By David Williams
Wales assistant coach Alex King has compared France captain Antoine Dupont with New Zealand superstar Dan Carter in terms of the way he influences Test matches.
Wales face France in Paris on Saturday, when a bonus-point victory for Les Bleus would maintain pressure on Guinness Six Nations leaders and title favourites Ireland.
And Wales’ acute degree of difficulty has not been helped by full-back Liam Williams missing out due to a shoulder injury.
Williams was hurt during the 29-17 victory over Italy, having earlier scored a superb solo try.
Hooker Scott Baldwin, meanwhile, is also unavailable for the Stade de France encounter because of a pectoral muscle issue. Ospreys hooker Sam Parry has been called into the squad.
Alex King returns to take on coaching Wales’ attack full time. Pic: Getty Images.
And surprisingly, there is no place for Exeter forward Chris Tshiunza among a 32-strong Wales training squad preparing in Nice for the France finale.
Despite starting the defeats against Scotland and England in this season’s tournament, Tshiunza has been left out, along with uncapped Cardiff lock Teddy Williams.
France are fresh from a 53-10 drubbing of England at Twickenham – a performance that took the breath away with its accuracy, pace and power.
Former world player of the year Dupont, inevitably, was at the heart of it, delivering yet another of his masterclasses.
King said: “Dupont is probably in the best form of any scrum-half I have seen.
“His ability to flick the switch from defence to attack is sensational, really. They have got players across the board that if you allow them time and space, they can make an afternoon very difficult, as we saw at Twickenham.
“He is deceptively strong and he has this ability to get out of situations in which you think you have cornered him.
“Suddenly there is an off-load and the French get into their flow. He is quite remarkable and his skill-set is phenomenal.
“I suppose Dan Carter in his prime with the All Blacks had a similar influence on games.
“Dupont is certainly a player who is right at the top of his game. I spoke to a few friends who were at Twickenham last weekend and they all said it was a pleasure to watch him play.”
Wales have lost four on the bounce against France and Les Bleus underlined the brilliance of their all-court game in consigning England to a record Twickenham defeat.
“They are incredibly physical,” King added. “It was an area they won hands-down against England. I don’t think England had an area in the game where they could get a foothold.
“We are going to learn from that game. I am not going to give too much away in interview, but we will have a plan and it is up to us to get it right and execute it on Saturday.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his starting line-up on Thursday and he has options in the full-back position as Williams’ replacement.
Wing Louis Rees-Zammit could be switched, having worn the number 15 shirt during the Autumn Nations Series earlier this season.
And Leigh Halfpenny, who started Wales’ 20-10 defeat against England at full-back last month, would also be firmly in the selection frame.
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