There is something special about Friday night rugby. The tension builds all day before two teams face off in an electric atmosphere.
In the Guinness Six Nations, Friday night rugby means Cardiff or Paris, and after three years away, it is fitting that it returns with a clash between Wales and France.
The defending champions against the current leaders – we could have an absolute thriller on our hands at Principality Stadium.
With that in mind, how much can we read into previous Friday night fixtures?
EARLY FRENCH SUCCESS
Well it all began back in 2009. On that occasion, as will be the case this week, Wales were the defending champions. They had won the Grand Slam in 2008 and were hoping to repeat the trick in Paris.
In Round 3 they went to the Stade de France with convincing wins over England and Scotland under their belts, and looked like they would make it three when Lee Byrne scythed through for the opening try midway through the first half.
Thierry Dusautoir’s try on the stroke of half-time swung the momentum, with the teams going in level before Cedric Heymans danced his way over as France emerged 21-16 victors.
A year later, France repeated the feat, this time in Cardiff with a 26-20 success on their way to claiming the Grand Slam – their last to date.
An intercept score from Alexis Palisson, and another opportunistic try from François Trinh-Duc put France in control and they held on despite Shane Williams’ brilliant solo effort at the death.
Those two performances will give French fans confidence, but the more recent meetings tell a different tale.
NO STOPPING GEORGE
While Wales went down to England at home in the next Friday night game in 2011, beaten 26-19, Warren Gatland’s team then beat France twice in a row in 2014 and 2016, either side of another loss to the English.
Both were comfortable wins, 27-6 in 2014 thanks to tries from George North and Sam Warburton, along with 17 points from Leigh Halfpenny. Then two years later it was North again, and 14 points from Dan Biggar, that helped earn a 19-10 win.
North is clearly a fan of the Friday night fixtures, scoring twice in a 22-9 win over Ireland in 2017, as well as playing a leading role in the most recent Friday clash.
THE MOTHER OF ALL COMEBACKS
In perhaps the most memorable of them all, France (who had beaten Italy 34-17 in 2018 in the only Friday fixture not to feature Wales) raced into a 16-0 half-time lead thanks to tries from Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations opener at the Stade de France.
Wales then produced the biggest comeback in Championship history with North again grabbing a double, pouncing on mistakes from Huget and Sébastien Vahaamahina after Tomos Williams had got Wales on the board.
The second North try, a long-range intercept, proved to be the matchwinner in a 24-19 victory that sparked a fourth Grand Slam of the Six Nations era for Wales.
With three wins from three, France are looking to match that achievement, 12 years on from a Friday night win in Wales that set them on their way to their last Grand Slam.
Both Wales and France boast 50 percent winning records on a Friday night so expect another close one in Cardiff.
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