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Player v player – where the key Wales v France battles will be fought tonight


Friday night rugby: Principality Stadium

The Principality Stadium will witness some key battles tonight.

Rob Evans  v Rabah Slimani

The 23-year-old Pembrokeshire product Evans has been a revelation thus far in the Championship. The Scarlets prop has always been renowned as an explosive ball carrier, but it is his scrummaging power that has caught the eye of late. Evans will face a stern challenge in the tight, as he comes up against world class scrummager Rabah Slimani. The Stade Francais tight-head prop lives for scrummaging, and it was his dominance at scrum time that laid the foundations for les Bleus’ victory against Ireland.

Samson Lee v Jefferson Poirot

To emerge victorious tonight Wales will at the very least have to gain parity at scrum time. Scarlets tight-head prop Samson Lee is now fully recovered from a snapped achilles tendon, and appears to be back to his scrummaging best. Bordeaux prop Poirot is set to make his test debut, and is in for a baptism of fire against one of European rugby’s most destructive scrummagers.

Dan Lydiate v Wenceslas Lauret

The 53-times capped blindside Dan Lydiate has been restored to the starting 15 following being benched in the first two rounds. At his best the Ospreys man is a destructive tackler, having made his name chopping down big ball carriers at a rate of knots. However, Lydiate has been struggling for fitness of late, and will have his hands full dealing with the powerful carrying game of destructive Racing 92 man Wenceslas Lauret.

Gareth Davies v Maxime Machenaud

The battle of the two No 9s could well decide the outcome of this test match. One would be hard pressed to uncover a more threatening running scrum-half than Newcastle Emlyn product Davies. However, there remain question marks over his decision-making and game management. The selection of Racing 92 play-maker Machenaud changes the whole complexion of France’s attacking game. Machenaud is a world class goal kicker, and has the all round class and peripheral vision to set France loose.

Dan Biggar v Jules Plisson

Wales’ World Cup hero Dan Biggar has endured a frustrating first two rounds having been forced off the field in the opening exchanges in Dublin due to injury. The French will surely target the Ospreys man given that he is the general of this Welsh back-line. Plisson has had an inconsistent start to the Championship, with the French ten needing to be at his very best if France are to achieve their first win in Cardiff since 2010.

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