There wasn’t too much for France to take from their opening weekend defeat in Rome, but the fact that Wales haven’t won in Paris since February 2005 has to be one of the few things keeping a smile on their players heading into their second 2013 Six Nations match.
Wales had a story of two halves in their opener at home against Ireland, eventually clawing their way back with a fantastic second half although still losing 22-30. Despite losing their eighth consecutive test match, no heads are rolling in the squad, and only a couple of changes have been made to the starting XV, as Justin Tipuric gets a chance to play the no. 7 position instead of the injured Sam Warburton, which allows Ryan Jones to make his captain return to the lineup, while Aaron Shingler gets dropped to the bench while Richard Hibbard comes in for Matthew Rees at hooker.
The key for Wales is early intensity and physicality against a side you never quite know what kind of energy you’ll see from them. Wales made too many mistakes in the first half against Ireland, while their tackling was poor and their talent players, especially in the back row, simply didn’t match up the Irish when it came to the kind of physicality needed in such a match.
France, who usually love to bring on the changes after losses, and losing for a second consecutive time in Rome to Italy isn’t something that should be taken too lightly by Phillipe Saint-Andre, won’t be making too many changes to the lineup that lost 23-18.
Mathieu Bastareaud returns to the France starting line-up for the first time since 2010, taking the place of Centre Florian Fritz, something Saint-Andre claims isn’t about making a scapegoat of Fritz for the loss to the Italians, but the fact is that Fritz is the only change in the starting lineup, featuring Yoann Huget at fullback, the fantastic Wesley Fofana on the wing and Frederic Michalak at fly-half.
Predictions – France turn it up and then off most of the time, but after a humiliating loss to Italy, recognizing the physical frailty of the Welsh, expect them to come out fired up in the first half in Paris, and show rugby that should be too good for the Rob Howley coached side.