With the Six Nations set to kick off in Paris next week between France and Wales Robert Rees gives you his Wales side to face France as Warren Gatland kick starts the Wales campaign.
Injury setbacks for Wales will force changes
It’s been well known for a while that full back Leigh Halfpenny will be missing out with a concussion issue that has rallied on since the autumn Tests.
News from the camp earlier this week revealed that scrum half Gareth Davies (quad) and Ospreys centre Scott Williams (ankle) were struggling with injuries and would be doubtful for the opening round.
Liam Williams has also been fighting a thumb injury and may well be a late call to make the matchday squad.
Having any of these players in the 23 come next Friday’s match seems unlikely and so here is Robert Rees’ squad considering the injuries.
Ross Moriaty is also likely to remain out with a concussion injury.
With the injury to Nicky Smith occurring following the autumn internationals Rob Evans has had a chance to reclaim his starting jersey and looks set to do so against France. He should be partnered with Scarlets hooker Ken Owens, who has also plied his trade at eight recently and Tomas Francis seems the likely candidate to claim the tighthead spot following terrific form for Exeter.
A front row that’ll boast both set piece power and control around the park, it’s three players who will suit a ball retention game plan that Gatland seems to seek.
Second row partnership
With Adam Beard still unavailable Alun Wyn Jones will be partnered by Dragons lock Cory Hill, Seb Davies suited more to the bench under Gatland where he can cover both back and second row.
The AWJ and Hill duo has worked extremely well when chosen before and should really help give Wales that attacking platform they desire.
Back row conundrum
Losing Talaupe Faletau the night before squad selection and with Ross Moriaty still on the injured list it leaves Wales somewhat light at eight. Cardiff Blues flanker Josh Navidi has graced the jersey before and looks set to do so once again. His powerful carrying and uncompromising tackling will set the bar high for Wales’ tempo.
Injuries to Dan Lydiate, James Davies and Aaron Shingler has shortened the list of back row options to Wales, but fortunately Gatland still has a wealth of jewels at his disposal. 21-year-old Aaron wainwright’s desire and tenacity at the breakdown puts him in the blindside jersey and he’ll be partnered by one of the world’s best turnover gaining players, Justin Tipuric.
Half backs hit with injury
Gareth Davies seems to have been hit by injury that’ll prevent him playing against France and so it seems that Tomos Williams will be given a chance to show the world what he can do and if it’s anything like he’s been doing at the Blues this season it’ll be quick and accurate and get Wales going.
Gatland has been plugging with Gareth Anscombe recently, but against a powerful French team you could see why Dan Biggar is the prime candidate. His form at Northampton has excellent and despite a recent knock he should be fully fit.
Scarlets centres key to attacking fluidity
Scott Williams’ injury should see Hadleigh Parkes link up with Jon Davies in midfield. Powerful runners able to break the gain line will help put Wales on the front foot in attack, but also keep a hard, defensive stance when France bring their broken play attack.
Williams injury massive blow
If Liam Williams is out with a thumb injury it’ll be a huge blow for Gatland and Wales. His evasive and dynamic style puts every team under pressure. He offers an attacking platform from deep, but can play the Gatland territorial gameplan as well.
With Halfpenny already out this will allow the newest face on the Welsh scene to flourish. Jonah Holmes of the Leicester Tigers brings a hard-running game, a powerful boot and no compromise defensive game plan. His form has been top notch in the Premiership and Champions Cup and Welford Road fans will be pleased to see him getting game time.
The men outside him pick themselves. George North has found his try scoring form well this season bagging seven tries thus far for club and country. Josh Adams of Worcester will finalise the squad following some impressive displays in the autumn that saw him excel in both attack and defence.
Wales side to face France
Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Jon Davies, Josh Adams, Jonah Holmes.
Replacements; Nicky Smith, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Seb Davies, Thomas Young, Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Hallum Amos.
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