Gael Fickou moves to the wing and the fit-again Virimi Vakatawa is back in France's starting line-up for the Six Nations battle with Wales on Saturday.

Vakatawa was ruled out of the victory over Italy with a triceps injury but will make a centre pairing with Arthur Vincent at the Principality Stadium.

Fickou shifts out wide from midfield with Vincent Rattez (broken fibula) and Damian Penaud (calf) on the sidelines.

They are the only changes made to the starting line-up by Fabien Galthie as Les Bleus attempt to make it three wins out of three in Cardiff.

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack have shaken off niggles to start for a France side that are joint-top with Ireland.

Prop Jean-Baptiste Gros and flanker Dylan Cretin are set to make their debuts off the bench against the defending champions, with Jefferson Poirot and Cameron Woki overlooked.

 

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain) Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Thomas Ramos.

 

Gareth Davies and Ross Moriarty have been restored to the Wales starting line-up for the Six Nations encounter with France on Saturday.

Scrum-half Davies is preferred to Tomos Williams, while back-row Moriarty gets the nod over Aaron Wainwright for a mouth-watering battle at the Principality Stadium.

Clinical wing Josh Adams and fly-half Dan Biggar have been passed fit after recovering from hip and head injuries respectively.

Lock Will Rowlands is poised to make his debut off the bench in Cardiff, while Williams and Wainwright have also been named among the replacements by Wayne Pivac.

Defending champions Wales will be looking to consign France to a first defeat of the tournament and respond to a defeat against Ireland that dashed their hopes of winning back-to-back Grand Slams.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl.

Wales boss Wayne Pivac has summoned Hallam Amos into his squad ahead of Saturday's Six Nations showdown with France.

The full-back, who also has experience of playing on the wing, comes in after recovering from an ankle injury.

That setback had kept Amos out of Pivac's initial plans, but he could now step up to play an important role over the remaining three matches.

The 25-year-old former Dragons star is looking to add to his 22 caps for Wales and takes the place of Cardiff Blues team-mate Owen Lane, who dropped out after suffering a hamstring blow.

Amos proved his fitness in Cardiff's Pro14 match against Connacht on Saturday, playing on the left wing in the Blues' 29-0 defeat.

Wales will look to return to winning ways after their 24-14 defeat to Ireland last time out, but in France they face a side who have started their campaign with purpose.

Les Bleus will be chasing a third successive victory, having already overcome England and Italy at the Stade de France.

A first away match for France promises to be their biggest test yet, with Wales having won their last three encounters, including a 20-19 success in their World Cup quarter-final in October.

Barcelona have contacted Leganes regarding the potential signing of striker Martin Braithwaite and the Madrid club are worried losing him will doom them to relegation, according to majority shareholder Felipe Moreno.

After having Ousmane Dembele ruled out for six months last week, Barca are reported to have been granted special dispensation to sign a new player despite the transfer window being closed.

The regulations in place stipulate the player they sign must either be registered with another Spanish club already or a free agent.

Angel Rodriguez, Willian Jose, Lucas Perez and Loren Moron were said to be the initial candidates, but in the past few days Leganes' Denmark international Braithwaite has seemingly emerged as the most likely option.

Leganes confirmed Barca made contact with them on Monday but insist Braithwaite will only leave if his reported €20million release clause is triggered, with Moreno expressing concern after the relegation-threatened side lost another striker in Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla last month.

"Yesterday [Monday] afternoon they called and contemplated this situation," Moreno told reporters on Tuesday. "They only made contact once.

"The truth is that we are very worried. After what happened to us with En-Nesyri, now what happens with Braithwaite ... staying in LaLiga gets more complicated every day. In these next hours we will know what happens, yes or no.

"I don't know if anyone will come from Barcelona today. The player has a day off and we have not talked to him.

"I understand why Braithwaite would go to Barca, I would too. But of course, we are not going to negotiate anything. They pay his clause, or he stays at Leganes.

"I can understand that Barca do this if the law allows them to, but I thought that they couldn't sign an active player, only one free agent. I was surprised."

After 24 LaLiga matches this season, Leganes are second-bottom of the table, only ahead of Espanyol on goal difference and two points adrift of Celta Vigo in 17th.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

The injury-plagued Frenchman will miss the rest of the season and is unlikely to return in time for France's Euro 2020 campaign, which begins in June.

Barca confirmed on February 6 that Dembele was due to go under the knife in Finland, with the winger having suffered a ruptured tendon in his proximal hamstring in his right thigh.

Following the procedure on Tuesday, Barca expect the former Borussia Dortmund talent to be out until August.

Dembele has endured an injury nightmare at Barca, suffering several serious problems since arriving at Camp Nou for an initial €105million in August 2017.

This term he has been limited to just nine appearances across all competitions, the last coming against former club Dortmund on November 27.

