France will welcome Uini Atonio back from suspension for the final game of their Six Nations campaign against Wales, who have made six changes for their trip to the Stade de France.

Atonio was given a three-week ban following a high tackle on Ireland hooker Rob Herring in last month's 32-19 defeat in Dublin – the only loss of France's campaign.

That reverse in Ireland means France have only a slim chance of defending their title on Saturday, as they need to post a bonus-point win over Wales before hoping England can upset Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Coach Fabien Galthie described Atonio – who will win his 50th cap against Wales – as an "indisputable starter" after bringing him in for Dorian Aldegheri, who has a groin injury.

Meanwhile, Romain Taofifenua will replace injured lock Paul Willemse in the hosts' only other change from their crushing 53-10 win over England at Twickenham last week.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has made six changes ahead of the game, in which Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th cap.

Fly-half Dan Biggar, centres George North and Nick Tompkins and lock Alun Wyn Jones are among those recalled after last week's win over Italy in Rome.

Louis Rees-Zammit and Aaron Wainwright have also been brought in, with Jac Morgan and injured full-back Liam Williams among those to make way.

"I think France last weekend put in probably one of the best performances I've seen in a long, long time," Gatland said.

"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.

"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."

Teams:

France: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Ethan Dumortier, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Thibaut Flament, Romain Taofifenua, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Bastien Chalureau, Seckou Macalou, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana, Melvyn Jaminet.

Wales: Louis Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Owen Williams, Leigh Halfpenny.

France boss Fabien Galthie found the 53-10 drubbing of England "very moving" as he delivered an emotional response to his team's record win at Twickenham.

Les Bleus had not won a Six Nations game at England's London HQ since 2005, but they turned on the style and piled on the most points England have ever conceded on home soil in a Test.

Defeat to Ireland last month could be the result that costs France the championship, but this was a third win in four this year and the biggest statement yet from Galthie's team in this Rugby World Cup year.

France inflicted a seven-try humiliation on their hosts, revelling in each score. They are the World Cup hosts this year, and performances such as Saturday's barnstorming rout will raise expectations.

Speaking to France 2, Galthie appeared to momentarily shed a tear as he considered the scale of his side's achievement.

He said: "I've been coming here for a long time, you realise that... it's very moving.

"We played just the way we wanted to play. We wanted to do this. We didn't know how, but we wanted to do it.

"This place, the context ... it's not a coincidence. We have been working for four years with the players. At the start of the tournament, we weren't satisfied, but we were on the right track.

"The players wanted to do something. We were able to get the game out. The players, the staff, the French Rugby Federation, all the people who helped us to be here today... I spare a thought for them."

Reigning champions France are now level on points with Grand Slam-chasing Ireland, who take on Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday in their penultimate game of the tournament.

France head coach Fabien Galthie has selected Mohamed Haouas as the replacement for the suspended Uini Atonio for France's Six Nations clash with Scotland.

Atonio was handed a three-week ban for a high tackle on Ireland's Rob Herring, with Haouas coming in at tighthead despite not featuring in France's first two games.

That is the only change made by Galthie from the 32-19 defeat in Dublin on February 11.

Captain Antoine Dupont will play alongside Romain Ntamack in the half-backs, while Yoram Moefana and Gael Fickou remain as the centre pairing.

France have won 18 of their last 19 Test matches on home soil, including their last nine in a row, with their only defeat in that spell coming against Scotland in 2021. They will be aiming to win 10 straight home games for the first time since 1986-1989.

Scotland are looking to make it three wins from three after victories over England and Wales, and coach Gregor Townsend has also made just the one alteration to his side from last time out.

The 2021 Six Nations Player of the Championship Hamish Watson comes in to replace Luke Crosbie after recovering from a head injury sustained against New Zealand in December.

Crosbie and Chris Harris are not even named on the bench, with Sam Skinner coming in, while Ali Price is also back and among the replacements.

Stuart Hogg went off with a head injury in Scotland's defeat of Wales in round two, but has been passed fit to start.

France XV: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Ethan Dumortier, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (c); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Thibaud Flament, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Romain Taofifenua, Francois Cros, Sekou Macalou, Baptiste Couilloud, Matthieu Jalibert.

Scotland XV: Stuart Hogg, Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie (c), Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, WP Nel, Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner, Jack Dempsey, Ali Price, Blair Kinghorn.

Ireland have brought in Rob Herring for injured hooker Dan Sheehan for Saturday's huge Six Nations clash with France, who named an unchanged line-up.

Sheehan started nine of Ireland's past 10 matches, but a hamstring injury sees him drop out for the match at the Aviva Stadium in a possible title and Grand Slam showdown.

Herring will deputise for Sheehan, while Conor Murray has been passed fit to continue his half-back partnership with captain Johnny Sexton, who was himself a fitness doubt.

