Brunel faces big decisions ahead of Welsh clash

Jacques Brunel will name his team for France’s final game of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations with Les Bleus going in search of a third straight victory.

Jacques Brunel will name his team for France’s final game of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations with Les Bleus going in search of a third straight victory.

After two narrow losses to begin the Championship, France have responded well by beating Italy and then England.

Click here for the complete 2018 NatWest 6 Nations fixture list

They now head to Cardiff to take on Wales with the prospect of second place in the table up for grabs, and the new France boss has some big decisions to make ahead of the announcement at 9.30am French time.   CAPTAINCY ISSUES   The biggest concern for Brunel will be the expected absence of Guilhem Guirado, who has been struggling with a knee injury and is set to miss out.

The 31-year-old Toulon hooker took over the captaincy in 2016 after the retirement of Thierry Dusautoir, and has been a virtual ever-present since.

Only Jules Plisson and Yoann Maestri have captained France in that period, but with neither in the squad, a new skipper would have to be named.

Mathieu Bastareaud has been acting as vice-captain and is expected to take on the role, which he already holds at Toulon.

Of the others in the team, scrum-half Maxime Machenaud has captaincy experience with Racing 92 and could potentially fill the role if required.   FRONT ROW OPTIONS   With Guirado set to miss out, there will be a change at hooker where Brunel has a trio of explosive options. Adrien Pélissié has come off the bench in every game so far, and appears to be in pole position to start. The Bordeaux hooker came from Pro D2 last season and has seized his opportunity with both hands.

Camille Chat, Guirado’s back-up for most of 2017, is now over the virus that had kept him out of the start of the Championship, while 20-year-old Pierre Bourgarit of La Rochelle, provides a dynamic alternative.

There could also be a switch at tighthead prop where Cedate Gomes Sa has impressed off the bench in his first NatWest 6 Nations, and could be in line for a first start ahead of Rabah Slimani.   BACK THREE   France lost Hugo Bonneval to injury early in the game against England, and he is struggling to be fit for this game.

Gaël Fickou replaced him, going to the wing, while Benjamin Fall shifted to full-back and that could be the set-up once again.

Yoann Huget was called up as cover for Bonneval so provides an alternative option in the back three should Brunel want one.   BENCH MAKE-UP   Brunel is likely to stick with the same replacements that saw out the win over England, although there are a couple of potential changes in store.

Dany Priso has done well when given the opportunity, but Eddy Ben Arous is an experienced option as loosehead cover, while Arthur Iturria could well come into the matchday 23.

The Clermont lock started the first two games of the Championship, and after missing the two victories, he is back in the squad in place of the injured Romain Taofifenua.

It would appear to be a straight shootout between Iturria and Bernard Le Roux for the replacement lock role, with the Clermont player possibly ahead as a specialist second row.