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Sport The Wales rugby team most likely to be selected on Thursday to face France this weekend

23:20  19 october  2020
23:20  19 october  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Wales are increasingly confident Dan Biggar will be fit to face France in the Six Nations, making a return for Rhys Priestland less likely . With 50 appearances to his name, Priestland falls below the current 60-cap rule which stops people playing club rugby outside of Wales being selected for Test

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Anyone wanting a reminder of how difficult it can be to predict a Wales team selection need only Tardis it back to 1993 after a dismal defeat by Scotland.

It finished 20-0 at Murrayfield back then, with the visitors barely offering an argument.

The calls for change came from far and wide.

Even the regimental goat who led the pre-match routines at Cardiff Arms Park in those days was said to have been fretting about keeping its job.

How many changes would there be?

Well, the routing of the Welsh pack in Edinburgh demanded six or seven new faces up front, didn’t it? Some wanted a completely fresh eight. The harshest critics wanted a few of the forwards to be dispatched to Saint Helena.

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That is likely to give them a quarter-final against Australia in Oita in 11 days' time, four years on from being knocked out of Find out how to get into rugby union with our special guide. Many , including you, said we wouldn't make it out of the group. Now with 15 points from 3 games, only team to do so

But when the team was announced for the game with Ireland next up, the only casualty was poor Wayne Proctor on the left wing.

So what’s it to be for Wayne Pivac this week?

Does he go strong for the warm-up against France this weekend, ahead of the Six Nations encounter with Scotland the week after? You’d think so, because players need to be tuned up. Or does he start introducing fresh blood in earnest? That would be a bold call, especially after three straight defeats.

WalesOnline rugby correspondent Mark Orders names the side he believes Pivac is likely to field.

15. LEIGH HALFPENNY

Is Liam Williams ready to resume after playing just one game in close on a year?

Would he be considered at full-back, anyway, or wing?

Questions, questions.

But Leigh Halfpenny has been rock-solid for the Scarlets. If form counts for anything he’ll be in the run-on side at Stade de France.

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Wales make 10 changes to the side that beat France for Saturday's Six Nations game against Italy as Wing North is nursing a shoulder problem and has not played much of a role in training this week in Nice. Wales huge favourites regardless of team selected , and good bench, but Weekend wins for England, Wales and Ireland. We shall see though and happy to be corrected if these are wrong.

14. JOSH ADAMS

He scores tries as effortlessly as the rest of us shell peas.

Well, that’s the way it appears.

Like all talented people, Adams puts in a huge amount of effort away from the lights.

Coaches like him because he never shirks responsibility and can come up with key moments.

In barely two years, he’s made himself one of the first names on the team-sheet.

13. JONATHAN DAVIES

Davies is still moving up the gears after his long absence from the game through injury.

The Wales squad also contains also three young centres, each blessed with different skill sets and each capable of doing a job for Wayne Pivac.

But experience and proven quality in the heat of Test battle continue to set Davies apart from the rest.

He has seen it all and, as long as he’s deemed match fit, should start in Paris.

12. NICK TOMPKINS

It’s been a patchy start to the campaign for the Dragons, but Tompkins is a buzz-bomb of a player and his class shone through in the loss against Leinster.

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Is he big enough and solid enough defensively to play inside centre at Test level? Well, he’s a former flanker so he very much can tackle.

Does he have the kicking game to support his No. 10? He has worked on that particular skill and is a nice passer of a ball. He is also supremely enthusiastic, good at the breakdown and a player who never stops working.

Throw him the jersey.

11. GEORGE NORTH

North has played just 14 minutes of rugby in seven months, which isn’t ideal, but Liam Williams is in the mix after playing even less rugby over a longer period.

Louis Rees-Zammit is waiting for his chance and Jonah Holmes has caught the eye for the Dragons.

From here, North still looks the man for the job.

He performed strongly for Wales against England last time out at Test level and scored a fine try for the Ospreys before the indiscretion against the Dragons which led to a red card and a four-week suspension.

France would be pleased were Pivac to start without North.