"It's not nice for Dan," Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said on Thursday. "He's a fantastic player at the top of his game. Anyone would miss a player in that kind of form. 

"I sound like a broken record, but it's great because this is exactly what's going to happen down the track in the World Cup.

"International rugby is only going to get bigger and better so it's always going to be about the squad.

"When you get to the World Cup, you've a small squad. There's rightly a 12-day turnaround as far as concussions are concerned, so you're always going to be numbers down."

Jamison Gibson-Park, Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy all missed Ireland's opening 34-10 win over Wales and remain out of the matchday 23 to face France.

 

Ireland, who finished second to France in last year's tournament, are ranked number one in the world and have won 21 of their past 22 home games, including each of the past 12.

They host a France side on a 14-match winning run – their best ever streak – most recently overcoming Italy 29-24 in a tight contest last weekend.

Fabien Galthie has stuck with the same XV that started the game in Rome, meaning Romain Ntamack is retained at number 10, despite Matthieu Jalibert's impact from the bench.

Francois Cros returns to the replacements' bench as one of two changes, along with Baptiste Couilloud, with Thomas Lavault and Nolann Le Garrec dropping out.

"Firstly, we have gone with the same personnel due to the performance [against Italy], the victory with a bonus point, which meant they achieved their target," Galthie said.

"Coherence, too, as it is three weeks that we have worked with this group.

"And also confidence because we have confidence in our players who for three years have progressed together; that is why there are no surprises in the starting XV."

France have won each of their past three meetings with Ireland, this after winning just one of their previous nine Test encounters (D2 L6).

France coach Fabien Galthie has handed a debut to winger Ethan Dumortier for Sunday's Six Nations opener against Italy.

Les Bleus head to Rome for the first game of their title defence, after they completed the Grand Slam last year.

Dumortier, 22, is Lyon's top try scorer in the Top 14 this season and his fine form has seen him make Galthie's selection in the place of Gabin Villiere, who sustained a fractured fibula.

With Jonathan Danty also injured, Gael Fickou and Yoram Moefana have been named as centres. Damian Penaud will play on the right wing, with Dumortier on the opposite flank.

Romain Ntamack and captain Antoine Dupont will be paired together in the halves, while Nolann Le Garrec could make his debut from the bench.

"We finished second twice in a row before winning it with a Grand Slam but our journey is not finished," Galthie said in a press conference on Friday.

"We are going to get better because our team has not yet reached the age of maturity."

Italy have also confirmed their starting XV. They won five Tests across 2022 – a 45 per cent win ratio, their highest in a calendar year since 2007, and their best in a non-Rugby World Cup year since 1998. That included their first ever victory over Australia.

The Azzurri took the wooden spoon in last year's Six Nations, though did end a run of 36 straight defeats in the tournament by defeating Wales.

Full-back Ange Capuozzo impressed on his Six Nations bow last year, going over twice against Scotland. 

Capuozzo went on to be named World Rugby's men's Breakthrough Player of the Year, and he gets a start against Les Bleus.

Monty Ioane's injury is a blow for coach Kieran Crowley, who has named Tommaso Menoncello and Pierre Bruno on the flanks.

Michele Lamaro will captain the side – he made 86 tackles in last year's Six Nations, 16 more than second-best Hamish Watson. 

Italy team: Ange Capuozzo, Pierre Bruno, Juan Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Menoncello, Tommaso Allan, Stephen Varney; Lorenzo Cannon, Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, Federico Ruzza, Niccolo Cannon, Simone Ferrari, Giacomo Nicotera, Danilo Fischetti.

Italy replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Pietro Ceccarelli, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Alessandro Fusco, Edoardo Padovani.

France team: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Ethan Dumortier, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Anthony Jelonch, Paul Willemse, Thibaud Flament, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille.

France replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Romain Taofifenua, Thomas Lavault, Sekou Macalou, Nolan Le Garrec, Matthieu Jalibert.

France boss Fabien Galthie was impressed with the way his youthful Bleus side performed as they made key adjustments to defeat Japan.

The visitors triumphed 42-23 in Aichi on Saturday, the first part of a two-game tour against the Brave Blossoms that follows their triumph in the Six Nations.

Damian Penaud bagged a double while Melvyn Jaminet posted a 17-point haul as the visitors outscored their hosts by five tries to two, albeit in a contest closer than the final scoreline suggested.

Galthie took the opportunity to blood some fresh faces, with Thomas Jolmes and Yoan Tanga handed debuts from the start and Thomas Lavault introduced at half-time for his first Test appearance too.

Speaking afterwards, the coach was happy to see his side deliver at Toyota Stadium, especially with the Test having been level at 13-13 at the interval.

