Preview: Wales vs France

Wales' defence of their Six Nations crown hangs in the balance as an in-form and confident French side travels to the Millennium Stadium for a rare Friday night fixture.

Injuries to Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams have forced coach Warren Gatland to modify his midfield, which has long been the spearhead of his team's attack – Jamie Roberts is the tournament's top ball-carrying back this year, with 28 carries already.

His partnership with George North will be the seventh different starting combination in the Welsh midfield in the last eight games. When Wales won last year's tournament, Roberts and Davies started every game together.

The French backs have hinted at a plan to shift the massive red-clad centres out of the equation and launch Brice Dulin down young Liam Williams's flank. Dulin has beaten the most defenders in the 2014 Six Nations – 10.

Louis Picamoles is the tournament's top ball-carrying forward having made 137m against England and Italy, and along with Yannick Nyanga, has beaten more defenders than any other forward. The Welsh defence, however, will be led by Dan Lydiate, who has the second highest total of tackles made in the championship so far with 25. He is yet to miss one.

Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 James Hook.

France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri 4 Pascal Papé (c), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Subs: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Vincent Debaty, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Gaël Fickou.

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