Rugby Union
Warren Gatland: France will be very physical
Wales are on the brink of winning the Six Nations Grand Slam but have the forceful French to fend off first.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2012 18:24
France recalled veteran hooker William Servat for a farewell appearance against Wales [GALLO/GETTY]

If Wales are going to complete a third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight seasons on Saturday, they are going to have to do it the hard way.

Coach Warren Gatland has concluded that France's request for the Millennium Stadium roof to be left open to the forecast rain means that the team picked by Philippe Saint-Andre will try to outmuscle rather than outsmart his side.

"I think they are going to come and be very physical with us,'' Gatland said.

"They've picked a tough pack, so we are going to have to expect that real physical contribution they are capable of bringing. It is going to be tough up front.''

Stung by their 24-22 defeat against England, France have recalled veteran hooker William Servat for a farewell appearance and beefed up their midfield with center Florian Fritz.

Servat, David Attoub and Jean-Baptiste Poux will be up against a British and Irish Lions front row of Adam Jones, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins.

Coming for battle

Wales' scrum has been a potent weapon in taking the team to the brink of the title, which they are likely to win even if they lose the match, and will be crucial again in Cardiff.

"Having coached against Philippe in the past in the Premiership, he is relatively conservative in the way he approaches the game,'' Gatland said.

"He is very pragmatic in terms of set pieces and big physical players.

"I don't think he will care too much about what type of rugby they play. His whole focus is trying to win the match.''

For his part, Saint-Andre did little to contradict the notion that France is coming for a battle.

"We know that tickets were sold out in the space of two hours and that it's a chance for revenge for the World Cup semifinal"

France's Philippe Saint-Andre

Both teams have to agree to the roof being closed. Wales wanted to keep the turf as dry as possible in an effort to provide good conditions for running rugby, but Saint-Andre refused the home team's request.

"It will be more a case of putting our helmets on because we'll be up against a team that is going for the Grand Slam,'' Saint-Andre said.

"We know that tickets were sold out in the space of two hours and that it's a chance for revenge for the World Cup semifinal.''

Six of Wales' eight Grand Slams have been completed against France and the home side has the extra motivation of handing the French some payback for the Rugby World Cup semifinal last year.

Wales captain Sam Warburton will return from injury in the only change to the side that beat Italy last weekend, hoping to forget all about his early red card in that 9-8 defeat.

Wales will hope Warburton's troublesome knee stands up to a full 80 minutes of intense rugby since there is no specialist openside among the replacements with Justin Tipuric not even making the bench despite impressing
in Warburton's place.

Wales were matching France and tied 3-3 in Paris when Warburton went off injured 15 minutes into last year's Six Nations match between the sides. France went on to win 28-9.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhys Priestland, Michael Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Ian Evans, Alun-Wyn Jones, Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Ken Owens, Paul James, Luke Charteris, Ryan Jones, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams.

France: Clement Poitrenaud, Wesley Fofana, Aurelien Rougerie, Florian Fritz, Alexis Palisson, Lionel Beauxis, Dimitri Yachvili; Imanol Harinordoquy, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, David Attoub, William Servat, Jean-Baptiste Poux. Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Julien Pierre, Louis Picamoles, Morgan Parra, Francois Trinh-Duc, Jean-Marcellin Buttin.

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