UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed the notion of Russia hosting Euro 2028 as "beyond satire", instead suggesting the tournament be awarded to Ukraine.

Russia launched a bid for either Euro 2028 or Euro 2032 on Wednesday, despite the country's ongoing invasion of their Eastern European neighbour.

That puts the 2018 World Cup hosts against a joint United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland bid for the former, an Italy bid for the latter and a Turkey bid for either event.

"The idea of Russia holding any idea of football tournament or any kind of cultural event right now is beyond satire," Johnson said in Brussels, where a Nato summit addressing Vladimir Putin's invasion is taking place.

"I can’t believe that anybody would seriously consider their suggestion."

Johnson appeared to forget that his own country had bid for Euro 2028 when he subsequently suggested the best path would be to hand it to Ukraine, who jointly hosted Euro 2012 with Poland.

"I think the best thing possible would be for the entire Russian forces to retire forthwith from Ukraine and hand the tournament to them," Johnson added.

Last year's rearranged Pan-European edition saw Italy triumph over England in a penalty shoot-out final at Wembley Stadium.

Hosts will be confirmed for 2028 and 2032 in September 2023, ahead of the next edition in Germany in 2024.

Gareth Bale has declared himself fit to start for Wales in Thursday's World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final against Austria, despite his limited playing time for Real Madrid.

The 32-year-old was not part of Madrid's squad for Sunday's 4-0 defeat to fierce rivals Barcelona, which head coach Carlo Ancelotti put down to illness.

Bale has played in just five of Madrid's 42 matches in all competitions this season, totalling 270 minutes on the field – the equivalent of three whole games.

Despite repeated setbacks, the former Tottenham star has played 233 minutes for Wales across four games this season, helping to keep his side's qualifying dreams alive.

And Bale insists he is capable of lasting the distance against Austria, with the winners going on to face either Scotland or the Czech Republic in June's rescheduled final.

"Obviously it's normal to have some [injury] niggles now and again," he said at Wednesday's pre-match news conference. 

"I've been good. I've been training for what, the last two and a half months. I got some minutes maybe three weeks ago or so. So now I'm in very good shape. 

"I'm obviously in a lot better shape than I was for the last camp, where I'd been out for about three months. I've been training now over the last couple of days. 

"I'm ready to play whatever's necessary. And yeah, we'll give it everything we can."

 

While Ancelotti implied Bale's most recent absence was down to illness, reports in Spain suggested the forward ruled himself out of contention because of a back strain.

Asked to clarify why he was not part of the squad to face Barcelona, Bale said: "I don't need to. I don't need to tell anyone what was up.

"I don't need to give anyone anything to use against me. Everything is fine now, I have no issue."

Bale earned cap number 100 for Wales in November's win over Belarus and has scored 36 goals and assisted 23 more over that period.

And after representing his country at Euro 2016 and Euro 2020, Bale is now fully focused on leading his side to a first World Cup finals since 1958.

"For sure, the Austria game will be one of biggest I've played in," he said. "Qualifying for a World Cup is something I want to achieve, as do the fans and the country. 

"We need to take it in our stride like we always do. Everyone will step up – it's what we do best.

"To get to the World Cup with Wales would be an incredible achievement. We'll fight for our country like we always do."

UEFA has confirmed it received declarations of interest from four potential bidders for hosting rights to Euro 2028 and Euro 2032.

The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland launched a joint-bid for Euro 2028 earlier on Wednesday, while a Russian official remarkably confirmed its own interest in holding either of the two tournaments.

Russia's teams are currently banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions following the country's invasion of Ukraine, but the 2018 World Cup hosts pushed ahead regardless.

Turkey has joined Russia in announcing to UEFA its willingness to stage the European Championship in either 2028 or 2032.

While the two countries are up against the UK and Ireland in the first of the two finals, Italy is the other interested party four years later.

The hosts of the two tournaments will be announced in September 2023.

