Captain Alun Wyn Jones returns as Warren Gatland makes seven changes for Wales ahead of Six Nations showdown with France

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The Welsh skipper returns to the starting lineup.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has recalled captain Alun Wyn Jones in one of seven changes to the team to play France in their final Six Nations outing of the season on Saturday.

The Welsh team are set on the Six Nations runners-up spot, knowing a bonus-point victory against France will guarantee them second place behind champions Ireland.

“Saturday is a huge opportunity for us to finish the campaign well, at home in front of our fans,” Gatland said, predicting a French team in fine spirits after their 22-16 win over England.

“France will be coming to Cardiff in good spirits after their victory over England last weekend so it is set to be a huge encounter.”

Lock Jones returns to captain the Welsh team, having been rested for last week’s Italy match that Wales won 38-14.

Jones, who will be partnered by Cory Hill with Bradley Davies on the bench, comes back into the pack along with Scarlets front rowers Rob Evans and Ken Owens and flanker Josh Navidi.

Flanker Josh Navidi is another who returns to the side for the clash.

Flanker Josh Navidi is another who returns to the side for the clash.

Navidi lines up alongside British and Irish Lions Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau at six and eight respectively, meaning Aaron Shingler will have to do with a place on the replacements bench.

Prop Tomas Francis is retained from the victory over Italy to start alongside Evans and hooker Owens.

Looking to lead Wales, unbeaten at home against France since 2010, around the park will be Dan Biggar, preferred at fly-half with Gareth Anscombe dropping to the bench.

Gareth Davies, yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on against Italy, starts at half-back with Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams in the midfield.

Liam Williams, George North and Leigh Halfpenny form an all Lions back-three.

“There have been some tough selection calls, but that is exactly what we want, we want to be in a position where there are selections and decisions to be made and we have had to make some tough ones this weekend,” said Gatland.

“We have picked a team and a squad we believe can deliver this weekend against France.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Samson Lee are named as the front-row replacements with Davies and Shingler completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Anscombe and Steff Evans provide the backline cover.

Team (15-1)

Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric; Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Cory Hill; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Rob Evans

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Bradley Davies, Aaron Shingler, Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Steff Evans

Coach: Warren Gatland (NZL)

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England coach Eddie Jones under scrutiny for Ireland and Wales comments

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England head coach Eddie Jones is sure to come in for more scrutiny when he faces the media in the wake of his derogatory remarks about Ireland and Wales coming to light.

Australian Jones apologised on Wednesday after footage emerged of him referring to Ireland as the “scummy Irish” and Wales as a “little s*** place”.

Jones was due to name his team to face NatWest 6 Nations champions Ireland at a media conference on Thursday morning at England’s training base at Pennyhill Park in Surrey.

The video shows Jones giving a talk on leadership for Fuso, the Japanese parent company of England sponsors Mitsubishi.

It was uploaded by Fuso to YouTube in July last year but has only come to light before Saturday’s final round of the 2018 Six Nations when England face Ireland at Twickenham.

Jones apologised for his comments on Wednesday evening and admitted his choice of words was inexcusable, saying he was “very sorry”. The Rugby Football Union said it would apologise to the Irish and Welsh unions.

In the talk, Jones told an audience: “We’ve played 23 Tests and have only lost one Test to the scummy Irish. I’m still dirty about that game. But we will get that back!

“We will get that back, don’t worry, we have them next year at home, we will get ’em back!”

Earlier in the talk, Jones discusses Japan Under-20s losing to their Welsh counterparts 125-0 shortly after he took over as Brave Blossoms head coach in 2012.

“Wales. Who knows Wales? Are there any Welsh people here? So it’s this little s*** place that has got three million people. Three million!” he said.

In his apology, released by the Rugby Football Union, Jones said: “I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused – no excuses and I shouldn’t have said what I did. I’m very sorry.”

Jones could be without Dylan Hartley and Elliot Daly for the game against Ireland after both emerged as injury doubts on Wednesday ahead of his team announcement.

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Six Nations: Danny Care and George Ford lead five with a point to prove in final round

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Ahead of the final round of the Six Nations, we take a look at five with a point to prove.

Who do you think will make the biggest impact?

DANNY CARE AND GEORGE FORD

It’s been a disappointing campaign so far for the duo who struggled to get their side on the front foot in demoralising defeats to Scotland and France.

With everyone focusing on the potential opportunities afforded from the Ford-Farrell axis, people are forgetting that without Care-Ford on the ball, there is no way Farrell can get the ball and execute his skills.

With Ben Youngs injured, England are devoid of a serious leader who is able to get the pack ticking.

Ford – on the other hand – has lacked fizz and pace to orchestrate his side and his place may be under serious threat against Ireland.

MARO ITOJE

Showing signs of ‘second season syndrome’ and looks to be struggling from the after-effects of the British & Irish Lions tour during the summer.

For a player so spectacular last season, the 23-year-old has lacked energy and commitment around the park in the four rounds to date.

His sole spark has been his towering line-out presence but Eddie Jones needs more from his ace talisman if they are to deny Ireland a Grand Slam at Twickenham.

The Saracens man needs a mammoth performance against the Irish to end his championship on a positive note.

FINN RUSSELL

The Glasgow out-half may have rose to the occasion against England, but his loose play effectively cost Scotland the game against Wales – and nearly France.

For a player considered a leader in Gregor Townsend’s dressing room, his error-strewn displays are not the traits normally associated with a 10 who is meant to lead by example with ball in hand.

The 25-year-old has a tendency to make rash decisions and is weak in defence, as seen when he allowed Teddy Thomas to slip in for a try against France. The Racing-bound player needs to step up against Italy for his fans to have faith in him.

LIAM WILLIAMS

There’s no doubting the elusive full-back is a sparkling presence, but he failed to impose himself against a below par Italian side.

He missed a tackle on Matteo Minozzi as the Zebre full-back raced over for a try and was subsequently sin-binned for an illegal tackle before the break, although it could be argued it was harsh, with the hit full-blooded rather than malicious.

His deficiencies in attack and overall discipline – for a tackle that some saw as a red – led to him being substituted on 51 minutes. A rare blip in his overall consistent displays – but it’s vital he finishes with a flourish in Cardiff this weekend if Warren Gatland decides to select him against France.

JACQUES BRUNEL

The former Bordeaux coach may have won the plaudits for his side’s resounding win over England, but in essence, Les Bleus struggled for nearly 50 minutes of the contest.

The 64-year-old has yet to prove he can pick a starting team – and needs to start showing signs of direction and a game plan that can compete with bigger teams.

If Brunel is to walk away from the championship this weekend with the support of the FFR, his players and fans, then he needs to prove he is building for the future, especially with a Rugby World Cup 18 months away.

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