Barca are expected to be granted special dispensation to sign a replacement for Dembele, though regulations will limit them to a free agent or a domestic player.

The injury is also sure to impact France's preparations for Euro 2020.

Dembele has been a regular for the world champions ever since making his debut in 2016, but he will now likely play no part in the European Championship.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

Six Nations leaders France will be without wing Vincent Rattez for the remainder of the tournament after it was confirmed he had suffered a broken leg.

The 27-year-old sustained the injury during the closing stages of Sunday's 35-22 home win over Italy.

In the absence of Damian Penaud, La Rochelle star Rattez was a starter for Les Bleus in that match as well as their opening win over England, in which he scored a try.

Rattez confirmed on social media he had suffered a broken leg against Italy, a major blow for France after head coach Fabien Galthie initially hoped it would only be a sprained ankle.

After two home wins, France are away to Wales on February 22.

France wing Teddy Thomas rued lacking the pace of Usain Bolt after he failed to stop Matteo Minozzi scoring a try for Italy in their Six Nations clash on Sunday.

Thomas was the first of five France players to touch down in a 35-22 bonus-point victory over Italy at the Stade de France, latching onto Romain Ntamack's grubber kick in the seventh minute.

Charles Ollivon burrowed over on the left to give Les Bleus a 13-0 lead, but Minozzi capitalised on Thomas rushing forward and leaving space in behind to reduce the deficit.

Gregory Alldritt went over before half-time, while Ntamack and replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin scored wonderful solo tries either side of Federico Zani's score.

Mattia Bellini got a third try for Italy but they were unable to earn a bonus point at the death as they succumbed to a 24th straight loss in the Six Nations.

Asked about his defending on the Azzurri's first, Thomas said: "I got up to close down quickly but the Italian number 10 has the right to play well.

"He managed to get out a pretty amazing pass and it was too late to turn around and get back. Unfortunately, I'm not Usain Bolt.

"It's up to me to adapt to the system."

Having beaten Rugby World Cup finalists England in their opening game, France sit top of the Six Nations standings with two wins from as many matches.

However, for the second game running they lost concentration in the second half and came under increasing pressure.

"Even if everything was not perfect, we must remember the positives. It would be pretentious not to be satisfied after a win, regardless of the opponent," said Thomas.

"It's not perfect, otherwise we would've taken 10 points from a possible 10. But nine out of 10 is still good enough.

"We are unable to say, 'We're going to win this tournament.' What we are aiming for, first of all, is to keep our discipline for 80 minutes instead of 50 or 60.

"What is really nice is that we are creating a good team spirit. It has often been said you can get bored in Marcoussis but the opposite is the case.

"We are happy to train together, happy to share moments off the field."

France made it back-to-back victories at the start of their Six Nations campaign by claiming a bonus-point 35-22 victory over Italy on Sunday.

Les Bleus overcame Rugby World Cup finalists England in their opening game at the Stade de France and saw off Italy to start with two straight wins for the first time since 2016.

Gregory Alldritt crossed on the stroke of half-time after Matteo Minozzi had reduced the arrears following early scores for Teddy Thomas and Charles Ollivon.

Romain Ntamack's superb solo try then preceded a loss of concentration from France that was punished by Federico Zani.

Replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin sealed the win with a dazzling individual effort, with Mattia Bellini's 79th-minute score insufficient for Italy to get a losing bonus point.

After opening the scoring with a penalty, Ntamack spotted Italy full-back Jayden Hayward in the defensive line and sent a grubber kick through for Thomas to touch down in the seventh minute.

Ntamack was unable to add the extras in high winds and missed another place kick before seeing his attempt to convert Ollivon's 18th-minute try come back off the crossbar.

Italy made the most of a rare venture into France's territory, Minozzi diving over in the right corner with Thomas punished for moving out of position.

Tommaso Allan's boot reduced the deficit to three points but Antoine Dupont's sensational pass sent Alldritt in on the left, with Ntamack needing a kind bounce off both uprights for his third successful kick.

Allan missed from the tee at the end of a spell of Italy pressure, but France moved quickly from a line-out and Ntamack spotted a gap to dart home before the hour mark.

Les Bleus sent five new forwards on from the bench and Zani dived at the base of the padding around the post in the 65th minute, but Italy were unable to salvage a first point since 2018.

The tension was eased when Serin took a quick tap penalty and chased down his own kick to cross in stunning fashion.

France lost Vincent Rattez to injury and saw Bellini touch down in the right corner at the death, but it was too late for Italy to avoid a 24th straight Six Nations loss.

France and Italy both make just one change to their starting line-ups for the Six Nations clash at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Former Les Bleus Under-20 captain Arthur Vincent replaces powerhouse centre Virimi Vakatawa, who suffered a triceps injury in the victory over England last Sunday, to make his first Test start.

