Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Wales set to shuffle pack

Ryan Jones could return to face France

Wales could change half their pack for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against France in Paris.

Interim head coach Rob Howley is due to name his line-up on Thursday, with prop Paul James, hooker Richard Hibbard and flanker Justin Tipuric all probable starters.

And there could also be a role for ex-Wales captain Ryan Jones, who is available again after recovering from a dislocated thumb. If 70 times-capped Jones is recalled, then Andrew Coombs - an impressive Test debutant in the 30-22 Millennium Stadium defeat against Ireland last weekend - may miss out in what would be viewed as a horses-for-courses selection.

Tipuric, meanwhile, looks set to wear the number seven shirt, with skipper Sam Warburton moving to six, James replacing Gethin Jenkins and Hibbard taking over from Matthew Rees.

It is thought the back division will be unchanged, including another opportunity for Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar in Wales' number 10 shirt.

Form and history is stacked against Wales, given they have claimed only three away wins at France's expense since 1975 and not beaten another playing Test-playing country for 11 months.

The current run of eight successive defeats is Wales' worst results sequence in 10 years, and their latest French assignment immediately follows Les Bleus' shock defeat to Italy.

"We still believe in ourselves, we still believe in our ability and the work we put in throughout the week," Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny said.

"We are not in crisis. There is one game down and the tournament is still wide open.

"At the end of the day, we are the defending champions, and that means something. We have to go out and play like we are champions. We have to make sure we are putting the work in throughout the week and believe that every time we take to that pitch we are going to win. That is the attitude we have to have on Saturday."

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