British & Irish Lions

3 key match-ups for Wales v France in Six Nations

Paul Willemse (Getty Images)
Paul Willemse (Getty Images)

Cardiff - France head into round three of the Six Nations this weekend atop the table having kicked off their campaign with victories over England (24-17) and Italy (35-22).

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Fabien Galthie's men will be seeking a first win in Cardiff since 2010 on Saturday when they take on Wales, who blanked Italy (42-0) before falling to Ireland (24-14).

Three key factors that could have an impact on the outcome at the Principality Stadium:

Scrum wars

Wales prop Wyn Jones ripped open a can of worms by accusing France of illegal tactics at the scrum.

"We know they will hit and chase and cheat," Jones said, conveniently ignoring the point that all teams try to get away with as much as they can at the scrum.

His comments evoked a terse response from France team manager Raphael Ibanez, capped 98 times as hooker for Les Bleus.

"It is a rude and puerile attack from another age," Ibanez said. "We have referees, these are the tournament referees with whom we work well, very intelligently."

Wales coach Wayne Pivac sought to play down Jones' words.

"We're working solidly on our scrum," the New Zealander said. "We're looking to paint clean pictures and be squeaky clean."

Return of 'le petit general'

France scrumhalf Antoine Dupont has, arguably, been the stand-out player of the championship this season.

The French love their number nines, often referred to as "le petit general" and often considered more influential in playmaking than the flyhalf.

Dupont, an adept sniper with a keen eye for a gap, has been a key cog to the French revival, combining perfectly with Toulouse clubmate Romain Ntamack.

His opponent on Saturday will be Gareth Davies, chosen for his linespeed in defence, over replacement Tomos Williams, with ex-Toulon player Rhys Webb not making the match-day 23.

"Clearly, we've got three quality nines," said Pivac. "But Gareth's the right one to start in this game."

AWJ's Bokke-flavoured lock down

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will win his 137th cap when he leads out his side against France.

The 34-year-old lock is a talismanic figure for the Welsh, a stalwart in defence who showed his versatility when he delivered a deft offload that led to a Tomos Williams try in the 24-14 defeat by Ireland.

"It's massive what he's done with Wales," France's South African-born lock Bernard Le Roux said of Jones.

"He started in 2006 when I was still in school. He made more than 20 tackles in his last game. He's a leader, he's everywhere. He's a nuisance on the field."

Le Roux will be partnered in the French boiler house by fellow South African Paul Willemse, and the pair will have their work cut out to shut down the Welsh skipper.

Teams:

Wales

15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones

Substitutes: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Johnny McNicholl

France  

15 Anthony Bouthier; 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gael Fickou; 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont; 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Francois Cros; 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux; 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille

Substitutes: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Mathieu Jalibert, 23 Thomas Ramos

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