-scorer too, with Damian Penaud and second-rower Thibaud Flament joining him on three tries so far - one behind Scotland's Huw Jones.

For Wales, Taulupe Faletau will become the eighth man from his country to reach 100 caps after being named in the starting XV.

The man leading the way in that list and the all-time men's list from any nation is Alun Wyn Jones, and he returns to the pack for this match in what will be his 66th Six Nations appearance, overtaking Brian O'Driscoll on the all-time list with only Italy legend Sergio Parisse above him.

That is one of six changes overall and two in the pack, with Aaron Wainwright also coming in for the injured Jac Morgan.

Some big names return in the backline too, with Dan Biggar in at 10, Louis Rees-Zammit named at full-back instead of on the wing, and George North and Nick Tompkins forming a new centre partnership.

Leigh Halfpenny is back in the 23 as a replacement, as is Bradley Roberts, while Dillon Lewis could win his 50th Wales cap from the bench.

France starting lineup: 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 starting lineup: 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

Head To Head

France's Gael Fickou pictured in action against Wales on October 24, 2020© Reuters

France have had the better of this fixture in recent years, winning each of the last three Six Nations showdowns between the two, and their last four in all competitions.

However, before that Wales had won seven of the previous eight, while each of the last six meetings in this competition have been decided by a margin of just five points or fewer.

Wales' last win over France was their 20-19 triumph in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, while their last Six Nations triumph in this fixture came in Paris earlier that year.

Overall, the two nations have met 102 times in the past, with Wales winning 51 to France's 48 - although France have won 27 to Wales' 21 wins in Paris.

SM words green background

We say: France 34-10 Wales

Brighter times should be ahead for Wales now that they have the second Gatland era up and running, but this match looks a stretch too far for them.

France will be flying after their Twickenham trouncing of England and know that only a win - and ideally a big one - would be enough to keep their title hopes alive and put the pressure on Ireland.

Wales' defence was cut open all too often by Italy last time out, so this French backline could do some real damage as well.

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France's Romain Ntamack scores their first try against Scotland on February 23, 2019
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