Saturday evening Rugby under the lights in Paris – it doesn’t get much better. Wales will be hoping that that will be the setting for their continued RBS 6 Nations resurgence as they look to put the pressure on Ireland and England, and not the place where their dream dies. The French of course have championship aspirations of their own, so the stage is set for a barnstormer at the Stade de France.
France have not been their typical free-flowing selves during the tournament so far. Their opening day victory over Scotland was only assured after a late penalty, while the defeat in Dublin to Ireland was a highly physical encounter dominated by the defences.
The French, as is well known, are a mercurial bunch, so a top drawer performance could be just around the corner. That was perfectly displayed in the autumn as victories over Fiji and Australia were followed up by a defeat to Argentina. Victory over Wales would open up the possibility of a championship decider against England (should results fall that way), so that mouth-watering potential could inspire the French.
Wales of course lost their opening RBS 6 Nations fixture against England in Cardiff. The build-up to that game felt like a championship all of its own. Since then, that hype has died down a little, and that might benefit the Welsh players as they look to re-establish their title hopes.
They got back on track in Scotland last week, in what was another hard-fought 80 minutes of rugby. There were moments when it looked as though Wales could fall to a second successive defeat, but some stout defence, particularly at the end of the first half, kept the Scots at bay.
Coach Warren Gatland has made a handful of changes to the XV that will line-up on Saturday, bringing in Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee and Luke Charteris, with George North making his return from the concussion suffered against England.
The RBS 6 Nations head-to-head favours France, with nine wins to Wales’ six. Wales claimed a 27-6 victory last year when the teams met in Cardiff, while the last time the two played in Paris also favoured Gatland’s men, 6 points to 16.
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