Wales bank on veterans to stay alive

CARDIFF • Wales have opted for experience in their bid to derail Six Nations table toppers France today and revive their hopes in the tournament, with coach Wayne Pivac picking a team boasting a competition record of 859 caps.

His France counterpart Fabien Galthie has instead given youth a chance in a team bristling with newcomers.

Their inexperience has so far not proven to be a barrier, with Les Bleus producing one of their best performances in many a year after a 24-17 opening win over World Cup finalists England.

They followed that up with a comprehensive 35-22 victory over Italy and they appear to be heeding the philosophy of rugby league legend Shaun Edwards, who was former Wales coach Warren Gatland's defence guru before leaving to link up with the French.

With champions Wales looking to incorporate more of a running game to better chime in with their own Edwards-inspired defence, it makes for a mouth-watering meeting.

The French have a terrible recent record at Cardiff, however, having last won there in 2010, while the hosts have taken eight of their last nine Tests clashes.

But games between the two nations are classically tight affairs.

Most recently, Wales edged their World Cup quarter-final 20-19, helped by the red card shown to lock Sebastien Vahaamahina.

"If you look at the fixtures in the last couple of years, they've been close affairs," Pivac said, noting France's opening two wins. "They come full of confidence."

For Wales, 42-0 winners over Italy but beaten 24-14 by the Irish, he said it was a question of "wanting to get back out there and righting some of the wrongs from the Ireland game".

"It's a very, very big test for both teams," the Kiwi said.

"For us, it's to keep us alive in the championships and for France, it's their first game away.

"Certainly from our point of view, it's to keep ourselves alive and we're looking for a very big performance."

He added: "Hopefully, that experience will come through for us and it'll test some of the inexperienced players in their side with any luck."

Galthie believes they can handle whatever Wales throw at them, claiming there were no lingering effects from their World Cup quarter-final defeat.

"The players have also evolved, it's another story and we imagine another scenario," the former France scrum-half and captain said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline 'Wales bank on veterans to stay alive'. Print Edition | Subscribe