North moves to centre to set up big battle with Bastareaud
Wales will be hoping to bounce back from their crushing 26-3 defeat against Ireland when France come to the Millenium Stadium.
Wales to win – 1.62
France to win – 2.30
Draw – 19.00
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Warren Gatland has made three changes for the Friday night fixture, with Mike Phillips dropping to the bench. George North moves to centre due to injury problems and Luke Charteris returns from injury. Mathieu Bastareaud returns for France, with injured Bernard Le Roux replaced by Wenceslas Lauret.
Lions and Racing Metro scrum-half Phillips will be replaced by Osprey Rhys Webb after a disappointing game against Ireland. Wales coach Warren Gatland isn’t one to sugar-coat his criticisms of his own players, and the fact that Phillips has been first choice Lions scrum-half in five out of the last six tests cuts no ice with the Kiwi, who brings in 5-cap Rhys Webb.
“We weren’t happy with Mike’s performance against Ireland… He was probably a little confrontational one-on-one with Conor Murray and was yellow-carded towards the end of the game,” the coach said.
“By putting him on the bench and giving Rhys Webb a chance, we’ve given him an opportunity to reflect. At the moment, we feel Rhys will give us a different dimension.”
George North moves into the centre due to injuries to Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams. “Wing is ideally where I have been playing for the past few years,” said North. “To put on the Welsh jersey, any position, is happy days. So for me it’s another challenge.”
The Northampton and Lions star will be replaced on the wing by Scarlets full-back Liam Williams.
It’s easy to forget that George North is still only 21. The young Lion will face a huge test in the middle with the colossal Mathieu Bastareaud returning from injury. Toulon centre Bastareaud has been struggling with a shoulder injury, but has been cleared to start on Friday.
Flanker Bernard Le Roux suffered a nasty blow in the 30-10 win against Italy. After struggling with concussion, he’ll be replaced by fellow Racing Metro flanker Lauret.
Wales have struggled for form in 2014’s 6 Nations campaign. They opened their account with an unconvincing, though admittedly comfortable, win against Italy in the Millennium Stadium. The 2013 campaign started slowly, with defeat against Ireland, however the Welsh went onto win the tournament.
No such bounce back this year, however. Wales suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Irish, losing 26-3. Up next is France, who are favourites to win the tournament after edging past England in the opening weekend, then cruising past Italy with a 30-10 victory.
It’s going to be a tough night for Wales. A repeat of last weekend’s performance will surely see a hammering from Les Bleus.
Betting Instinct Tip – While Wales have home advantage, they will have to make a big improvement on their last performance. France seem good value to win at 2.30 with Intertops.eu.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Rhys Priestland, Rhys Webb, Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (Captain), Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar, James Hook.
France: Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Mathieu Bastereaud, Wesley Fofana, Hugo Bonneval, Jules Plisson, Jean-Marc Doussain, Thomas Domingo, Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape (captain), Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Wenceslas Lauret, Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: Brice Mach, Yannick Forestier, Vincent Debaty, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly, Maxime Machenaud, Remi Tales, Gael Fickou
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)
Assistants: John Lacey, Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)
PAUL STOLLERY (paulstollery) is a Cardiff City fan and Ron Swanson enthusiast. He writes about football and rugby for Betting Instinct