"Our goal was to win," he said. "You have to take into account that it is a young team, with very little collective experience. They are only 25 years old on average.

"We adjusted what we wanted to do and couldn't do for a lot of reasons, including the Japanese intensity.

"We were always a little behind on collisions, on defensive substitutions, on possession - we had to stop observing and find our bearings, trigger the first offensive and defensive steps.

"We made mistakes in a place where we didn't usually make mistakes but we managed to find the solutions, a key opens all the doors."

France will face Japan again next week in the second game of their series, in Tokyo on July 9.

France coach Fabien Galthie called his side's Six Nations title "destiny" after he led them to their first Grand Slam in a dozen years with a 25-13 win over England on Saturday.

Les Bleus triumphed on their own turf at the Stade de France to throw down a gauntlet ahead of next year's home World Cup, where they will now be among the hot favourites.

Speaking after the full-time whistle confirmed they had edged Ireland for the crown, Galthie was ecstatic to get over the line two decades on from winning the championship as a player.

"After the frustration of second place, to finally be in first?" he said. "It's great. We're not doing somersaults yet because we're at a press conference, but they will come!"

"There was a lot of tension during the match, because there was a lot of expectation. The symbolism of the Grand Slam was strong.

"We've not experienced this type of close match, [and] this tension jumped out at us. But it's an incredible first experience that will make us grow even more.

“It proves that we made the right choices, built the right team. It also means that we are on the right path with a team that is still young.

"This Saturday evening, the average age was 26 years old. The team will continue to grow and progress until the World Cup."

"It's a long way between 2002 and 2022. But there is no coincidence. The path makes the destiny. Twenty years earlier, I am on the ground.

"Twenty years later, I am in the stands and I accompany the players to claim the trophy. It's nice to still be able to touch this feeling!"

With the 2023 edition of the World Cup on home soil, France will be heading in pursuit of a maiden triumph, having finished as runners-up three times since 1987.

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."

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.

France head coach Fabien Galthie will miss the Six Nations favourites' opening game against Italy after a positive COVID-19 test.

The 52-year-old said he was experiencing only mild symptoms of the coronavirus, and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) stated Galthie would stay involved with the team from afar.

The FFR said: "Fabien Galthie tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, February 3, via an antigen test according to the established protocol. The result has been confirmed by a PCR test this Friday, February 4."

Galthie will be able to rejoin the squad from February 8, if he tests negative by then, or February 10.

France team manager Raphael Ibanez is set to stand in for Galthie when Italy visit the Stade de France on Sunday.

There were no more COVID-19 cases detected when the France squad were tested on Friday morning, the FFR said, with another round of testing planned for Saturday.

Galthie said: "This morning, I have tested positive for COVID-19. I'm feeling fine with mild symptoms. As a consequence, I'm isolating and will work remotely this week. Raphael Ibanez and all of my staff, in whom I have full confidence, will be my go-betweens on the pitch."

France cancelled their scheduled Friday news conference as a result of Galthie's test result.

Les Bleus, who finished second in last year's championship but have not won the Six Nations since 2010, are rated as favourites with the bookmakers for the title this time around.

France coach Fabien Galthie accused Wales' players of making sure Paul Willemse was sent off in Saturday's dramatic Six Nations encounter and urged the authorities not to impose a heavy sanction on the second-rower.

Wales were denied a famous Grand Slam by a last-gasp Brice Dulin try as Les Bleus kept their own championship hopes alive with a breathless 32-30 triumph in Paris.

That was despite France having to play out the final 12 minutes with 14 men after referee Luke Pearce judged Willemse made contact with the eyes of Wyn Jones.

Galthie, speaking through a translator at the post-match news conference, said: "If you watch the Wales players, it feels like they specialise in making sure opponents get red cards.

"Their body language is quite clear, I hope the referees are going to take that into consideration. I don't think he deserves a sanction.

"If you watch the video there is clearly no contact, or if there is it's clearly very limited. It's absolutely not voluntary. I believe we need to share this, I don't see why he should be sanctioned."

Oppositive number Wayne Pivac was keen not to be drawn into a back-and-forth over the incident.

"I don't really have any comment to that," said Pivac. "The match officials are running the game and they have plenty of replays.

"As you saw, it went on for some time. They went through their process and that's what the officials are there to do."

While it was heartbreak in the French capital for Wales, the hosts still have a rearranged fixture against Scotland to play.

To deny Wales the trophy, Galthie's men have to secure a bonus-point win over Scotland and triumph by at least 21 points.

Gael Fickou hopes the best is still to come for France in this year's tournament.

"The pinnacle? I hope it will be next week," the versatile centre said. "Scotland have a great team who are playing very well. We know it will be a complicated match.

