Rivals eye redemption in Paris
February 7, 2013
Justin Tipuric will be hoping to make an impression on his return to the Wales starting line-up © PA Photos
Head to Head
France and Wales will attempt to get their Six Nations hopes back on track when they go head-to-head at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.
Title-favourites France saw their championship hopes take a huge blow at the hands of Italy last Sunday with the Azzurri claiming a well-deserved 23-18 victory in their clash in Rome. Defending champions Wales also tasted defeat on the opening weekend with Ireland holding on for a 30-22 win in Cardiff.
As a result, this is a must-win game for both sides if they wish to stay in the hunt for the northern hemisphere crown. Wales enter the game riding an eight-game losing streak but their second half performance against the Irish offers plenty of reason for hope. However, they have not won in the French capital since their 2005 Grand Slam season and the hosts are sure erase the memory of their lacklustre showing at the Stadio Olimpico.
France - Player to Watch: Mathieu Bastareaud returns to the France starting line-up for the first time since 2010 - can he reward coach Philippe Saint-Andre's faith with a strong showing?
France - Team News: Mathieu Bastareaud will make his first start for his country since the 2010 Six Nations in the place of Florian Fritz in one of two changes. France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has also been forced to call on Bastareaud's club-mate Jocelino Suta after captain Pascal Pape picked up a back injury in the Stadio Olimpico clash. Fritz replaces Bastareaud on the bench in the only change among the replacements.
Wales - Player to Watch: Justin Tipuric gets a rare chance to impress in the Wales No.7 shirt - can he transfer his impressive domestic form onto the international stage?
Wales - Team News: Captain Sam Warburton has been ruled out with a shoulder injury and as a result the captaincy passes to former skipper Ryan Jones who is recalled at blindside having recovered from a thumb injury. Jones returns to the side at the expense of Aaron Shingler who drops to the bench with Justin Tipuric filling the openside void left by an injured Warburton. Richard Hibbard comes in for Matthew Rees at hooker in the only other change to the side starting XV. There are a further two changes amongst the replacements with Shingler taking the place of Tipuric and Lou Reed stepping in for the injured Olly Kohn.
Key Battle: The French pack were kept quiet by their Italian rivals last weekend so expect a much-improved showing - especially from the back-row. Can Wales' new-look back-row weather the storm and turn the game in their favour?
Trivia: A loss against France this weekend would see Wales fall to their ninth consecutive loss, edging them closer to the record 10 losses they suffered between November 2002 and August 2003.
Stats: Ryan Jones extends his Wales record as skipper - captaining his country for the 30th time in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton.
Betting: Fancy France to snap out of their slumber? Bet365 are offering 5/1 for a France victory between 11-15 points. Or how about Wales to stage another second half comeback but this time get over the line? France to lead at half-time and Wales to claim the win is priced at 10/1.
"It is not a punishment. We win as a squad of 23 and lose as 23"
"We are not in crisis. There is one game down and the tournament is still wide open."
Prediction: France were some way from their best last time out and rarely stay in slump for long. As they are infuriatingly prone to do, expect them to bounce back to top form on home soil and heap woe on Wales with a convincing win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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