Wales make six changes for Six Nations clash against France
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made six changes to his team for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against France in Paris.
Louis Rees-Zammit replaces full-back Liam Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury during the 29-17 victory over Italy last weekend, while there are also starts for centres George North and Nick Tompkins, plus fly-half Dan Biggar, lock Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Aaron Wainwright.
North and Tompkins are preferred to Wales’ inexperienced combination of Mason Grady and Joe Hawkins, with Biggar replacing Owen Williams and Jones starting instead of Dafydd Jenkins. Wainwright takes over from Jac Morgan, who suffered an ankle injury in training.
Number eight Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th cap, joining fellow Welsh centurions Jones, North, Biggar, Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Gareth Thomas and Martyn Williams.
Elsewhere, replacement prop Dillon Lewis is in line to win his 50th cap, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny also among those players providing bench cover.
It will be Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit’s third Wales start at full-back, having featured there twice during this season’s Autumn Nations Series.
Wales have lost their last four Tests against France, and Gatland has gone for an experienced look to his team, with North, Biggar and Jones having 375 caps between them.
Dragons forward Wainwright, meanwhile, makes his first appearance of the Six Nations campaign as Wales take on a French team fresh from thrashing England 53-10 at Twickenham.
Gatland lavished praise on France following their demolition of England, which has underlined the size of Wales’ task.
“I think France last weekend put in probably one of the best performances seen in a long, long time,” he said.
“They are the number two team in the world, they bring a really physical approach to the way they play and they have tended to start well.
“We have got to go out there and start well, make sure we are in that arm-wrestle with them and give ourselves that opportunity.”
On Faletau reaching 100 caps, Gatland added: “Toby (Faletau) has been a fantastic servant for Welsh rugby. Even though he is reaching 100 caps he is still pretty quiet, but he is incredibly well respected by the players for what he has achieved.
“I remember in the early years he was just a constant and he became absolutely world-class in terms of his performances.
“There are a lot of things that people don’t see in terms of his ability to read the game – he will run support lines that people don’t see.
“Getting 100 caps is a great recognition for what he has achieved in the game.
“It is fantastic for him and his family and hopefully we can go out there and give him a really good performance and something for him to remember.”
Wales team to play France in the Six Nations on Saturday.
L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester); J Adams (Cardiff), G North (Ospreys), N Tompkins (Saracens), R Dyer (Dragons); D Biggar (Toulon), R Webb (Ospreys); W Jones (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets, captain), T Francis (Ospreys), A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys), A Wainwright (Dragons), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Cardiff).
Replacements: B Roberts (Dragons), G Thomas (Ospreys), D Lewis (Cardiff), D Jenkins (Exeter), T Reffell (Leicester), T Williams (Cardiff), O Williams (Ospreys), L Halfpenny (Scarlets).
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.