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Six Nations 2021: Wales look to create new history in Paris

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Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 20 March Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app, S4C

So all roads lead to Paris for Wales.

The seven-try hammering of Italy and England defeating France means Wayne Pivac’s side travel to face Les Bleus with the Grand Slam on the line and Six Nations title in touching distance.

Wales are the only team who can still win the clean sweep and only need a couple of match points to be officially crowned champions.

A losing bonus point against France might be enough but certain scenarios could mean Wales still lose out on points difference.

France still have to play Scotland after Super Saturday next week but Wales know what victory against Les Bleus will mean.

“We got what we came for” was the response from Pivac after the trip to Rome, and Italy will long be forgotten by the time the squad arrives back in Cardiff.

France is very much on the horizon now for Wales as they look to complete a second Six Nations clean sweep in three tournaments.

Six Nations table
France’s game against Scotland – originally scheduled for 28 February – was postponed to a later date after a Covid outbreak in the French camp

“Going to Paris will be a different challenge for us,” said Pivac.

“We need to improve. They will be a different proposition and we know we’re going to be in for a massive game.

“The two times we’ve played France so far, we’ve been on the receiving end of the result.”

Captain Alun Wyn Jones agrees with his coach after leading Wales to a friendly defeat in Paris last October.

“We will have to go up a few levels,” said Jones.

“In many ways it’s a similar situation (to the autumn) with no fans away in France and that was a clinical game by them.

“But that was the start of a period of games in a different situation. I don’t want to be over the top but the world had changed and we were going into a competition we hadn’t experienced before.

“We’re a bit further down the line with no crowds, where we are with the game and all that’s going on to make it happen.

“We’ve dealt with that, but we still have to go up a few gears to go there and perform. They are one of the in-form teams in the competition and have been for the last two years.

“I’m sure they’re not going to stop that next week.”

Away days

Next weekend will actually represent a first for world record cap holder Jones who will play his 148th international for Wales at Stade de France.

For all the Six Nations and Grand Slams he has clinched in his career, those memorable days have occurred in Cardiff. Not since 1971 have Wales clinched a Grand Slam away from home.

“We are not going to shy away from that,” said Jones.

“We know the significance away games have in this competition. It is one we have not experienced before and going to be another week of weeks leading up to that game on Saturday.”

Pivac believes the night time defeat Wales suffered against Fabien Galthie’s side last year will benefit his side.

“The absence of fans neutralises things a little bit, we travelled out to Paris in the warm-up for the autumn campaign,” said Pivac.

“We played there in a late, nine o’clock kick off last time. It will all be familiar territory for us, which is a good thing.

“If you asked this side coming out of the autumn whether they’d take four from four travelling to Paris for a potential Grand Slam, you know the answer.”

This is an experience few would have suspected Pivac would have experienced after overseeing a 2020 where Wales finished fifth in the tournament and only won three games in 10 matches.

“It’s chalk and cheese, isn’t it?” said Pivac.

“We know the pain we went through in the autumn and they were not the results we were after.

“But you’re seeing some of the players who got opportunities playing out there now in the Six Nations, coming off the bench, some getting starts.

“We’re that much better for the autumn, we’ve got a lot more depth and going to keep building on that.

“The big prize is working towards the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and this championship was always going to be a line in the sand for us.

“We’re pleased to be four from four with an opportunity that we can finally talk about, to try and go all the way and win five from five, the Grand Slam.”

Attacking weapons

Pivac’s side have scored 17 tries in four games so maybe ‘Wayneball” has replaced “Warrenball” in reference to the style coined to describe the side of his predecessor Warren Gatland.

“It’s pleasing to score tries, people love seeing that and we like playing a brand of rugby where we give ourselves that opportunity” said Pivac.

“We’ve just got to make sure we get the balance in our game right. That’s something we’ve been working on and tweaking.”

Alun Wyn Jones and his second half replacement Jake Ball, who won his 50th cap, celebrate after the final whistle
Alun Wyn Jones and his second half replacement Jake Ball, who won his 50th cap, celebrate after the final whistle

This could be a defining week in many players’ careers but Jones will insist Wales only start focusing on this after a well-earned break.

“I was clear we will deal with that on Tuesday when we get in,” said Jones.

“We have a couple of days off so I made a point to the boys to make sure we have some switch off time and spend time with their families before going into next week and being ready to work.”

Inevitably, Jones can set another record next weekend by becoming the first Welshman to win four Grand Slams but insists it is not about him.

“The excitement I feel every time I pull on this red jersey is insurmountable, so I’m looking forward to getting back and preparing,” said Jones.

“I don’t know if it gets easier or more difficult the more opportunities you get with games like this.

“The biggest thing is the realisation we’ve got a lot of players in this squad that have been in these weeks before.

“Ultimately we’re not going to rely on past experience. It’s just another opportunity and challenge to play for Wales in a special week.”

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