Six Nations: Wales host France at the Millennium Stadium on Friday

Last Updated: 21/02/14 8:31pm

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Wales' defence of their Six Nations crown is teetering on the brink of failure as a buoyant France side visit the Millennium Stadium for a rare Friday night encounter.

If Warren Gatland's side are to have any chance of retaining their title and recording a historic hat-trick they must bounce back from their worst Six Nations defeat since 2006 after losing 26-3 to Ireland in Dublin.

Wales have lost only one of the last seven Six Nations encounters in Cardiff, but the inconsistency of their performances in the opening two rounds will give France hope of a rare win outside Paris.

Les Bleus are winless in their last four Six Nations away games - their worst such sequence since 1986 - and have won just once on the road in the Championship since February 2011.

France have not opened a campaign with three successive wins since they went on to take the Grand Slam in 2010 but success in Cardiff will open up the way for tilt at silverware, with a showdown against Ireland at the Stade de France in the last game of the tournament.


Gatland raised eyebrows on Wednesday as he announced Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb would make his first start, in place of 82-cap Mike Phillips.

Luke Charteris missed that chastening defeat in Dublin with a hamstring injury but is fit enough to reclaim Andrew Coombes' place in the pack, while Scarlets winger Liam Williams replaced his injured namesake, Scott.

Injuries to Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams have forced Gatland to modify his midfield, which has long been the spearhead of his team's attack.

Jamie Roberts' - the tournament's top ball-carrier to date - partnership with George North will be the seventh different starting combination in the Welsh centres in the last eight games. When Wales won last year's tournament, Roberts and Davies started every game together.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made just one change to his team for Friday's Six Nations clash with in Cardiff.

Back-rower Wenceslas Lauret comes in to replace Racing Metro team-mate Bernard Le Roux, who sustained an injury during the 30-10 win over Italy.

Saint-Andre otherwise retains the team that posted a second successive Six Nations victory this season as Les Bleus destroyed Italy with an devastating nine-minute spell.

Changes on the replacements' bench include a call-up for Castres back Remi Tales, while his club colleague - hooker Brice Mach - steps in for an injured Benjamin Kayser.

Wales: 15 Halfpenny, 14 Cuthbert, 13 North, 12 Roberts, 11 Williams, 10 Priestland, 9 Webb, 1 Jenkins, 2 Hibbard, 3 A Jones, 4 Charteris, 5 AW Jones, 6 Lydiate, 7 Warburton (capt) 8 Faletau.
Replacements: 16 Owens, 17 James, 18 R Jones, 19 Ball, 20 Tipuric, 21 Phillips, 22 Biggar, 23 Hook.

France: 15 Dulin, 14 Huget, 13 Bastareaud, 12 Fofana, 11 Bonneval, 10 Plisson, 9 Doussain, 1 Domingo, 2 Szarzewski, 3 Mas, 4 Pape (capt), 5 Maestri, 6 Nyanga, 7 Lauret, 8 Picamoles.
Replacements: 16 Mach, 17 Forestier, 18 Debaty, 19 Vahaamahina, 20 Chouly, 21 Machenaud, 22 Tal├Ęs, 23 Fickou.

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