Romain Taofifenua replaces Vincent in the matchday squad, so Fabien Galthie has six forwards to call upon among the replacements in Paris.

Italy were thumped 42-0 by Wales in their opener, but Jayden Hayward's inclusion at full-back is the only alteration made by Franco Smith.

Matteo Minozzi shifts from number 15 to the left wing, with Leonardo Sarto overlooked for the Azzurri's second match of the tournament.

France have triumphed in 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations, including winning all 10 of their home games.

 

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jefferson Poirot, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Boris Palu, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert.

Italy: Jayden Hayward, Mattia Bellini, Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Matteo Minozzi, Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley; Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi (captain), Giosue Zilocchi, Alessandro Zanni, Niccolo Cannone, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn.

Replacements: Federico Zani, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Giulio Bisegni.

The opening round of fixtures in this year's Six Nations did not disappoint.

Wales served up a feast of tries to kick things off, the defending champions showing a cutting edge as they thrashed poor Italy 42-0 in Cardiff.

The score was far closer at the Aviva Stadium, though, as Ireland edged out Scotland. New captain Johnny Sexton was the hero for the hosts, scoring all their points in a hard-fought 19-12 triumph. Next up: Wales.

England, meanwhile, got their just deserts following a shocking start against France. Failing to score a point in the opening half of a game in the tournament for the first time since 1988 left Eddie Jones' side with too much to do in Paris, Les Bleus delighting the home crowd by holding on for a 24-17 win on Sunday.

So, what will be on the menu for the second week? With help from Opta, we whet your appetite for the upcoming games.

 

Ireland v Wales

- Wales have lost just one of their last five Six Nations games against Ireland (W3, D1). However, their solitary defeat in that spell came the last time they travelled to Dublin in the tournament (2018).

- As for Ireland, they have an outstanding home record, losing just two of the last 22 Tests they have played in front of their own fans (W19, D1). Those defeats? Against New Zealand (November 2016) and England (February 2019).

- Wales gained the most metres (563) of any side in last weekend's opening round, ahead of Ireland (413). Wales also topped the charts for clean breaks (12) and defenders beaten (26, level with Scotland and France).

- Ireland's Jordan Larmour made the most carries (19) and metres (138) of any player last weekend, while Wales' Leigh Halfpenny ranked second in both categories (17 carries, 107 metres).

- Josh Adams crossed for a hat-trick against Italy, taking him to 13 tries in Test rugby since the beginning of 2019. That tally is two more than any other player has managed over that same period of time.


Scotland v England

- Scotland are unbeaten in their last two Six Nations matches against England (W1, D1), this after losing seven in a row before that. Not since 1982-1984 have Scotland gone unbeaten in three straight Calcutta Cup fixtures (W2, D1).

- Only once since 2000 have England suffered successive defeats to open a campaign (2005), but they have lost five of their last seven away outings, including the last two.

- England won 17 of their 18 lineouts in the defeat to France, their 94 per cent success rate the best of any side. In contrast, Scotland's 78 per cent success rate was the worst out of the nations.

- Stuart Hogg beat eight defenders against Ireland, more than any other player in week one. Team-mate Jonny Gray excelled in defence, ending as the joint-top tackler (22, level with Bernard Le Roux).

- Owen Farrell is 20 points away from reaching 900 for England in Test rugby. His highest haul in an international match came against Scotland in 2017, as he landed seven conversions and four penalties to finish with 26.


France v Italy

- France have won 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations (L2) – scoring victories in each of their 10 home games in that run. They have averaged four tries per game against the Azzurri in the Championship, too.

- Italy hold an unwanted record, having now lost their last 23 Six Nations games. No other side has lost more than 17 consecutive games in Five or Six Nations history.

- France were not flush with possession in the match against England, yet they conceded the fewest metres (224) and clean breaks (6), as well as making the most tackles (182).

- Only England's Maro Itoje (44) hit more rucks in the opening round of this year's Six Nations than France duo Gregory Alldritt (43) and Charles Ollivon (37, level with Peter O'Mahony). Alldritt hit the most defensive rucks of any player (25) and slowed the opposition ball down on 16 occasions at the breakdown.

- France are beginning a Six Nations campaign with two successive home games for the first time since 2016, which also happens to be the last time they began with back-to-back victories.

Wales full-back Liam Williams is set to miss the Six Nations matches against Ireland and France as he continues to be troubled by an ankle injury.

The British and Irish Lion full-back has been out of action since he was injured in training before the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa last October.

Leigh Halfpenny donned the number 15 shirt in the absence of Williams in a 42-0 thrashing of Italy at the Principality Stadium last weekend and could get the nod again for a huge clash with Ireland in Dublin.

