Wales: 100 up for Taulupe Faletau while Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar and Louis Rees-Zammit among starters for Six Nations clash with France
Number eight Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th cap for Wales in a much-changed line-up for their final match of the Six Nations against France.
Faletau is joined in the back-row by Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright for the Paris meeting, with the latter replacing Jac Morgan on the blindside flank this week.
There is one other alteration to the forward pack as the experienced Alun Wyn Jones comes in for young Dafydd Jenkins in the second-row, who moves to bench duty.
Louis Rees-Zammit at full-back
Wales‘ changes to the backline leads to a new midfield partnership named by head coach Warren Gatland, as Nick Tompkins partners George North against the French.
There’s also a rare start at full-back for Louis Rees-Zammit, who replaces the injured Liam Williams in the 15 shirt. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams continue on the wings.
Dan Biggar has returned from injury at 10 and links up with scrum-half Rhys Webb, who made his first start in this year’s Championship against Italy last weekend.
Dillon Lewis is in line to make his 50th international run-out for Wales from the bench and is joined by Bradley Roberts and Gareth Thomas as front-row cover.
Jenkins and Tommy Reffell are the other forwards in the matchday 23. Leigh Halfpenny is one of the replacement backs, along with Tomos Williams and Owen Williams.
Gatland said: “Last weekend was really important for us getting a win in the Six Nations and building a bit of confidence. It was a step in the right direction, but there’s still lots for us to work on.
“We’ve worked hard on a few things in terms of tidying some of the defensive lapses that we’ve made and getting those things right. We’re still working hard on our attack.
“I think France last weekend put in probably one of the best performances seen in a long, long time. They’re the number two team in the world. They bring a really physical approach to the way they play, and they’ve tended to start well.
“So that’s the important thing. We’ve got to go out there and start well, make sure we’re in that arm wrestle with them and give ourselves that opportunity.
“They’re a team that kick the ball a lot, so we’ve also got to make sure that our backfield is right and we’ve got to be good in the air.”
Praise for Faletau ahead of 100th
On Faletau reaching 100 caps for Wales, Gatland added: “Toby has been a fantastic servant for Welsh rugby. Even though he’s reaching 100 caps he’s still pretty quiet, but he’s incredibly well-respected by the players for what he’s achieved.
“I remember in the early years, he was just a constant and he became absolutely world class in terms of his performances.
“There’s a lot of things that people don’t see in terms of his ability to read the game – he’ll run support lines that people don’t see. You see that when you’re going back through the videos and there have been times where he’s been on the end of a pass and scored tries. We saw that last week, Rhys Webb makes a break and Toby scores a try.
“Getting 100 caps is a great recognition for what he’s achieved in the game. It’s fantastic for him and his family, and hopefully we can go out there and give him a really good performance and something for him to remember.”
Wales: 15 Louis Rees-Zammit, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Leigh Halfpenny
Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 15:45 local (14:45 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
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