"But we will do it step by step. Already, we must try to win it. And then we'll see what happens. We know it will be difficult, but we believe in it."

For Pivac, coming so close to a Grand Slam but falling short left the New Zealander feeling "numb".

"[It's] just desperately frustrating. The players got so close. We have to be proud of them," Pivac added.

"It's quite a numb feeling. The boys had put in such a fantastic effort, the game went pretty much to plan in the first half.

"We were urging them on, but to go from a potential Grand Slam to waiting another six days is frustrating."

France boss Fabien Galthie said his team "lost control" against England as Maro Itoje's late try allowed the hosts to snatch a 23-20 victory at Twickenham.

In a sizzling Six Nations match, France went ahead through Antoine Dupont after just 65 seconds and led 20-13 early in the second half.

They were looking like earning a first victory in the championship in London since 2005 until England came back strongly in the closing stages.

Itoje crossed in the 76th minute, with a TMO verdict showing he had just managed to ground the ball.

Galthie told broadcaster France 2: "In the second period, we lost control of the match. We backed off. We held the line until Maro Itoje scored.

"The English ended up stronger, they managed to occupy the field more than we did. The team had a big game. 

"We were ahead until three minutes from the end, but that's not enough."

France had won their opening two matches before a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad caused the clash with Scotland to be postponed.

Talk of a Grand Slam would have abounded had they held on against England, but it was not to be.

Galthie added in a news conference: "The two teams delivered a great match, before a denouement that must be digested.

"It played out once again in the final minutes. But above all, I am proud of my players, of their solidarity.

"It's a game that makes you grow. We didn't win but they felt we could win it. There are two, three key moments that perhaps would have allowed us to finish it more comfortably.

"In the end, the English dispossessed us of the ball because we conceded penalties, lost balls. But that's good. The team learns."

France face Grand Slam-chasing Wales next Saturday in Paris, knowing a victory over the Red Dragons would keep hopes alive of winning the championship.

Galthie added, according to Le Figaro, that France would react "by keeping the positives".

"We will digest this result together and switch to Wales now," he said. "That match starts right away. It depends on our ability to share and experience together the frustration to plan for the match that awaits us next Saturday."

Antoine Dupont has become the latest member of France's Six Nations set-up to test positive for COVID-19.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant William Servat and another unspecified member of the backroom team have returned positive results since last weekend's 15-13 victory over Ireland in Dublin.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced on Wednesday that no players had tested positive for coronavirus and they had been permitted to return home ahead of further testing on Friday.

Although 11 players returned negative results in the latest batch of testing, Dupont was found to be positive.

"The player who tested positive for COVID-19 is Antoine Dupont," read an FFR statement. "To date, he is asymptomatic. In accordance with protocol he will remain in isolation for the next few days."

The France squad are due to return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis on Sunday to begin preparing for Scotland's visit to Paris the following weekend.

A third member of the France backroom team has tested positive for coronavirus, but the players have been cleared to continue their isolation at home after returning negative results.

The French Rugby Federation confirmed on Tuesday that head coach Fabien Galthie and an unnamed member of staff were positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate for seven days.

Following another round of testing later that day, assistant coach William Servat returned a positive result.

However, with all players testing negative for the second time in succession, they were permitted to return home on Wednesday.

Further coronavirus tests will be carried out at their homes on Friday and on Sunday, when the players return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis.

France, who won their opening two Six Nations games against Italy and Ireland, are scheduled to face Scotland in Paris on February 28.

The squad for that game is due to be announced on Wednesday.

France had their Six Nations plans disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test that sent the squad into self-isolation on Tuesday.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) also said head coach Fabien Galthie would be retested amid concerns he may have coronavirus.

It was another figure from within the France camp, who was not named, that returned a positive result following testing on Monday.

Announcing that news, the FFR said on Tuesday: "Following the PCR tests carried out last night in Marcoussis with the France XV, all the players tested negative, a member of the technical staff tested positive, as well as a suspicious and unproven case concerning Fabien Galthie who will be tested again this morning.

"In accordance with health protocol, all members of the team and management were isolated this morning. Interactions are kept to a minimum.

"An additional test at the National Rugby Centre will be carried out on Wednesday morning for the entire squad."

The squad are due to disperse later this week to be allowed a short time at home between matches, with France, who have won their opening two games, not in action again until they face Scotland on February 28 in Paris.

They scored a fine 15-13 win over Ireland in Dublin on Sunday to follow up the opening 50-10 victory over Italy.

The FFR statement added: "Tests will be carried out at home on Friday, as well as on Sunday evening at the National Rugby Centre when the squad reunites.

"The announcement of the 31 players for the Scotland match will take place this Wednesday evening, February 17."

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