Dan Biggar could not hide his bitter disappointment following Wales’ shock 22-21 defeat by Italy in the Six Nations.

The skipper was earning his 100th cap, becoming only the seventh Welshman to achieve the feat, while Alun Wyn Jones became the first player to reach 150 Test appearances for a single nation, but their big days were marred in Cardiff.

Edoardo Padovani barged over late on to hand Italy a first victory in 37 attempts in the Six Nations.

Meanwhile, Wales suffered consecutive home defeats in the competition for the first time in 15 years, and Biggar pulled no punches when assessing his side's performance.

"It's probably the toughest interview I've had to do, simply not good enough," he said.

"We've said in the huddle now that's probably the last chance for a lot of players.

"We were chasing as high as we could get and from the get go, we weren't quite at it and you get punished.

"Too many boys not quite up to speed, we were second to loose balls and balls in the air.

"It's really disappointing that something that we pride ourselves on that requires no talent is work ethic."

By contrast, counterpart Michele Lamaro lauded his team-mates after their long-awaited win, their first Six Nations success since 2015.

"It's just unreal. I couldn't believe it," he smiled. "I want to stay with my family and team-mates and celebrate with them because we deserve it and we worked so hard to get here.

"It's the first step of our long process that we just started. I think just being in the moment until the end took us to the win."

Edoardo Padovani scored a last-gasp try as Wales' Six Nations campaign ended with a shock 22-21 defeat against Italy at the Principality Stadium.

Josh Adams had appeared to spare the blushes of the lacklustre when he crossed 11 minutes from time to put Wales ahead.

Kieran Crowley's Italy looked set for a 37th successive defeat in the competition at that stage, but there was to be one final twist in Cardiff.

Ange Capuozzo burst away from the tiring Welsh defence and offloaded to Padovani, who went in under the posts before Paolo Garbisi converted to complete a remarkable victory.

All eyes will be on the Stade de France on Saturday as the 2022 Six Nations comes to a conclusion when leaders France take on England.

While the visitors can finish no higher than third place, Eddie Jones' men will revel in being the ultimate party poopers in Paris.

Victory for France in 'Le Crunch' will seal a first Grand Slam since 2010, though Les Blues could still finish top and land a first title since then should Ireland fail to beat Scotland.

Saturday's other fixture sees Wales take on pointless Italy in Cardiff and, while there may be little riding on that game, it will be a milestone occasion for a couple of players.

Ahead of the final round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.


FRANCE V ENGLAND

FORM

The omens are good for France as two of their previous three Six Nations Grand Slams have been completed with victory over England in the final round, in 2004 and again six years later, while just one of the past nine games between these sides in the competition has been won by the visitors – England prevailing 31-21 in 2016.

Fabien Galthie's charges have lost just one of their past eight home games in the competition, with that solitary defeat coming at the hands of Scotland last year as they chased a big winning margin to pip Wales to the title.

England are aiming to avoid losing three matches in a single edition of the Six Nations for the third time in seven years playing under Eddie Jones, having also done so in 2018 and 2021, and for a fifth time overall. 


ONES TO WATCH

Damian Penaud, who has a joint-high three tries in this year's tournament, is back in France's starting XV after recovering from coronavirus, replacing the injured Yoram Moefana. France have scored seven tries from counter-attacks this year, which is at least three more than any other team, so pacey Penaud could cause some damage this weekend.

England will need to work incredibly hard if they are to stop arguably the world's top side right now and hope that their key players turn up. In Marcus Smith they boast a player who leads the way for points in 2022 with 63, 19 more than next-best Melvyn Jaminet.

 

IRELAND V SCOTLAND

FORM

Ireland must beat Scotland earlier on Saturday if they are to remain in title contention and they have a great recent record in this fixture, winning seven of their last eight Six Nations meetings.

That record is even better on home soil, meanwhile, having been victorious in 10 of the last 11 encounters in the competition, including each of the last five in a row. Scotland's only win in that run came at Croke Park in 2010.

