Will Rowlands excited to battle France’s pack on return to Wales team

By Sports Desk March 07, 2024

Will Rowlands says Wales will relish “going toe-to-toe” with a juggernaut France pack in Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations clash.

France have dropped way off last year’s standards, losing comprehensively at home to title favourites Ireland before scraping a draw with Italy after narrowly beating Scotland.

And while Les Bleus have claimed four successive Six Nations victories over Wales, no-one knows if they will suddenly find top gear in Cardiff this weekend or continue to struggle.

Their forwards will look to dominate, and Rowlands knows what is coming after linking up with French Top 14 club Racing 92 following the World Cup.

“They have got a big team, but I think you’ve seen in the last few years that French rugby is about much more than just a physical threat,” Wales lock Rowlands said.

“I think the physical side of it is something I think we will be looking forward to going toe-to-toe with. We’ve got a big team up-front, so bring it on.

“Rugby is much easier if you can get some go-forward. It’s a self-fulfilling circle.

“It is something we are working on. We are trying to bring our best game to allow us to have physically-dominant moments.

“They are a team rammed full of quality, and I see that in the league. If they get it right, there is no reason why we won’t see a French performance like we have seen in the last six months this weekend.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made changes to the pack, with Rowlands handed a first start of the tournament after being on the bench for defeats against England and Ireland.

Elsewhere, captain Dafydd Jenkins moves from second-row to blindside flanker – a position he has never filled for club or country – and hooker Ryan Elias returns instead of Elliot Dee.

France are expected to show wholesale switches, with absentees including suspended centre Jonathan Danty and injured fly-half Matthieu Jalibert, but fit-again skipper Gregory Alldritt is back.

Rowlands is set to face some familiar faces from the French domestic game, and he added: “Playing club rugby there is an absolute joy.

“One of the things I have to say that has been really enjoyable for me to experience is how much passion there is for rugby in France.

“Wherever you go, the people are mad for it, and I think that is reflected when you see how much it means to the players when they play for their clubs and country.

“Everyone talks about the bit of a myth, which is the glitz and glamour of the ‘Racing Galacticos’, but I don’t think that is really the case.

“There are some really high-profile players, but there are also a lot of local French young guys who have a lot of talent. It is an exciting place to be.

“From a rugby point of view, I feel like playing in the French league for Racing has meant I’ve already had to develop parts of my game.

“I think going forward it will make me a much better player.”

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