Eurosport

Beware the dragon!

Beware the dragon!
By Reuters

18/03/2006 at 16:12Updated

It will need a mighty Welsh backlash to prevent France from clinching their fourth successive win in Cardiff on Saturday and with it, probably, their the third Six Nations title in five years. On present form the French are clear favourites.

They have scored more than 30 points against Ireland, Italy and England and are one short of their record of 17 tries in a championship set in 2003.

They also are on the momentum of last weekend's record-equalling 31-6 thrashing of England.

The French know that if they win only an Irish triumph at Twickenham with an avalanche of tries will pip them at the post.

A French defeat would put Ireland back on the saddle as the Irish, like the French, go into the final round on three wins and a defeat.

Should France and Ireland lose, England and even Scotland could be crowned on match-points difference but even in that case the French look well set as the lead Ireland by 28 points and England by 40.

France coach Bernard Laporte refused to be drawn into these mind-boggling calculations and certainly would not want to limp to the title on the back of a defeat.

During this week's preparations Laporte has warned his players to "beware of the injured dragon".

Despite his warnings, however, it is still hard to see how the Welsh could turn the tide after a crushing 47-13 defeat at Twickenham, a clumsy 28-18 win over a Scotland team reduced to 14-men for most of the match, a 31-5 thrashing in Dublin and a 18-18 home draw with Italy.

CONCENTRATION LAPSE

Less than a year after they clinched their first grand slam in 27 years, the Welsh have lost their coach Mike Ruddock in obscure circumstances and captain Gareth Thomas and several other players who inspired their brilliant 2005 campaign are sidelined.

Scrumhalf Dwayne Peel and wing Mark Jones this week joined the casualty list while experienced flanker Colin Charvis has been dropped from team and squad by caretaker coach Scott Johnson.

As against England, the French will rely on the power and the experience of their front-five led by their 106-cap captain Fabien Pelous and the speed and skills of their back-three, Thomas Castaignede, Christophe Dominici and Aurelien Rougerie.

Laporte said he was more worried about a lapse in concentration by his own players than about a Welsh revival.

"I reminded the players that last year we were leading 15-6 at halftime but conceded two tries in five minutes after the break and the Welsh won 24-18," he said.

Follow the clash between Wales and France live on eurosport.com/co.uk Saturday from 18:30 cet!!!

TEAMS:

France: 15-Thomas Castaignede; 14-Aurelien Rougerie, 13-Florian Fritz, 12-Damien Traille, 11-Christophe Dominici; 10-Frederic Michalak, 9-Dimitri Yachvili; 8-Thomas Lievremont, 7-Julien Bonnaire, 6-Yannick Nyanga, 5-Jerome Thion, 4-Fabien Pelous (captain), 3-Pieter de Villiers, 2-Raphael Ibanez, 1-Sylvain Marconnet.
Replacements: 16-Dimitri Szarzewski, 17-Olivier Milloud, 18-Lionel Nallet, 19-Olivier Magne, 20-Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 21-Ludovic Valbon, 22-Cedric Heymans.

Wales: 15-Lee Byrne; 14-Dafydd James, 13-Hal Luscombe, 12-Matthew Watkins, 11-Shane Williams; 10-Stephen Jones, 9-Mike Phillips; 8-Alix Popham, 7-Martyn Williams, 6-Michael Owen (captain), 5-Robert Sidoli, 4-Ian Gough, 3-Adam Jones, 2-Rhys Thomas, 1-Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16-Mefin Davies, 17-Gethin Jenkins, 18-Jonathan Thomas, 19-Dafydd Jones, 20-Andy Williams, 21-Nicky Robinson, 22-Gavin Henson.

Referee: Chris White (England)

0
0