Fourth-placed Scotland have won five of their last six away games in the tournament, however, which is as many as they had managed in their previous 43.


ONES TO WATCH

Ireland were made to work hard for their victory against an England side that played almost the entire 80 minutes with 14 men last week, but they did ultimately get the job done. Jamison Gibson-Park led the way for passes in that match with 59 – more than double any opposition player – and he has a joint-high three assists in this edition.

Finn Russell is level with Gibson-Park on three assists, but he has been surprisingly omitted from Scotland's squad for the match at the Aviva Stadium due to his growing indiscipline and poor form. Ali Price is next for Scotland on the assists list with two, and there will now be more focus on him on what is his 51st cap.



WALES V ITALY

FORM

Wales are aiming to climb two places and finish third and will be confident of fulfilling their half of the bargain by claiming a bonus-point win against bottom side Italy. The Dragons have won each of their last 14 in this fixture, last tasting defeat in 2007.

After losing at home to France in their most recent home match, Wales are aiming to avoid successive losses at the Principality Stadium in the competition for the first time in 15 years, when losing their final such game in 2006 and first in 2007.

Italy will claim the Wooden Spoon once again having lost all five games this year, stretching their record losing run in the tournament to 36 matches. The Azzurri's most recent win away from home came against Scotland in 2015.

ONES TO WATCH

This will be a special occasion for Dan Biggar, who is in line for his 100th cap, and Alun Wyn Jones, who returns for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against New Zealand in October for his 150th appearance. That makes the Wales skipper the first player to win 150 or more caps for a single nation in history.

Ange Capuozzo has been handed a first Test start after making a big impression in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Italy. The Grenoble full-back has scored two tries in this year's Six Nations, accounting for half of Italy's total, with both of those coming in a 34-minute appearance against Scotland in round four.

Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones are in line to claim their 100th and 150th Wales caps when Wayne Pivac's side host Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Wales sit fifth in the table after falling to a third defeat in four outings following a 13-9 loss to France last Friday, with their only win coming against Scotland on February 12.

However, Pivac's team will be boosted by the return of Jones, who comes back into the starting side for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against New Zealand at the end of October.

Biggar retains the captaincy despite 36-year-old Jones returning, with the former set to become the seventh Welshman to win 100 caps for his country.

Coach Pivac, who has made seven changes to his team that lost against table-toppers France, believes the pair deserve to share their milestone appearances together.

"We've said with other players reaching 100 appearances what an achievement that is and for Dan I know he's been looking forward to this moment for a long time," Pivac told reporters on Tuesday.

"For him to achieve it with Al, who is also getting the milestone of 150 caps – which no other player has ever done – I think it's fitting for those two to share the day.

"They've played a lot of rugby together and have a healthy respect for each other. They've given so much for the game in Wales."

Gareth Davies is in line for his first start in this year's Six Nations, with Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit and Willis Halaholo all recalled in the backline as well.

Meanwhile, Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis and last year's Lions captain Jones are the forwards who come in, with Ryan Elias, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Tomas Francis,  Liam Williams, Tomos Williams and Will Rowlands dropping out of the starting side.

On the changes, Pivac added: "We've made a few changes this week. With one game to go there are some players we need to see out there and put them in the matchday 23.

"We've certainly selected a side which we think can get the job done. Clearly that's what we're here for. There's an opportunity to move up that table, so we think this is an exciting team and one we're looking forward to seeing out there.

"Italy are a side that's improving, they've had some bad luck here and there and with a new coach transitioning we know it takes a bit of time.

"But we know they've got some very good rugby players and as you saw against Scotland they troubled them in that second half and for long periods of the first. So we're going to have to be on our game and we're very much looking forward to playing at home again this weekend.

"We had a good result against Scotland, gave the fans something to cheer about and came very close against an in-form France. Obviously disappointed we couldn't get across the line for our fans there and we hope we can do that this weekend and finish on a high."

