France have questioned Wales’ handling of Dan Biggar’s recovery from a head injury – despite the recruitment of a concussion specialist to oversee the player’s return.
In a sideswipe from France team manager Raphael Ibanez that followed the former hooker’s dismissal of cheating allegations made against his team as “childish”, Ibanez stoked the fires before Saturday’s Six Nations clash in Cardiff.
“It was a blatant, childish attack,” said Ibanez in reference to the claims of Wales prop Wyn Jones who had previously stated that France would cheat at scrum time.
“Our reference person is the referee, not a rival team’s coach or player.”
Ibanez then criticised the way Wales were handling fly-half Dan Biggar, who has been named in the team after suffering his third head injury of the season.
“We could also question the fate of their fly-half who has been knocked out several times since the World Cup but has been going through (concussion) protocol after protocol managed by the Welsh federation.
“We hope it’s been as efficient as possible in the interest of the player’s health.”
Biggar was considered for selection after being examined by a leading concussion expert, even though Six Nations regulations do not oblige teams to take that route if a player has failed more than one head injury assessment in a 12-month period.
“Dan went through the protocols and passed with flying colours,” said Wales head coach, Wayne Pivac.
“Then we went to a world leading expert in concussion, who he saw at the World Cup. Every precaution has been taken and he has been cleared to play.”
France coach Fabien Galthie described Jones’s allegations that Les Bleus would cheat as a lack of respect towards his country.
“It’s a lack of respect towards our scrum, towards our team, towards French rugby, towards our nation,” said Galthie.
“In the first two matches, their scrum collapsed 13 times and was penalised six times. We were penalised four times,” the former France captain added.
The last game between the teams was won 20-19 by Wales in last year’s World Cup quarter-finals and Les Bleus have not prevailed in Cardiff since 2010.
“The World Cup is behind us, it’s in the past,” said Galthie, who named centre Gael Fickou on the wing for the game.
Fickou, the most capped player in a rejuvenated French squad, is covering for the absences of Damian Penaud, who has not recovered from a calf injury, and Vincent Rattez who broke his fibula in the 35-22 win over Italy.
France lead the table with nine points ahead of Ireland after beating Italy and England.
France: 15-Anthony Boutier, 14-Teddy Thomas, 13-Virimi Vakatawa, 12-Arthur Vincent, 11-Gael Fickou, 10-Romain Ntamack, 9-Antoine Dupont, 8-Gregory Alldritt, 7-Charles Ollivon (captain), 6-Francois Cros, 5-Paul Willemse, 4-Bernard Le Roux, 3-Mohamed Haouas, 2-Julien Marchand, 1-Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16-Camille Chat, 17-Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18-Demba Bamba, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Dylan Cretin, 21-Baptiste Serin, 22-Mathieu Jalibert, 23-Thomas Ramos