Cardiff gets Friday night fever

by  |  earlier

0 LIKES UnLike

All eyes will be on France this evening as they take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Although we’ve only just approached the half-way stage of the 2010 Six Nations championships, a win against Wales would mark Les Blues out as the obvious favourites for Grand Slam glory. 

The two sides will compete in a rare Friday night match in front of a packed crowd in the Welsh capital, and the home supporters will still be buzzing from that pulsating 31-24 victory against Scotland two weeks ago.

But to keep any faint hopes of winning the Six Nations this year themselves, Wales must defeat a France side who have looked unbeatable in recent weeks. An emphatic 33-10 win over Ireland a fortnight ago was the match most pundits were sure would reveal the identity of this year’s champions. Victory over Wales this evening would add even more weight to this claim.

However, Wales head coach Warren Gatland has a game plan in mind. He has instructed his side to keep close tabs on powerhouse centre Mathieu Bastareaud, and even told the media earlier this week that he has doubts over his fitness levels. An extra incentive if ever the controversial centre needed one. 

Meanwhile, France head coach Marc Lievremont will be without the services of wing Benjamin Fall and lock Pascal Pape, but Julien Malzieu and Julien Pierre are more than capable of deputising.

Both England and Ireland will be watching the match this evening with bated breath– hoping that their old rivals Wales can upset the odds with a shock win, which could then pave the way for one of them to go on and lift the Six Nations trophy.

Last year, Martin Johnson’s side came agonisingly close to winning away at Croke Park and only lost by a single point. Given that that was in Ireland’s Grand Slam year, England will go into this match at Twickenham with a healthy dose of belief that they really can record their third consecutive win of the championships.

To win, though, the whole team is fully aware that they must produce a notably improved performance to the lacklustre display in Rome two weeks ago. Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson attracted the brunt of the criticism after the narrow 17-12 win, despite kicking 12 of the points, and he retains his place in the starting XV.

In fact, it’s an unchanged line-up from the one that beat Italy. The only doubt surrounds the fitness of Mark Cueto, who has been suffering from the effects of a stomach bug in recent days. However, this has led to a recall for Northampton Saints’ exciting winger Chris Ashton, who must surely deserve a chance after such an influential season at Franklin’s Gardens.
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has named four changes from the side which suffered in Paris two weeks ago. The major news surrounds Ronan O’Gara, who has been forced to make way for his understudy at fly-half, Jonathan Sexton.

Unlike Johnson, Kidney has seen fit to change his No. 10 for Saturday afternoon’s match at Twickenham, and most Ireland supporters have welcomed the decision to draft in one of the most promising players the country have produced in years.

Rory Best takes over from the banned Jerry Flannery, who launches his appeal against his six-week punishment next week; while Geordan Murphy has been named at full-back in the place of the injured Rob Kearney. Donncha O'Callaghan also comes back into the starting line-up as Leo Cullen makes way.

Presuming that this year’s champions will come from one of these two matches – Saturday’s other clash between Italy and Scotland appears to be a battle between the tournament’s Wooden Spoon contenders.

Both sides have yet to seal a point in this year’s championships - but that will change on Saturday afternoon.

Although Wales were lauded for their comeback against the Scots a fortnight ago at the Millennium Stadium, it was the visitor’s lack of discipline which led to their eventual capitulation. Andy Robinson’s side showed enough guile in the first-half to suggest that they should see off the challenge of Italy this weekend.

But there is a feeling that many people may have underestimated the Italians this year. Always the underdogs and inevitably propping up the Six Nations table on an annual basis, Italy briefly worried both Ireland and England in their first two matches; and perhaps a home win in the Eternal City this weekend wouldn’t cause as much shock as it would have done in previous years.

Italy also know how to beat Scotland. From 10 Six Nations meetings, Italy have won four and lost six. And the visitors will also be without three key players: Thom Evans, Chris Paterson and Rory Lamont – a significant blow to Robinson as he looks to transform his side’s fortunes.

Although this match may not be the most attractive to watch, Italy have a real chance of winning their first Six Nations match since March 2008, despite still coming into this match as underdogs. And the opportunity of avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon is one they certainly won’t want to see slip from their grasp with an avoidable defeat tomorrow.



Question Stats

Latest activity: earlier.
This question has 0 answers.


Share your knowledge and help people by answering questions.