Wales team: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Uilisi Halaholo, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Ross Moriarty, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins.

Fabien Galthie says France are in the "dream scenario" as they stand on the brink of a Grand Slam but knows the Six Nations leaders face a massive test against England.

Anthony Jelonch scored the only try of an almighty battle with Wales at the Principality Stadium, where Les Bleus won 13-9 on Friday to maintain their 100 per cent record.

France defended magnificently to keep the holders at bay in Cardiff and have a first title since 2010 in their sights.

England will arrive at Stade de France determined to spoil the party and can also be crowned champions with a win in the French capital if they beat Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

France head coach Galthie sees his side as a work in progress and is prepared for a tense evening in Paris.

"The dream scenario is to win the games, Four wins after four rounds, that was our ambition. We have learned from the past, this is still a team in progress," said Galthie.

"We have managed to balance things in this competition in terms of our efforts. Four wins, that is what you dream of. Now we will turn our attention to the final match against England.

“It’s England, the finalists from the last World Cup, a huge rugby nation. We can't make a mistake about our opponent.

"We have to start the preparation in a pleasant way, while enjoying this [win over Wales] and this weekend. We will flip on Monday and prepare with our method and our conviction. There will be a match to play, as always."

It was not pretty as France dug in to defeat Wales and Galthie was delighted with the way they went about their business.

He added: "The key is to win, differently, agreed, but it's good to win. The winning streak is the hardest thing to do, especially here against a very good tactical side.

"We had a week with the players suffering from the flu and we were hit by Covid. Despite a number of players missing time, the team came and got the win and that is important.

"We won five turnovers at the breakdown, while being disciplined and conceding just eight penalties. The know-how of our defensive line, with big tackles, good entries into the rucks and playing the ball, that's a box that is ticked by the players collectively and individually."

Dan Biggar said Wales paid a high price for falling short at key moments after failing to halt mighty France in Cardiff.

A Six Nations Grand Slam is now within touching distance for Les Bleus after they overcame last year's champions 13-9 at the Principality Stadium, making it four wins from four.

Wales fought hard but rarely threatened a try, Jonathan Davies dropping the ball on the one occasion they looked like perhaps going over.

There was plenty to admire about the Welsh display, but Anthony Jelonch's early try was ultimately the difference between the sides.

In terms of metres carried, Wales edged France 353 to 284, and they were 156-96 ahead on the passes count, but France's defence was outstanding, and the hosts made too many errors.

Home captain Biggar told BBC One the outcome was "ultimately very, very disappointing".

He added: "This week I thought we were the better team for large periods of the game, and one or two big moments is what big Test matches hinge on, and we didn't quite nail those moments, and we paid the price.

"I'm so proud of the lads in terms of how well they stuck to it against probably the form team in world rugby at the minute, so we're really, really pleased with the effort.

"That's a bit more like us in terms of the attitude and probably something we didn't quite show in the first half against England and Ireland."

Wales have now lost three of their four games and wrap up their campaign against Italy next week, when they should get a second win of their campaign.

Biggar said the positivity behind his team's display made him "really, really pleased".

"But ultimately when you play against big teams and good teams in tight Test matches, one or two moments decide it," he said, "and we didn't quite come on the right side of them."

France lock Paul Willemse said the 13-9 win at Wales' Principality Stadium was the hard-fought slog that Les Bleus always expected.

The contest featured only three points in the second half, and a scoreless last half-hour after Melvin Jaminet's penalty in the 46th minute gave France their eventual winning margin.

The win moved France further clear atop the Six Nations standings, sporting a near two-to-one points ratio after scoring 116 and conceding 60 in the first four fixtures.

They have a 100 per cent record through four games, with a possible Grand Slam looming ahead of England's visit to the Stade de France next week.

Speaking to BBC One post-match, Willemse said: "We prepared during the week knowing this was going to be one of the toughest games in the season.

