By David Williams
Wayne Pivac believes Wales’ experience will prove the vital difference in their Six Nations finale against a strong France side in Paris.
Wales will field the most experienced starting XV in their history with 987 international caps, with 14 of the starting line-up having won Grand Slams in the past.
A sixth Six Nations crown and fifth Grand Slam will be secured if they beat solitary title rivals France on Saturday night and Pivac is confident his experienced players will come to the fore.
“We’re very lucky that in our changing room we’re going to have 14 of the starting 15 having won a Grand Slam before,” said Pivac.
“There are plenty on the bench and in the management that have also done it before. There is a lot of experience to call on in these situations which is a good place to be.
“You don’t become a perfect team overnight, it takes time and we’re nowhere near perfect – we know that. We’ve got our own motivation.
“With the amount of guys that have been in this position before, it’s not new to them. They’re very focused on an 80-minute performance this week without worrying about any external motivation.
“No matter what level of the game you’re at, when you have senior players you want that input all the time. They’re the ones who have to play the game on a Saturday.
“It’s just about getting the balance right between getting the input from players and coaches.
“When you’ve got 14 of your starting side that have won a Grand Slam before, you want that experience and those conversations to come out.”
Pivac has made one change to the starting XV which ran riot against Italy last weekend with Ospreys second-row Adam Beard replacing Cory Hill who drops to the replacements bench.
There are three changes on the bench with Nicky Smith, James Botham, and Tomos Williams involved.
Victory for Wales will secure the Grand Slam, but Pivac is well aware his side will have their hands full against the strongest France side in recent memory.
“They’re a very good side,” said Pivac when asked about France.
“We know that from the two games that we’ve had against them. I thought they played well and controlled that game [against England] for large parts and were probably desperately unlucky at the end.
“We know we’re going to be in for a very big challenge. They have quality right across the park and they come up with some great plays.
“Their try from the line-out was an excellent play so we’re going to have to have our wits about us.
“Obviously, they bring a lot of attacking threats and they’ve got a very good attacking kicking game.
“So I think our back three, in particular, are going to have a lot of work to do.”
Williams started Wales’ Six Nations opener against Ireland last month, but he was hurt during that game and has not played since.
Beard, who featured in Wales’ opening three games, is back as captain Alun Wyn Jones’ second-row partner, and Gareth Davies retains the number nine shirt.
Jones equals New Zealander Richie McCaw’s total of caps – 148 – for one country, although Jones already holds the world Test match appearance record, when his nine British and Irish Lions Tests are added.
🎥 Nous avons suivi les joueurs du #XVdeFrance toute la journée d’hier ! Plongez au coeur de la préparation des Bleus à 3 jours du choc face au Pays de Galles 🏴#NeFaisonsXV pic.twitter.com/5c6NmhjL79
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) March 18, 2021
And if Wales triumph, it would be Jones’ fourth Grand Slam as a player, which is a feat never previously achieved in 21 years of Six Nations action.
A losing bonus point would still be enough to secure Wales the title if France do not collect a five-point maximum on Saturday.
And Pivac added: “It is something we are aware of, the different scenarios. But you prepare a team for a game of rugby, and it is an 80-minute effort.
“It’s about the performance, and if everyone delivers on their roles, we give ourselves a good opportunity to win the game.”
Pivac is not the only member of his family involved in a major sporting occasion, with his son Bradley part of the on-shore events team involved in the America’s Cup that saw Team New Zealand retain the trophy off the Auckland coast.
Pivac said: “Bradley has been working on the America’s Cup, so they are pretty excited down there, having just won that.
“They are like any family, really. They are very supportive.
“It would be nice if they were here, but they will be watching. It’s a perfect kick-off time for them (in New Zealand), I think!”
Pivac’s first year in charge produced just three victories – against Italy twice, and Georgia – from 10 Tests, so current Six Nations success underlines an impressive turnaround.
“We are heading in the right direction,” he added.
“In one of his chats earlier in the week, Alun Wyn Jones talked about Saturday being when we need to bring all the mental energy and be right physically.
“This week is about making sure the boys have a full tank of gas on Saturday. It is about making sure we don’t over-train and over-think the game too early on.”
Fabien Gathie has named an unchanged starting line-up as France keep faith with the team that lost to England.
Head coach Gathie has kept faith with the same XV from that match, which sees Matthieu Jalibert once again start alongside Antoine Dupoint in the halves with Romain Ntamack on the bench.
Alun Wyn Jones:🏴
6 Nations Championship: 2008, 2012,2013,2019
Grand Slam: 2008, 2012, 2019
Triple Crown: 2008, 2012, 2019, 2021
Doddie Weir Cup: 2018,2019,2021
Prince William Cup: 2014,2016,2017,2018
British& Irish Lions Series: 2013 Winner, 2017 Drawn.
Winner. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/2iJwSuiF6U
— Rugby Union 2021 (@2014_rugby) March 1, 2021
“We chose him for a simple reason, he was excellent against England,” Galthie said of 22-year-old fly-half Jalibert, who was named as last weekend’s Six Nations player of the round.
“He was solid, he kicked perfectly and performed well in the way he managed the game against very tough opposition.”
Gathie has made changes among the replacements though, with Uini Antonio, Swan Rebbadj and Arthur Vincent coming back into contention as France go for a five-three split of forwards and backs on the bench.
France: 15 Brice Dulin; 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Damian Penaud; 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont; 1 Cyril Baille, 2 Julien Marchand, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 4 Romain Taofifenau, 5 Paul Willemse, 6 Dylan Cretin, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: 16 Camile Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Uini Antonio, 19 Swan Rebbadj, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Arthur Vincent.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams; 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Josh Adams; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Nicky Smith, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Josh Navidi, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Botham, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Uilisi Halaholo.
One thought on “987 Caps, 14 Grand Slam Winners . . . Wayne Pivac Says Wales Are Ready For French Test”
All respect to Doddie Weir but his cup and the other one are not really international prizes,indeed the Triple Crown is a bit meaningless these days although I know the Irish make a song and dance when they win it.We don’t and to be fair to them neither do the English.