France v Wales: Winners and losers from the team announcements for the final round of the Six Nations
France and Wales have confirmed their teams ahead of the Six Nations clash at the Stade de France on Super Saturday.
Les Bleus head into the fixture knowing that a win will keep them in the running for the title, but they will need a favour from England against Ireland in the late kick-off.
Meanwhile, Wales will look to finish the tournament on a high after beating Italy in Round Four.
Fabien Galthie has stuck to largely the same side that defeated England at Twickenham last week, while Warren Gatland has made sweeping for the fixture.
Planet Rugby picks out the winners and losers from the two teams named for Saturday’s showdown.
The La Rochelle tighthead prop has completed his suspension after his tackle on Rob Herring in Round Two of the Championship.
Despite missing the last two rounds of the tournament, Atonio is catapulted straight into the starting line-up.
While Mohamed Haouas wasted his opportunity against Scotland, the opposite was true for Sipili Falatea over the last fortnight and Dorian Aldegheri against England.
Regardless, this is a clear indication from the French coaching staff that Atonio is their go-to man in the number three jumper.
Taofifénua will fill the void Paul Willemse vacates as France head into their final fixture without the locks that won the 2022 Six Nations Grand Slam decider, also Cameron Woki.
The Lyon second-rower produced a wonderful offload to Matthieu Jalibert in the tournament’s opening round to see his side over the line. And while his impacts off the bench in the later games haven’t been as prominent, they have been just as important.
The 32-year-old bruiser has earned his opportunity in the starting line-up, even though it came via his teammate’s unfortunate injury.
Another who has benefited from Willemse’s injury, like Taofifénua, Chaureau, certainly deserves the opportunity he is getting.
The Montpellier lock played twice for France last November and has been consistently solid for his club this season.
It’s a well-deserved opportunity for the 31-year-old.
Alun Wyn Jones
Gatland is not one for sentimental selections – just ask Brian O’Driscoll – but the Wales boss may have made an exception for the most capped player in rugby’s history.
37-year-old Jones has yet to indicate that 2023 will be his final year of international rugby, and you never know with the Welshman, but Saturday’s match is likely his last Six Nations match.
He will mark the occasion in the starting line-up, and whether he is the form lock in the squad or not, he thoroughly deserves the benefit of the doubt this weekend.
One of Wales’ finest and most consistent players over the last decade or so, Faletau raises the bat this weekend, notching up his 100th appearance for his country.
Although it is no surprise that he has been named in the starting XV, he must be applauded for his innings to date.
Gatland spoke fondly of his loose forward after naming his side, saying: “There’s a lot of things that people don’t see in terms of his ability to read the game – he’ll run support lines that people don’t see. You see that when you’re going back through the videos, and there have been times where he’s been on the end of a pass and scored tries. We saw that last week, Rhys Webb makes a break, and Toby scores a try.”
Gatland has rolled out the experienced campaigners for the clash with France, and Biggar’s return to the starting line-up perfectly illustrates that.
The veteran pivot was below his usual high standards in the tournament’s opening rounds before missing the win over Italy through injury.
Owen Williams took the reins and has impressed not only against Italy but also in the game prior, against England.
Biggar has a lot of credit in the bank with Gatland, but he will still need to prove himself with little time left until the World Cup. He has been given the ideal platform to do just that.
A nailed-on starter under Wayne Pivac, Tompkins has found starting minutes under Gatland far more challenging.
After four rounds of Joe Hawkins in the starting line-up, Tompkins gets his shot in the tournament’s final game.
The energic midfielder has also been given the luxury of starting alongside George North, his midfield partner for most of last year.
Tompkins certainly has the talent to be Wales’ starting centre and has been thrown into the deep end against France in Paris to prove himself.
After a powerful scrummaging performance and an all-around strong game against England, Aldegheri misses out on the team to face Wales.
Unfortunately for the Toulouse tighthead, he has suffered an injury setback in the record victory and is ruled out of France’s final game.
It’s disappointing news for the 29-year-old who was initially snubbed for the squad but received a call-up following the suspensions of Atonio and Haouas.
His injury alleviated a selection headache for Galthie, but it would have been interesting to see if his outing at Twickenham had pushed him up the pecking order.
The rapid flanker is on the bench once again for Les Bleus after rumours of him earning a start did not come to fruition.
Macalou trained as the starting number seven for France earlier in the week, with Charles Ollivon moving into the second-row.
However, it ultimately did not work out for the Stade Francais flanker, as Taofifénua was preferred as Willemse’s replacement.
Les Bleus’ back-row depth is stacked with world-class talents, and a rare start this weekend would have provided Macalou with the perfect opportunity to stake his claim. He will now have to continue to prove himself from the bench.
Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady
Gatland has opted for the far more experienced midfield partnership of Tompkins and North for the clash in Paris, with young stars Hawkins and Grady dropped from the 23 entirely.
Whether this was pre-planned or not, as Gatland tries to steady the ship ahead of the World Cup, it is disappointing for the young pair.
The duo have long careers ahead of them in the Welsh jersey, but this would have given them the challenge of facing one of the finest midfield pairings in world rugby.
Perhaps Gatland is shielding them from what could turn into a big scoreline, or maybe the New Zealander has something up his sleeve.
Regardless of the reasoning, any sportsman wants to test themselves against the best, and the two rising stars would have licked their lips at the chance of taking on Jonathan Danty and Gael Fickou.
After back-to-back starts in the number 10 jersey, Williams has been moved to the bench for the final game of the Six Nations as Biggar takes over the pivot role.
Williams perfectly executed Wales’ gameplan with precision against Italy and could have done so again against France.
He started to look extremely comfortable controlling the Welsh attack against the Azzurri. His kicking game out of hand was certainly up to scratch, but his accuracy from the tee let him down.
Another start in the position could have done his confidence a world of good, but we can understand the reasoning for Gatland to turn to the experienced head of Biggar for this clash.
READ MORE: Six Nations: Five storylines to follow in the final round of the Championship as Ireland go for the Grand Slam
The article France v Wales: Winners and losers from the team announcements for the final round of the Six Nations appeared first on Planetrugby.com.