"We're really happy with the result even though it wasn't a clean match, but it's expected against a team like Wales.

"[We have to work on] the basic stuff. Discipline, being more secure getting out of our half, because they kept us in there for a long time.

"Definitely a lot of things to work on next week, and for sure we'll be doing that."

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Les Bleus s'imposent ce soir à Cardiff et remportent une 4e victoire dans ce #SixNations !

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— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) March 11, 2022

While he acknowledged some of his side's shortcomings, the big Frenchman was full of praise for their character and chemistry.

"You see it on the field, you see it during the week's training, you see it after the games," Willemse said.

"This is a really amazing and incredible team to be a part of, and I'm really grateful to be a part of it because I think we can do big things."

France last completed a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2010, also the year of their last title in the competition.

The pre-tournament favourites are living up to their billing so far this year, and team manager Raphael Ibanez highlighted the rugged nature of the Wales clash, pinning the win on his side’s defensive efforts.

"I think it was a very tense game – it was a fierce battle, with many mistakes of course," Ibanez told BBC One.

"We were under pressure, especially in the second half. Wales had a great kicking game, but winning that game, it's a great opportunity for next week.

"Sometimes at the international stage you can't play fantastic rugby every weekend, you just have to be smart in the right areas, making sure your set-piece is working well and your discipline as well.

"I think our defence was outstanding, and that's what won us the game."

France will go for Grand Slam glory next week after resisting a determined effort from Wales to snatch a huge 13-9 win in Cardiff.

Coach Fabien Galthie's team were pushed hard by last season's Six Nations champions, and it was their tenacity more than their flowing rugby that secured the French victory.

The only try of the contest came from Anthony Jelonch in the first half, with Wales unable to breach their opponents' line.

It means France will welcome England to the Stade de France in eight days' time for 'Le Crunch', with a first Grand Slam since 2010 in their sights.

France snatched a third-minute lead through Melvyn Jaminet's penalty after an infringement by Josh Navidi, but Wales were swiftly back on terms when captain Dan Biggar drilled a confident reply.

Jelonch's second international try arrived in the ninth minute as France's snappy running rugby brought early reward, with the flanker the man to dash in on the left wing.

Jaminet booted the extras, and Wales, who lost Tomos Williams to an early injury, struggled to contain the blue shirts for a spell, until a Biggar penalty closed the gap.

With 10 wins in their last 11 Six Nations games at the Principality Stadium, Wales were not giving this up early and began to impose pressure on the French try-line.

The hosts lost Gareth Thomas to a head blow and were twice penalised after getting close to the French posts.

But Wales' luck changed with the award of a penalty in front, which Biggar drove through the uprights to snip France's lead to one point at the break.

Jaminet nudged France into a four-point lead once more with another penalty, but the game remained in the balance, the vaunted visitors struggling to put it away.

Jonathan Davies fumbled as Wales looked to go for the line down the left, but still the home side kept pressing.

Jaminet missed a late chance to boost France's lead when his long-range kick drifted wide, but Wales could not take advantage of that let-off.

France are rolling towards a possible Grand Slam as they arrive in Cardiff for game four in their Six Nations mission, but Fabien Galthie's team must not switch off now.

The championship may yet see a France versus England title decider at the Stade de France next weekend, but whether 'Le Crunch' proves crucial will hinge on results this time around.

A mighty Welsh effort in Cardiff could knock the French juggernaut off course, while Ireland will believe they can achieve a result at Twickenham.

Scotland and Italy, meanwhile, tussle in Rome. That was once typically a Wooden Spoon decider; this time, the Scots are heavy favourites.

Ahead of the fourth round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.

WALES V FRANCE

FORM

Wales have lost each of their last two meetings with France in the Six Nations, after winning seven of their previous eight clashes in the championship. France's 27-23 win at the Principality Stadium two years ago was their first success in Cardiff in the competition since 2010, and France have not won back-to-back away games against Wales since reeling off four in a row from 2000 to 2006.