Which tells you pretty much all you need to know.

10. DAN BIGGAR

There’ll be a lobby to rush Callum Sheedy into the starting line-up — of course there will.

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Pay more attention to their basics – Malcolm Marx will surely never throw in as badly against at key moments – and reintroduce Faf de In the shorter term, though, they look likely to be without Eben Etzebeth for the remainder of their European tour after the imposing lock Wales rugby union team .

But he wouldn’t have trained with Wales last week as he was preparing for Bristol’s European Challenge Cup final against Toulon at the weekend.

Biggar is the man in possession and if the coaches are doing their jobs they’ll know exactly how much he is worth to a side.

Just five months ago, Northampton Saints coach Chris Boyd was saying: “Dan’s world class. He’s as good as anyone I’ve ever coached, a tough rooster.

“Whatever word you use, whether it’s grit, mental toughness or resilience, guys like Dan just do not go away.”

Stuff like that matters, especially to a side aiming to avoid a fourth straight defeat.

9. RHYS WEBB

The selectors could be forgiven for wondering where they are with the Ospreys No. 9.

Outstanding against Edinburgh, he didn’t come close to top gear against Ulster — all in the space of a week.

Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Yes, he does.

He’s a quality performer and the expectation is Test rugby will bring the best out of him.

1. WYN JONES

There’s a lot of competition at loose-head and not much between Jones and Nicky Smith.

Wayne Pivac picked Jones to face Scotland for the postponed game last March.

Nothing much has happened to the prop’s detriment since.

He starts.

2. RYAN ELIAS

Here’s an interesting one.

Ken Owens has been an absolute stalwart for Wales — a rock, a start-up player or whatever else you want to label someone who can be relied upon to stand on the defensive frontline and be the first to make a tackle and also be the first to make a hard-yards carry into the heart of the opposition cover.

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No other Welsh hooker has come close to him in recent years.

But his injury leaves the floor open.

Elias appears next in line for the job, though much will depend on performances in training.

3. SAMSON LEE

No Tomas Francis because of club commitments, no WillGriff John on grounds of selection.

So do Wales have anyone who can anchor a scrum?

Step forward, Samson Lee.

Dillon Lewis and Leon Brown offer a lot around the field, but Lee has been in form of late, working well in the set-piece and popping up around the field.

He’s the best scrummager available to Pivac for this weekend and the opposition is France.

That should mean the squat strongman from Llanelli starts.

4. JAKE BALL

Will Rowlands is set to be absent on Gallagher Premiership final duty, so it’s a case of which two from three locks do Wales opt for to partner Alun Wyn Jones.

Maybe the extra ballast and physical edge the 6ft 6in, 19st 7lb Ball provides just swings it ahead of the hard-working Cory Hill and the in-form Seb Davies.

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5. ALUN WYN JONES

It’s a warm-up for the Six Nations match against Scotland so the need is for the selectors to go strong and there is no stronger player available than the captain.

He’ll draw level in Paris with Richie McCaw as the world’s most capped Test player with 148.

What a player he continues to be.

6. ROSS MORIARTY

It’s a stab in the dark here, as there is no precise information on Josh Navidi out there after his training concussion with Cardiff Blues.

He hasn’t played a rugby match since his outing against the Ospreys on August 30.

So it seems to be a case of take your pick out of Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright.

Both have been going well for the Dragons.

But it’s an away game against France and maybe the extra grit of the frequently unsung Moriarty just nudges the call his way.

7. JUSTIN TIPURIC

Even in adversity this guy shines.

He’s a master craftsman who always fronts up.

James Davies will start at some point in the Autumn Nations Cup, but right now Pivac will want to give his front liners match practice ahead of the Scotland game, and Tipuric very much fits the bill as a front liner.

8. TAULUPE FALETAU

Bath may have been thrashed by Exeter in the Gallagher Premiership playoff semi-final a week last Saturday, but Faletau was one of his side’s best players — clean in defence and achieving go-forward with ball in hand.

Wales need him to be at his very best.

Pivac will see his effort against the Chiefs as boding well.

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