Monday 19 March 2018

Welsh have tools to Slam French

Wales v France, tomorrow 2.45 (LIVE RTE2/BBC1)

BY rights, this should be the main event. It was always more likely that Wales-France would be the showdown for the Six Nations championship, given their impact at the World Cup.

Instead, they are the afternoon snack before the St Patrick's Day explosion in London. Every idiot in the entertainment business knows that a show has to come to a climax.

And what a ringing endorsement it will be of Wales coach Warren Gatland's coaching approach if he can capture a second Grand Slam in his reign. He has the tools.

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre has maintained the Marc Lievremont and Bernard Laporte attitude of conservatism and wayward selection policy. The six years he spent at Gloucester, two as a player, four as a coach, have tainted his view of the rugby world. He favours muscle over magnificence.

The problem for Saint-Andre is that the tradition of scrummaging in France is being undermined by the cluster of overseas props in the Top-14 and by the fact that his forward pack is not physically huge enough to subdue a foe like England.

It is the tendency to take England on at their own game that has often been their downfall. The French are at their best when they attack out of fervour, not defend out of fear. Every sign points towards a Wales Grand Slam. The sweat-stained atmosphere of the Millennium and the combined drive for the Grand Slam and World Cup revenge should be motivation enough.

Verdict: Wales

Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones, A-W Jones, I Evans, D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau.

France: C Poitrenaud; W Fofana, A Rougerie, F Fritz, A Palisson; L Beauxis, D Yachvili; J-B Poux, W Servat, D Attoub, P Pape, Y Maestri, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.

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