Wayne Pivac's Wales won at home against Scotland last month but have lost on the road to Ireland and England. The Welsh have pulled off 10 wins from their last 11 matches in Cardiff in the Six Nations, with France the only side to beat them during that sequence.

This France team are living up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites and have won their last six Test matches, their best run since also winning six on the bounce in 2006. They have not won more consecutive internationals since a run of eight in 2004, which included a victory in Cardiff.

ONES TO WATCH

Among players to hit 20 or more attacking rucks in this season's Six Nations, Wales' Ross Moriarty has the best ruck effectiveness rate, cleaning out the opposition or securing possession at 96 per cent of the attacking rucks he has hit (27 of 28). Moriarty is not a starter this week, as Pivac rings the changes, but will surely have a role to play off the bench.

France's Damian Penaud would have been a strong contender here, having beaten 10 defenders in this year's Six Nations, the joint most of any player alongside Scotland's Darcy Graham, with Penaud also achieving a championship-best tackle evasion rate of 77 per cent. Penaud is ruled out by a COVID-19 positive test, so can his fellow wings Yoram Moefana and Gabin Villiere prove as elusive?

 

ITALY V SCOTLAND

FORM

There was a time when Scotland dreaded facing Italy, but those days appear long gone. The Scots have won their last six matches against the Azzurri in the Six Nations, last losing at Murrayfield in 2015. Prior to this dominant era, Scotland had won nine and Italy had won seven of their first 16 clashes in the championship. The Scots have won their last four away games against Italy.

Italy's losing run in the competition has now reached a dismal 35 games, and that Murrayfield victory seven years ago was their last success. Kieran Crowley's team have failed to score a try in their last two Six Nations games, the first time this has happened for Italy since they went on a run of three games without a try in the 2009 championship.

Ali Price is set to win his 50th cap for Scotland. The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half has scored just one try in his seven appearances against Italy, although he has four try assists across his last two Tests against the Azzurri.

ONES TO WATCH

Michele Lamaro has made 59 tackles in this year's Six Nations, at least 13 more than any other player. That is the upside. The downside is that he has also missed the most tackles of any player (13); however, only one of those missed tackles led to a break, with the other 12 seeing the opposition player tackled by a team-mate.

By contrast, Scotland's Hamish Watson has made 31 tackles without missing one so far in this year's competition. Only Ireland's Caelan Doris has made more without missing (36/36). Watson has now made 180 tackles in the championship since his last miss, which came back in 2019 against England.

 

ENGLAND V IRELAND

FORM

England have tended to like this fixture of late, having won four of their last five home games against Ireland in the Six Nations. A 24-15 defeat in 2018 was the exception in this run which started in 2012. England have also won 22 of their last 25 home matches – taking all opponents into account – in the Six Nations (D1, L2).

Yet Ireland are the only side that England have a losing record against in the Six Nations era, winning just 45 per cent of their meetings in the championship (W10, L12).

Whoever leads at half-time seems nailed on for the win. None of the previous 22 Six Nations matches between England and Ireland have seen an interval deficit overturned to bring about a victory for the trailing team.

ONES TO WATCH

England's Marcus Smith is the leading points scorer so far in this year's championship. He has 48 points, meaning Smith is two shy of becoming the fifth different England player to notch up 50 points in an edition of the Six Nations (Jonny Wilkinson 7 times, Toby Flood once, Owen Farrell 6 times, George Ford once).

Ireland's Doris has been a 'nuisance' (slowing the opposition ball) at more rucks (7) than any other player in this year's tournament, Opta data shows.

Josh Navidi has been passed fit to start his first Test for almost a year when Wales face leaders France in the Six Nations on Friday.

Navidi last played for his country against Les Bleus in the 2021 Six Nations, but will start at open-side flanker at the Principality Stadium after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Seb Davies comes in at blindside flanker, as Ross Moriarty and Taine Basham drop out of the side following a defeat to England at Twickenham that leaves the holders in fifth place.

