France-Wales pundits struggle as Woodward predicts French victory and Warburton expects Welsh title

France-Wales pundits struggle as Woodward predicts French victory and Warburton expects Welsh title

France v Wales offer a fitting Six Nations Super Saturday final tonight, although it is not quite the last game of the tournament.
Everyone agrees it will be tight, but experts are also divided on who will line the meeting in Paris.

Here’s a roundup of some of the big names in UK media.

Sir Clive Woodward, Daily Mail

I have yet to find a Wales fan or expert who predicted a Grand Slam, so there is no pressure on Wayne Pivac and his team at the Stade de France on Saturday night.

A Slam would be a huge bonus for Wales. Otherwise, the championship would be a huge success.

Having said that, I always tip France to win.

Oddly, this is their first home game of these Covid-affected 2021 Six Nations and that’s another reason I think they’ll be stepping up their game for visiting Wales. I’m expecting a big French reaction and a quick start. The key to Wales will be this.

Alun Wyn Jones flexed his muscles again after a leisurely fall, influential Ken Owens returned from injury, Taulupe Faletau shoots again and Jonathan Davies overcame more injury issues to start watching the world-class artist qu ‘he is. Justin Tipuric is back at his best, Josh Adams is still a deadly finisher. They are all powerful players.

Wales have the firepower to really attack the French all over the place, but I also think France itself will see this as a challenge. It will stimulate them.

So I’m taking France to win a Six Nations Classic and if that happens of course the subplot will be whether the French can claim a tryout bonus point and / or whether Wales could recoup lost bonus points before next Friday’s final. Everything to play.

Sam Warburton, The Times

Beating the speed of Shaun Edwards’ line on defense will be critical. Offensive kicks are an option, but for me the speed of carrying the ball is more important. England were superb this past weekend, with Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola doing well and you could pause the video on contact as scrum-half Ben Youngs went to play the ball and you could still see the players. French to fall back into position, so they weren’t ready to break the line.

Wales must therefore behave well. It’s not necessarily about running huge distances, but rather winning the collision, presenting the ball well, clearing efficiently and clearing the ball quickly before the defensive line is established.

The aerial kicking game will also be vital. Full-back Brice Dulin and half-pilot Matthieu Jalibert seemed to be trembling under the high ball against England.

I think France are favorites to win, but I also think they are not as formidable a team as they would have seemed in the fall.

Wales have some loopholes to expose and Wales can win but even if they don’t I would encourage them to take a losing bonus point and that should be enough to win the title.

Maggie Alphonsi, telegraph

I recently worked with Shane Williams and Gareth Thomas and was struck by the respect and admiration they have for him. His peers realize how vital Tipuric is to the Welsh side, and there is no higher praise.

Warren Gatland has always been a huge fan, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tipuric leave for the Lions this summer. I would also have him by my side, although I would move Tipuric to No.6 and play Tom Curry in the open.

His impact on the pitch would be offset by Curry’s incredible work during the blackout, and would work brilliantly with the No.8 thrust of a Billy Vunipola or Taulupe Faletau.

Tipuric can do just about anything, and if he takes over Ollivon on Saturday, Wales will have taken a big step towards the Grand Slam.

Mike Phillips

France has changed for about a year.

Wales, even in the World Cup, had the chance to beat France. On this occasion, I thought they really outperformed us. They fired a man, so we were very lucky in that regard.

They will present opportunities, they will pose a real threat with the ball in hand and they can score brilliant tries from anywhere. They sometimes lack a bit of discipline.

There will be opportunities for Wales and I think the confidence of this team is showing now, the firepower in the back three and in the back row, I think we will be too strong for them and I think we we will simply succeed in obtaining the victory.

It’s about channeling that kind of energy and making sure the goal is there, what it will be.

Rugbyrama, France

Considered by many to be the final of this Six Nations tournament, this meeting between France and Wales should have fans on their toes.

Beaten by a breath at Twickenham last week (23-20), France must redeem itself at the Stade de France. The Blues will face the surprise and the undefeated leaders of the competition. The Welsh rely on their iron defense and their attacking individualities to win matches.

In line with what Fabien Galthié’s men have been showing us for some time, and in view of the players’ spirit of revenge after the cruel defeat of last week, we are witnessing a French victory.

Nigel Owens, Wales

I think the model for success came from what we saw against England in Cardiff a few weeks ago. Wales were physically stronger in the final 20 minutes which put pressure on the English players and forced those mistakes that Alun Wyn Jones and his team have so magnificently capitalized on.

We have to put France under similar pressure, win the collision zone, really bring them and make Dupont play the game on the back foot. He may still be a genius then, but at least Wales is the one who plays rugby on the front foot.

At the same time, in what will inevitably be a very close competition, Wales must take every chance that comes their way. I felt that two or three tries were going to beg against Italy. When entering the danger zone in Paris, Wales cannot afford to let a sloppy forward pass mean a try is ruled out against France as that could unfortunately prove costly in the final calculation .

Another thing that I think Wales have in their favor is the fact that the Stade de France will be empty and believe me, based on my refereeing experiences there, that will be a world of difference. A crowded pitch in Paris really lifts the French players, those chants of “Go Les Bleus” echo throughout the stadium, and the lack of spectators is certainly something that could make the difference in such a close game.

Wales to win the Grand Slam – fair. It will be exceptionally close.


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