Wales vs France

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Gatland believes his side, on a run of nine straight victories, can win the tournament if they prevail in this game.

What time is kick-off?

It starts at 8pm GMT, 9pm local time, on Friday, February 1 – ie tonight.

What TV channel is it on?

You can watch the game on BBC – and for live coverage of the match, we’ll be live blogging the score on the day.

Play our Telegraph Fantasy Rugby Six Nations game and be in with a chance of winning a £5,000 prize!

Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud has been left out of the France team for Friday’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Wales in Paris.

The experienced defensive linchpin makes way as Les Bleus head coach Jacques Brunel hands a Test debut to 19-year-old Toulouse centre Romain Ntamack alongside Wesley Fofana in midfield.

Ntamack is the son of former France wing Emile Ntamack, who made his Test debut against Wales 25 years ago and won 46 caps.

Ntamack has been a key figure behind Toulouse’s resurgence in the Top 14 and Heineken Champions Cup this term, helping them to secure a European quarter-final appointment with Racing 92 later this season.

Brunel has announced a team that also sees a call-up for another newcomer in Montpellier lock Paul Willemse.

Elsewhere, experienced Clermont Auvergne scrum-half Morgan Parra returns to the starting XV and he is partnered at half-back by his club colleague Camille Lopez.

There are also opportunities for the likes of Toulouse full-back Maxime Medard, Bordeaux-Begles prop Jefferson Poirot and Clermont flanker Arthur Iturria in a side skippered by hooker Guilhem Guirado.

France have not won the Six Nations title since 2010, while they arrive in this season’s tournament following a disappointing autumn campaign that saw them beaten by South Africa and Fiji.

Wales team news

Wales coach Warren Gatland has selected Tomas Williams at scrumhalf for Friday’s Six Nations opener against France in Paris, preferring the Cardiff Blues number nine to the more experienced Gareth Davies.

Williams made his Wales debut in June last year and has six caps, 30 fewer than Davies, who has only recently returned from a thigh injury and will take his place among the replacements.

Gatland opted instead to pair Williams with his Blues team mate Gareth Anscombe, who will start in the flyhalf berth at the Stade de France.

Ken Owens is set to make a 61st appearance that would make him the most capped hooker in Welsh history.

Josh Navidi is back from injury to start at flank in a back-row that also includes Justin Tipuric and number eight Ross Moriarty.

Alun Wyn-Jones will captain the side from lock in what is his 49th Six Nations appearance.

Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies continue their partnership at centre with Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams making up the back three.

Leigh Halfpenny, Leon Brown, Rhys Patchell and Scott Williams were not considered due to injury.

“We come into the game on an impressive run of results but we know how tough it will be to face France in Paris in the tournament opener,” Gatland said in a media statement from Welsh Rugby.

“It will be a huge contest but we are excited going into it. We have a great deal of experience across the team and on the bench and we want to kick things off well on Friday.”

Wales finished runners-up in the Six Nations last year and are on a nine-match unbeaten run in what is Gatland’s final season with the side before he ends his 12-year tenure after the World Cup in Japan.

France 2019 Six Nations fixtures

  • France vs Wales…. Stade de France (Paris)…. Friday, February 1…. 8pm GMT…. BBC
  • England vs France…. Twickenham (London)…. Sunday, February 10…. 3pm GMT…. ITV
  • France vs Scotland…. Stade de France (Paris)…. Saturday, February 23…. 2.15pm GMT…. BBC
  • Ireland vs France…. Aviva Stadium (Dublin)…. Sunday, March 10…. 3pm GMT…. ITV
  • Italy vs France…. Stadio Olimpico (Rome)…. Saturday, March 16…. 12.30pm GMT…. ITV

Wales 2019 Six Nations fixtures

  • France vs Wales…. Stade de France (Paris)…. Friday, February 1…. 8pm GMT…. BBC
  • Italy vs Wales…. Stadio Olimpico (Rome)…. Saturday, February 9…. 4.45pm GMT…. ITV
  • Wales vs England…. Principality Stadium (Cardiff)…. Saturday, February 23…. 4.45pm GMT…. BBC
  • England vs Italy…. Twickenham (London)…. Saturday, March 9…. 4.45pm GMT…. ITV
  • England vs Scotland…. Twickenham (London)…. Saturday, March 16…. 5pm GMT…. ITV

Find out more about the Six Nations 2019 fixtures.

What happened in this fixture in 2018?

An error-strewn, disjointed encounter in Cardiff was eventually won 14-13 by Wales. A try from Liam Williams and three Halfpenny penalties proved enough.

What are they saying?

French federation president Bernard Laporte:

“It is a great year for French rugby. I am very excited. I wouldn’t say reassured, I wouldn’t say worried, but excited”

“When you look at the results [in 2018], you see they lost in the last second against Ireland and South Africa. It is true that they also lost to Fiji and it was deserved but they also beat Argentina and England. I’m not saying France are the best but they are not far from the best.

“That is why this Six Nations is exciting and crucial. Either we play a good championship and we go to the World Cup with some certainty, or we play a bad championship and the group will be eaten up by doubts.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland:

“We’ve got a great chance of winning the Six Nations, if we win that opening game.”

“That first game is going to be our toughest, but if we can get a win I think we’ll have a good tournament and the whole thing about Six Nations is momentum.

“We feel like we’re in as good a position as anybody to do well.”

What is our prediction?

Gatland is on a mission to sign off in style and his players will be buoyed by that swagger. Wales are on a roll, and should have enough to squeeze through this tough first game. However, France will put up a fight. Predicted score: France 19 Wales 23


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