Prop Gareth Thomas and centre Jonathan Davies also get the nod for the round-four showdown in Cardiff.

Tomas Francis and Josh Adams have been given the green light to start after coming through the return to play protocols.

Nick Tompkins will not feature after suffering a concussion in Saracens' win over Leicester Tigers last weekend. Wing Louis Rees-Zammit returns, but will be among the replacements.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: "Josh is a fantastic player and has played well for us in the past.

"He’s come back before straight back into the side so having 80 minutes under his belt for Cardiff we think that’s enough for him and we look forward to him being back out there bringing that experience.

"He’s a very good player and has played at this level on many occasions so that’s going to be great for us.

"Seb at six just gives us a little bit more size. It helps the lineout, but also in the wider channels where he often runs he’s got the skill set to trouble a few defenders out wide.

"I think Gareth made a really big impact for us last week as did a number of players and so he gets to start."

 

Wales team: Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar (captain), Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Dewi Lake, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ross Moriarty, Jac Morgan, Kieran Hardy, Gareth Anscombe, Louis Rees-Zammit.

France head coach Fabien Galthie has been forced into one change for Friday's Six Nations clash with Wales and fears others may yet be ruled out with coronavirus.

Les Blues lead the way at the top of the standings with three wins from three ahead of their trip to the Principality Stadium to face a struggling Wales side.

However, the visitors will be without wing Damian Penaud and second row Romain Taofifenua after both players tested positive for COVID-19.

Losing Penaud is a big blow for Galthie as the 25-year-old has beaten 10 defenders in this year's tournament, the joint-most of any player alongside Scotland's Darcy Graham.

Indeed, Penaud has faced just 13 tackles in total across France's three matches, with his tackle evasion rate of 77 per cent the best of any player.

Yoram Moefana will switch to the right wing in the absence of Penaud, who started the 36-17 win over Scotland last time out, with Gabin Villiere drafted into the side on the left.

After losing Penaud and Taofifenua, Galthie is now awaiting the results of further PCR tests ahead of making the trip to the Welsh capital.

"We were notified this morning that they were positive so we had to make last-minute changes," Galthie told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We are preparing for other changes. We have no additional information yet, but we need to know by Thursday [if more changes will be made]."

In more positive news for France, captain and reigning world player of the year Antoine Dupont has recovered from a knock sustained in training to make the starting XV.

Les Blues have won their last six Test matches, making this their best run of form since 2006, and have won their last two Six Nations meetings with Wales.

France's 27-23 victory on their last trip to Cardiff in 2020 was their first Six Nations victory in the Welsh capital since 2010, which was also the last time they won the tournament.

 

France team: Melvyn Jaminet, Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (c); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos, Matthis Lebel.

Poland have been awarded a bye through to the World Cup qualifying play-off final following the postponement of their clash with Russia.

FIFA confirmed the news on Tuesday, though Russia have indicated that they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a ban on its national teams from competing.

Should the decision be upheld, Poland will face either Sweden or the Czech Republic – with that semi-final on March 24 still set to go ahead – for a place at Qatar 2022.

That 'Path B' final will be held at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow on March 29.

FIFA's decision comes on the back of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic announcing last week they would each refuse to play Russia due to ongoing events in Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday 24 following weeks of rising political tensions in the region, with more than two million citizens fleeing the country.

Meanwhile, FIFA has also confirmed that Ukraine's 'Path A' semi-final with Scotland at Hampden Park, scheduled for March 24, will now take place in June.

Ukraine requested that the game be pushed back due to "the impossibility of organising both the travel and training of a team under the current circumstances".

The other semi-final in that side of the draw, the clash between Wales and Austria in Cardiff on the same day, will go ahead as planned.

However, the final will be postponed until after the Scotland and Ukraine game is played.

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