Six Nations 2021: Wales have Beard to help scratch Grand Slam itch

By Sports Desk March 18, 2021

Wayne Pivac has brought lock Adam Beard back into the starting XV for Saturday's crunch clash with France as Wales aim to seal Grand Slam success.

Wales head to Paris to face the only side who can deny them the Six Nations title, with Les Bleus having two matches still to play.

But France, whose match against Scotland was postponed after a spate of coronavirus positives among Fabien Galthie's squad, saw their own hopes of a Grand Slam evaporate after a last-gasp 23-20 loss to England at Twickenham last weekend.

With ultimate glory still in sight for Wales, who also achieved the feat in 2019, Beard has been recalled in place of Cory Hill for the Stade de France showdown against the unchanged hosts. 

"We are all looking forward to Saturday and to the finale of the Six Nations," said Pivac, whose side beat Italy 48-7 last time out.

"We are four from four but know this will be a great challenge against a very good French side.

"We know we need to step up from our previous performances and we want to end the tournament with a performance we know we are capable of.

"We have had great continuity in selection throughout the tournament and that is shown once again with the selection for Saturday."

Featuring alongside Beard in the second-row will be Alun Wyn Jones, who has his sights set on a record fourth Grand Slam on what will be the 35-year-old's 148th appearance for his country.

While France's starting line-up is the same as against England, there are three changes on the bench, where Damien Aldegheri, Cyril Cazeaux and Cameron Woki have been replaced by Uini Atonio, Swan Rebbadj and Arthur Vincent.

France: Brice Dulin; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Uini Antonio, Swan Rebbadj, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack, Arthur Vincent.

Wales: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Tomos Williams, Callum Sheedy, Willis Halaholo.

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  • Ryan Giggs resigns as Wales manager ahead of court date Ryan Giggs resigns as Wales manager ahead of court date

    Ryan Giggs has resigned as manager of the Wales national team.

    Giggs stepped back from his role as Wales boss, which he assumed in 2018, in November 2020 after being arrested of suspicion of assault. He was charged with assaulting two women by Greater Manchester Police in April 2021.

    The former Manchester United winger was replaced by Robert Page for Wales' campaign at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, with the caretaker boss since leading the team to qualification for the World Cup later this year.

    Giggs was originally due to face trial on January 24 this year after being charged with causing actual bodily harm to a woman in her 30s and common assault of a woman in her 20s, but his case was adjourned until August 8 due to a lack of court space.

    The 48-year-old has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the charges, as well as to one count of controlling and coercive behaviour.

    He announced on Monday he was stepping down to allow the team to prepare for the World Cup without any distractions.

    "After much consideration, I am standing down from my position as manager of the Wales men's national team with immediate effect," read a statement issued by Giggs.

    "It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the FAW, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach."

    In the statement, widely reported by UK media, Giggs said: "I do not want the country's preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case. I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed some unforgettable moments during my three years in charge of the national team.

    "I am sad that we cannot continue this journey together because I believe that this extraordinary group will make the country proud at our first World Cup since 1958.

    "It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date and I look forward to watching our national team alongside you in the stands."

    In a separate statement, the Football Association of Wales said: "The FAW places on record its gratitude to Ryan Giggs for his tenure as manager of the Cymru men's national team and appreciates the decision he has taken, which is in the best interests of Welsh football.

    "The full focus of the FAW and the Cymru men's national team is on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year."

  • Jones: England squad can 'make an impression' on Australia tour Jones: England squad can 'make an impression' on Australia tour

    Eddie Jones believes that England have a strong squad for the tour of Australia despite injury absences as he highlighted the importance of the upcoming matches ahead of next year's World Cup.

    The three-Test tour begins in Perth on July 2 and England head into it on the back of Sunday's 52-21 drubbing at the hands of the Barbarians on Sunday.

    Significant absentees include Alex Dombrandt, Manu Tuilagi, Sam Simmonds and Kyle Sinckler, leading Jones to recall Billy Vunipola, who was last capped in the 2021 Six Nations, and eight uncapped players have also been selected.

    While there are big names absent and uncapped players among the roster, Jones believes that the squad is more than capable of making a positive impression in the tour.

    "Though we have ten players unavailable due to injury, we have picked a very strong squad capable of winning the series," he told a news conference.

    "This squad is a real mix of young, talented players and some very experienced, senior players and we're looking forward to bringing the group together.

    "This tour will be a great experience for the group and a crucial part of the team's work towards the World Cup in 2023. We will continue to develop the base of the squad and how we want to play.

    "We've put a lot of work into preparing for the tour over the past few weeks but now the hard work really begins when we finally get the squad on the plane and to Australia."

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    Jones' next big decision is on who will captain the side in the absence of Owen Farrell, and he confirmed that call will be made once the squad arrives in Perth.

    "Well once we get into Perth we'll start preparing and we'll announce the captaincy in due course," he added.

  • Vunipola and Care return as Jones announces England squad for Australia tour Vunipola and Care return as Jones announces England squad for Australia tour

    Billy Vunipola and Danny Care have returned to the England fold as head coach Eddie Jones announced the squad for the upcoming tour to Australia.

    Vunipola has not featured for England since last year's Six Nations, but comes into the squad after injuries to Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds.

    The 29-year-old suffered a head injury in Saracens' Premiership final loss to Leicester Tigers on Saturday but is fit to join up with an England side that were hammered 52-21 by the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.

    Care also features, having not earned a cap since 2018, as England's most-capped international and fellow scrum-half Ben Youngs stays at home due to family reasons.

    Jones has included eight uncapped players in the 36-man squad.

    Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman, Guy Porter, Patrick Schickerling, Jack van Poortvliet, Jack Walker, Henry Arundell and Will Joseph will hope for their first competitive caps Down Under.

    England have not played in Australia since 2016, when they won all three of the games. They also overcame the Wallabies in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and are on an eight-match winning streak against their old rivals.

    Jones' side ultimately went on to lose the final to South Africa, but they are turning their attention to next year's World Cup in France as they look for their first title since 2003.

    England will open the series against Australia in Perth on July 2, before games in Brisbane and Sydney.

    England squad in full

    Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Joe Heyes, Jonny Hill, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Bevan Rodd, Patrick Schickerling, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis.

    Backs: Henry Arundell, Danny Care, Joe Cokanasiga, Fraser Dingwall, Owen Farrell, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Will Joseph, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Guy Porter, Harry Randall, Jack van Poortvliet, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward.

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