Six Nations analysis: Can Wales win the Grand Slam?

Wales captain Ryan Jones celebrates with the Six Nations trophy in 2008

Six Nations: Wales v France

Venue:
Millennium Stadium
Date:
Saturday, 17 March
Kick-off:
1445 GMT
Coverage:
Watch live on BBC One, BBC One HD, Red Button and online from 1430 GMT; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live; Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Wales aim to clinch their third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight years on Saturday, when they host France at the Millennium Stadium.

Former Wales fly-half and BBC commentator Jonathan Davies gives an insight into what to expect.

Getting the basics right

JD: I think it is very straightforward with Wales. I think we have to play extremely well in the set-pieces. If they get those right, everything else seems to run smoothly. That is the key, then we can get our big ball-carriers over the gain line. We lost a few line-outs last week, which gave the ball to Italy and lost a bit of momentum.

If you look at what France have done so far, they have employed a big kicking game. Wales have to counter that by working as a unit, with the back three protecting whoever is taking the ball.

England's Tom Croft

The way France have defended, they like to go up and drift, and it is very difficult to get on the outside of them. Offensively, you have either got to run at their inside shoulders, or "show and go", throw a dummy and take the drift defence on, as Tom Croft showed for England last week.

You will see a few inside balls, and "show and goes". I think these are the key areas for Wales tactically in attack because the defence has been very good. It is brilliant that [defence coach] Shaun Edwards has given them a target to hit in this final game.

[If Wales concede less than 17 points on Saturday, they will beat their record Six Nations low of 66 points conceded during the 2008 Grand Slam campaign.]

Any danger Wales will crumble under the weight of expectation?

JD: I don't think so. This team have been together during the whole World Cup and this Six Nations competition. I think they have shown a lot of composure and maturity.

Even when there was a bit of a lull against Italy last week, and maybe the crowd felt that as well, they kept their composure out on the field.

Expectations are massive and there is a fine line between expectation and the fear of defeat, with a good French side turning up. But I believe with the momentum Wales have got and with home advantage, they start as favourites.

But you can never write-off the French, can you? They have won seven of the last eight matches against Wales.

JD: France have not played well yet, but they always have a good game in them. They will be bitterly disappointed with the performances and results against Ireland and England, even though they came back well in both games. They haven't really put a whole performance together, but they will look at that and think that if they do, they can be quite confident of winning the game.

There has been a lack of distribution in their midfield with Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana, so maybe that is why the coach has made a change there [Florian Fritz comes in at centre, with Fofana moving to the wing]. Fofana has been scoring tries and he and Rougerie are both dangerous runners, but they haven't really brought their back three into the game.

Their main weapon has been a kicking game. The pack is very strong but maybe not as strong as we thought in the scrum, where England and Ireland did well against them. But on their day they are a very good pack; it is just a lack of linking and leadership from nine and 10 where they have struggled.

But who knows what frame of mind the French will be in? If they come and play an open game, we could have an absolutely fantastic game because both sides are capable of doing great things.

Wales will feel the pressure of wanting to win but maybe now France are not in the running, they may change tack and play with a little bit more flair, as we know they can. Wales have to be prepared for both types of game.

Any other concerns for Wales? The weather? Few showers forecast… roof may not be closed [France won 10-9 to deny Wales a Grand Slam in bad weather in Cardiff in 1988]

JD: It is a shame we didn't have a roof in 1988 because it absolutely chucked it down. It was bitterly disappointing as both sides had some great backs - they had [Serge] Blanco, [Denis] Charvet, [Philippe] Sella - and it was billed as a great decider against our backs.

But unfortunately the weather went against us and they won a dogfight by a single point. It was a really scrappy game, and maybe they had the upper hand with their bigger, more powerful forwards. We had a good season but they snuck it that day and we lost the Grand Slam.

I would like to think Saturday will be more of an open game like in 2008, when Wales won the Grand Slam last time. I am hoping for a repeat of that.

Jonathan Davies was talking to BBC Sport's Bryn Palmer

Top Stories