Wales will be hoping Williams is fit to return when they face World Cup runners-up England at Twickenham on March 7.

"He’s struggling a bit at the moment," Wales defence coach Byron Hayward said of Williams.

"It's probably a bit too early for Liam. We're looking at the fourth and fifth game in the Championship for when he'll be available.

"Certainly not [as soon as the defending champions hoped], but the boys went well last weekend, Leigh had a great game at full-back, though it would be nice to get Liam back, obviously."

Hayward did not rule out Williams getting some game time with Saracens before making an international comeback, saying in a news conference: "That will be governed by the medical team in terms of where he's at and how he progresses in the next couple of weeks. It's a possibility, certainly."

Gregory Alldritt says a warning from Eddie Jones added fuel to French fires as they started the Fabien Galthie era with a 24-17 Six Nations defeat of England.

England head coach Jones said a young France side should be braced for "absolute brutality" and to "understand what Test rugby is" at the beginning of their new dawn at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Jones might have been regretting those comments as Les Bleus scored 24 points without reply in the Paris rain, new captain Charles Ollivon getting a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's early score.

A sublime double from Jonny May gave England a glimmer of hope, but they could only muster a losing bonus point from an error-strewn display courtesy of an Owen Farrell penalty right at the end.

France showed immense physicality as they defended for their lives and man-of-the-match Alldritt revealed they were determined to show Jones what they are made of.

"Eddie was saying that we couldn't manage the brutality of the England team," said the number eight.

"But when you are a winner, a competitor, you just want to show him that you can manage that.

"Of course we read it. We were clearly going to put some fighting spirit out there."

Alldritt was also full of praise for the impact new defence coach Shaun Edwards has made.

The La Rochelle back-rower said: "Shaun is a tough guy and he always wants aggression from you, in every bit of work and in every tackle.

"He wants big tackles. And speed in the tackle. He is bringing a lot of experience to us at international level and a lot of competence too."

Fabien Galthie felt a fearless approach and "solidarity" was the key to his young France side starting his reign with a 24-17 Six Nations win over England

New head coach Galthie put his faith in youth after replacing Jacques Brunel and was rewarded when Les Bleus beat the Rugby World Cup runners-up in his first game in charge on Sunday.

New captain Charles Ollivon scored a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's first Test score, with Romain Ntamack booting nine points from the tee to put France 24-0 up in the rain at a raucous Stade de France.

Jonny May's magnificent double caused a few French nerves in Paris, but England could only muster a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

England bossed territory and possession but they were frustrated by a combination of 23 handling errors and heroic France defending, new defence coach Shaun Edwards having already clearly made his mark.

Galthie said: "The players won the game, their solidarity won the game.

"When England started to come back on the scoreboard, there was an arm-wrestling contest and we won it, our defence won it.

"But we also scored three tries, which is no small feat against a team like England in these weather conditions.”

Former France captain Galthie added: "We're in a very positive state.

"It's a victory for all the little details put in place and worked on by the coaching staff over the last couple of months.

"Our team is very young, in terms of age and in terms of experience, but we were not scared of making mistakes, we did not think we could be wrong."

Eddie Jones conceded England looked like they "forgot how to play rugby" during Sunday's Six Nations defeat to France, just over a week after declaring he wants his side to be the greatest of all time.

Three months after losing to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final, England were beaten 24-17 in an error-strewn display in the rain at the Stade de France.

The Red Rose bossed possession and territory in Paris, but made 23 handling errors and trailed 24-0 following a Charles Ollivon double, an early Vincent Rattez try and nine points from the boot of Romain Ntamack.

Jonny May's sublime double offered England hope, but they gave themselves too much to do and had to settle for a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

France were heroic in defence, the influence of new defence coach Shaun Edwards clear to see, in the first game of the Fabien Galthie era and England head coach Jones was left to rue a sloppy first-half display.

"It was one of those things, but full credit to the French. They played the conditions well. It’s like we forgot how to play rugby in the first half," he told BBC Sport.

"We were slow out of the blocks, we were sorry for ourselves and out of kilter, we let the situation get to us. But we took responsibility magnificently at half-time."

England lost Manu Tuilagi to injury early on and Jones felt the centre was sorely missed, along with brothers Billy (broken arm) and Mako Vunipola (eye).

"They have been playing like that for a while, they played really good rugby in the World Cup and Shaun Edwards will make them stronger," added the Australian, whose side face Scotland next.

"You miss good players and missing those three – the Vunipolas and Manu Tuilagi are difficult to replace – but we have to find ways around it. That is not an excuse for us. Manu was fully fit.

"It’s a good challenge, we are disappointed in our first-half performance but I have a lot of admiration for way we came back in the second. We have to pick ourselves up and go to Murrayfield and have a bit of fun."

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