Match Preview


Damian Penaud Wales
Wales welcome France to Principality Stadium on Sunday as they look to secure a first win of the 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations.

Warren Gatland’s side were beaten in Dublin last time out, while France were held to a draw at home to Italy, leaving both teams desperate for a response.

Les Bleus have struggled to find their best form since losing at home to Ireland in the opening round, but coach Fabien Galthié is optimistic that they can turn things around in the final two rounds.

That was certainly the case a year ago, when after an up-and-down campaign, they travelled to Twickenham and secured a record victory over England.

Wales, however, produced their best half of rugby in this campaign in their only previous home game – almost pulling off a remarkable comeback win over Scotland as they went down 27-26 after trailing 27-0.

France are unbeaten in fixtures between the sides since 2019, but have had to battle on their two previous wins in Cardiff.

Both Gatland and Galthié have rung the changes, leaving plenty of uncertainty at what to expect in the Welsh capital.

Where to watch

The game will kick off at 3pm UK time, with fans able to watch the encounter on BBC 1, as well as on BBC Sport via iPlayer, the red button and the website. Television coverage will begin at 2:20pm. The game is also available with Welsh language commentary on S4C and S4C online, while in Ireland the game will be shown on RTÉ 2. For fans in France, the game will be shown on France 2.

Team news

Warren Gatland has made four changes to the side that travelled to Dublin, including an all-new midfield pairing.

Owen Watkin and one-cap man Joe Roberts are preferred to experienced pair Nick Tompkins and George North as Gatland tries to find a spark in attack.

There are two changes in the pack as Ryan Elias comes in for Elliot Dee at hooker, while Dafydd Jenkins shifts to blindside flanker to make space for Will Rowlands to come into the side at lock.

France, meanwhile, have made eight changes, the most in a Championship clash in the Galthié era.

There are three debutants in the starting line-up, with Emmanuel Meafou getting a first cap at lock, while Nicolas Depoortère gets a chance at inside centre and Léo Barré starts at full-back.

That sees Thomas Ramos move to fly-half for the first time as a Test starter, linking with Nolann Le Garrec who makes a first Test start. Elsewhere, Grégory Alldritt returns to captain the side, while Thibaud Flament is back for his first appearance of the Championship. Julien Marchand is promoted to start at hooker and Louis Bielle-Biarrey returns on the wing.

There is one more new face on the bench with La Rochelle prop Georges-Henri Colombe in line for his debut.

What they said

Wales coach Warren Gatland said: “It’ll be a tough, physical challenge from France on Sunday particularly up front. We know they will start hard and it’s about us staying in the fight, having good line speed defensively and keeping our discipline. We’re looking for an 80-minute performance.

“We’re excited to be back at home for our last two matches and looking forward to getting out in front of a passionate Welsh crowd this weekend.”

France coach Fabien Galthié said: “We want a consistency of selection but this is probably the Championship where have given out the most debuts. That can be explained by some of the red cards and injuries that have opened up spots. But also, the performance of other players. I have always said that players need to come and grab the jersey. That is what has happened this week, but also over the last five years.”

Key battle – Second row

France have brought in a completely new second row for this clash, with Toulouse duo Thibaud Flament and Emmanuel Meafou fit and available for the first time.

The dynamic Flament has become a regular fixture for Les Bleus and his lineout ability and threat with ball in hand will be invaluable.

Meafou, meanwhile, is a huge carrying option, who has racked up remarkable try-scoring numbers for Toulouse – with 26 tries in 91 games – an unbelievable return for a second row.

To counter Meafou’s size – he weighs in at about 145kg – Wales have beefed up their front five as Will Rowlands starts and Dafydd Jenkins moves to blindside flanker.

The young skipper should still be able to play an important part in the lineout, while Rowlands’ ability to get slow ball over the gainline will be crucial against such a strong French pack.

Stat attack

  • France have won each of their last five men’s Test matches against Wales after winning just one in nine against them previously. It is their longest winning streak against Wales since a run of 12 victories between 1983 and 1993.

  • Wales have lost their first three matches of the 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations, having also done so in 2023.

  • France have won just one of their last four men’s Test matches (D1, L2) after winning 24 in 26 previously. Their sole win during that period came in their only away match (20-16 against Scotland).

  • France boast the highest tackle success rate of any team in this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (90%) and missed just 11 during their most recent match against Italy, the fewest of any team in a single match in this year’s Championship.

Fantasy watch

No player is more dangerous at the breakdown than Tommy Reffell, so it is little surprise that he is Wales’s top-performing player in Fantasy Rugby. Still just 13.9 stars, he has been excellent all campaign.

For France, while it may seem a gamble to go for a debutant before seeing what they can do at international level, Emmanuel Meafou’s threat from close range makes him a constant threat if France can get into the 22. At just 7.7 stars, he is the cheapest French player in the entire game.

Meanwhile, fellow newbie Nicolas Depoortère has been prolific for club side Bordeaux-Bègles this season with seven tries in all competitions. He did similar in helping France to World Under-20s glory last year, notching eight tries in 13 appearances for the Under-20s. He is available for just 8.6 stars.


Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams, 1 Gareth Thomas, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 Adam Beard, 6 Dafydd Jenkins (c), 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Aaron Wainwright

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alex Mann, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady

France: 15 Léo Barré, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortère, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 1 Cyril Baille, 2 Julien Marchand, 3 Uini Atonio, 4 Thibaud Flament, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 6 François Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Grégory Alldritt

Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sébastien Taofifénua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifénua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana