Wales' No.8 Taulupe Faletau
Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th cap after being named in Warren Gatland’s team to play France in Paris on Saturday in the final round of this season’s Six Nations matches.
There is also a return for speedster Louis Rees-Zammit, who will make his third start for Wales at full-back, and a recall for Toulon fly-half Dan Biggar.
Faletau, who made his debut against the Barbarians in June 2011, “has been a fantastic servant for Welsh rugby”, Gatland said.
“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,” he added.
“I remember in the early years he was just a constant and he became absolutely world class in terms of his performances.
“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.”
Faletau will be partnered in the back row by Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright, who will make his first appearance this Six Nations, at blind-side flanker. Jac Morgan was ruled out of the game at the Stade de France with an ankle injury picked up in training.
Wainwright is one of two changes in the pack from the 29-17 victory over Italy, the other being Alun Wyn Jones starting at lock, alongside ever-present Adam Beard.
Ken Owens skippers the side from hooker, in between props Tomas Francis and Wyn Jones.
Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are named on the wings, with George North partnering Nick Tompkins in midfield. Biggar is joined at half-back by Rhys Webb, who starred against Italy from scrum-half.
Prop Dillon Lewis is in line to make his 50th senior international appearance for Wales from the bench, where Bradley Roberts and Gareth Thomas also provide front row cover. Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell are the other forwards in the match day 23.
Leigh Halfpenny is named one of the Wales replacement backs, along with Tomos Williams and Owen Williams.
- Building confidence -
“Last weekend was really important for us getting a win in the Six Nations and building a bit of confidence,” said Gatland, after opening losses to Ireland (34-10), Scotland (35-7) and England (20-10).
“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 some of those things right. We’re still working hard on our attack.”
France crushed England 53-10 at Twickenham last week, a victory Gatland said was “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.”
Louis Rees-Zammit; Josh Adams, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright; Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens (capt), Wyn Jones
Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Owen Williams, Leigh Halfpenny
Coach: Warren Gatland (NZL)