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France seek better fortune against winless Wales in Six Nations

France face Wales in the Rugby Six Nations on Sunday. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP

Misfiring France may have limped through their opening three Six Nations matches, but coach Fabien Galthie insists better performances will come, starting against winless Wales on Sunday.

France went into last year’s Rugby World Cup as hot favourites on home soil.

But a quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual winners South Africa dashed the hopes of Galthie’s squad and the wider nation.

Come the Six Nations and the hangover from that loss was seemingly evident.

France, missing skipper Antoine Dupont on sevens duty ahead of this summer’s Paris Olympics, suffered an opening 38-17 defeat by Ireland before edging Scotland 20-16 and then drawing 13-all with Italy.

“The results are not what we wanted, wished for,” said Galthie. “We will be better soon.

“Today, like I said after the Italy game, we’re in a difficult period. It’s tough, we’re not satisfied, no one is. We have high expectations of ourselves. We’re not at the level we want to be.”

Galthie said his squad had to “take responsibility over the good and bad moments. The passion we have is even stronger now”.

“When it works well, very well or perfect it’s good, but now we’re not where we want to be. All that happens is multiplying my desire and motivation.

“What’s great in what we do is that you have to accept joy and suffering, pain. In this job there are high and low moments.”

Galthie made eight changes to the team to face what he predicted would be a “young, brave Welsh team” in a bid to make it five successive Six Nations wins over Wales.

The alterations are the most Galthie has made from one Six Nations game to another since taking over in late 2019.

Full-back Leo Barre, centre Nicolas Depoortere and lock Emmanuel Meafou will make their Test bows in Cardiff with winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey, scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, No 8 Gregory Alldritt, second row Thibaud Flament and hooker Julien Marchand the other changes.

Galthie was forced into three changes with centre Jonathan Danty suspended, fly-half Matthieu Jalibert injured and lock Posolo Tuilagi sidelined with a fitness issue.

‘Need to fix up’

Wales coach Warren Gatland, who has seen his side go down to three straight losses to Scotland (27-26), England (16-14) and Ireland (31-7), handed midfield starts to Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin in place of George North and Nick Tompkins.

Captain Dafydd Jenkins switches from lock to blindside flanker, with Will Rowlands called up as Adam Beard’s second-row partner, while hooker Ryan Elias replaces Elliot Dee.

Gatland, whose first tenure as Wales coach brought four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, was under no illusion about what he wanted from Sunday’s showdown at the Principality Stadium.

“We need to win and that’s what Test match rugby is all about,” the New Zealander said.

“We desperately want to win. We feel we’ve been going OK. We want to try and put a complete performance together. There have been parts of our game that we’ve been really happy with and a number of things we need to fix up as well.

“We know we’re on a journey, but we’re trying to fast-track things as quickly as possible. A win on Sunday would be a good stepping stone for that.”

Gatland said Wales were prepped for France’s massive pack.

“That’s the challenge for us, it’s about moving their pack around. We saw what happened to them against Italy, that they do tire and that creates opportunities,” he said.

Standings provided by Sofascore

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