Wales have endured the most dramatic of Six Nations off the pitch but if they can finish with a win over France in Paris, then it will turn a horror show on the field into something more acceptable.
Amid all the drama of the threatened players strike ahead of the England game, Wales endured a nightmare start to Warren Gatland’s tenure with three straight defeats, but victory over Italy in Rome last time out will have buoyed Welsh fans.
France, who just demolished England and are the No 2 side in the world, are undoubtedly a huge step up but with many of their veteran stars playing in what is presumed to be their final Six Nations match, Gatland’s troops will have plenty of motivation.
For their part, Les Bleus can still win the title – although it will require an unlikely favour in Dublin from an England side still reeling from last weekend’s obliteration at Twickenham – but even if the trophy eludes them, Fabien Galthie’s men will be keen to head into a home World Cup later this year with four wins from five in the championship.
Follow live coverage from the Stade de France below after the conclusion of Scotland vs Italy:
ARs: Andrew Brace (Ire) & Christophe Ridley (Eng)
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:44
The Stade de France lifts the noise levels for “La Marseillaise“.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:43
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
Taulupe Faletau stands next to two of Wales’ newer faces, Tommy Reffell and Louis Rees-Zammit joining the veteran number eight in launching into the opening notes of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”. The emotion is clear in the eyes of Alun Wyn Jones and George North, the former particularly – this is surely the lock’s Six Nations farewell after 66 caps, the second most in competition history (Sergio Parisse, 69).
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:42
France vs Wales
Faletau leads the Welsh squad out on to the Stade de France surface, with the Saint-Denis stadium already bouncing. A bonus point win would take France top of the Six Nations table, of course.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:39
One hundred up for Taulupe Faletau
Warren Gatland this week suggested as many as eight players could be making their final Six Nations appearance in a Welsh shirt, so this may be a day tinged with plenty of emotion for some of his old-stagers. Taulupe Faletau has been an outstanding servant for Wales and one of their better performers during a tough campaign – the centurion normally relishes the biggest games and won’t let his side go out meekly on his special day.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:38
Rio Dyer feels week in the sun has lifted Wales’ morale ahead of France clash
Rio Dyer believes that a week in the sun has helped boost Wales’ morale ahead of their Guinness Six Nations finale against France.
Wales flew to Nice following victory over Italy in Rome last weekend, where they fine-tuned their preparations to face Les Bleus on Saturday.
A difficult Six Nations campaign – three defeats and one win – also saw the threat of a players’ strike as off-field issues dominated.
Although a strike was averted ahead of Wales’ appointment with England, the whole saga still left its mark.
“There has been a lot of pressure back in Wales, and for the whole of Welsh rugby it has been a difficult challenge,” Wales wing Dyer said.
“But we have been out in a different place in the sun, not the snow and rain, and that has brought the morale of the boys up a bit.”
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:32
Team News – Wales
One final spin of the Warren Gatland selection wheel for the 2023 Six Nations sees the Wales head coach go back to some of the more experienced members of his squad. Taulupe Faletau brings up cap number 100 at number eight, and is joined in the pack by Alun Wyn Jones, back amongst things after being left out entirely against Italy.
Also in to the starting group of forwards is Aaron Wainwright, a favourite of the last years of the first Gatland regime but in for the first time this championship. Dan Biggar returns at fly-half while Nick Tompkins and George North take over in the centres, with Louis Rees-Zammit’s sparkle preferred to Leigh Halfpenny’s solidity at full-back after Liam Williams’s injury.
Wales XV: Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (capt.), Tomas Francis; Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones; Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau; Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar; Rio Dyer, Nick Tompkins, George North, Josh Adams; Louis Rees-Zammit.
Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Daffyd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell; Tomos Williams, Owen Williams, Leigh Halfpenny.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:29
Team News – France
After that dynamite display at Twickenham a week ago, Fabien Galthie makes only two changes to his French starting fifteen. Paul Willemse was a casualty of the efforts against England, but Romain Taofifenua provides appropriately beefy back-up to the lock, and forms a burly right-side of the French scrum with Uini Atonio cleared to return after his suspension.
Taofifenua’s elevation leaves space on the bench for another lock, with Bastien Chalureau of Montepellier readied for a Six Nations debut.
France XV: Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio; Thibaud Flament, Romain Taofifenua; Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt; Antoine Dupont (capt.), Romain Ntamack; Ethan Dumortier, Jonathan Danty, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud; Thomas Ramos.
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Bastien Chalureau, Sekou Macalou; Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana, Melvyn Jaminet.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:26
On to France vs Wales…
We’ve hardly time to draw breath before the second Super Saturday instalment, so it’s time for a swift switch of focus to affairs in Paris.
There will be plenty more reaction to Scotland’s win over Italy across The Independent this weekend, but for now, on to France vs Wales…
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:26
F/T: Scotland 26-14 Italy
A neat encapsulation of Italy’s tournament in those final moments there – so close, and yet so far for Kieran Crowley’s side, who ultimately end with another wooden spoon. Scotland’s bonus-point victory should secure them third place, a just final result for another campaign of plenty of positives.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 March 2023 14:24