|Venue: Stade de France Date: 24 October Kick-off: 20:10 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary. Live on S4C.|
International rugby is finally here again for Wales. It has been 231 days since Wayne Pivac’s side last played, against England at Twickenham.
It is just over seven months since Wales were due to finish their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Cardiff before the coronavirus crisis saw that fixture postponed.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then. Welsh rugby’s Principality Stadium home was even transformed into a field hospital to house patients in the battle against the pandemic.
Now we finally have the chance to watch the Welsh team again.
Even now it is in unusual circumstances. A friendly against France as a warm-up ahead of a Six Nations tournament finale in October.
Playing behind closed doors at the vast Stade de France arena in Paris, a city under night-time curfew hosting opponents from a country in lockdown.
There will be no red army of travelling support descending on the French capital. And there is not even the consolation for Wales fans being able to legally congregate in local pubs or going to somebody’s house to cheer on the nation.
Strange times indeed.
Wales supporters will at least have the chance to watch captain Alun Wyn Jones equalling Richie McCaw’s record of 148 international caps.
McCaw played all those games for New Zealand, while the France fixture will represent Jones’ 139th appearance for Wales, with nine British and Irish Lions Test appearances over three tours.
“He’s looking forward to this match like it was his first test match, he’s just that sort of character,” said head coach Pivac.
“He’s the first guy to say if his performance isn’t good enough, he shouldn’t be selected. I can assure you in training he’s doing everything he’s been doing for a number of years.
“That’s the nature of the beast. He just wants to get on with the game.”
Pivac will want to do the same thing because he will be looking to avoid a fourth successive loss following Six Nations defeats against Ireland, France and England.
Both sides are strong and close to the Six Nations line-ups in Cardiff in February, when France won 27-23.
Wales have made seven changes from the team which had been due to start against Scotland in March.
Josh Adams, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Aaron Wainwright and Taulupe Faletau all come in.
France wing Winger Teddy Thomas replaces the injured Damian Penaud as one of three changes in the side defeated by Scotland.
Vincent Rattez comes in for Arthur Vincent as Gael Fickou reverts to centre and Jean-Baptiste Gros takes the place of the retired Jefferson Poirot at loose-head prop.
Tight-head Mohamed Haouas keeps his place after serving his suspension for punching Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie at Murrayfield.
Views from both camps
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “We’ve had a little bit of a look at the France game, but with next week to come against Scotland this game is about ourselves and getting our house in order.
“We’ve looked back at the game where we played them last and we’ve got a healthy respect for them.
“They beat us last time at home which doesn’t happen often. They’re a quality side, but 95% of what we’ve done in the last 10 days has been about ourselves.“
France head coach Fabien Galthie: “Since we were appointed and since the end of the original Six Nations period we haven’t stopped working, analysing. We’ve stayed in touch with the players. There are no problems here.
“We’ve used our experiences of big moments and difficult moments and what’s important is to take lessons from them. It’s true it’s just one full training session we have had, but we’ve developed another version of it, and it will be very interesting to see the results on Saturday.
“The little details which we’ve put in place since we’ve been together, like recovery, will help us have a connected, but autonomous France team on Saturday. We will be ready.”
- This will be the 100th match between France and Wales since 1908. Wales have won 51 times, France 45 with three draws.
- Wales have won eight of the past 10 meetings, including last year’s World Cup quarter-final.
- Only two of those eight victories have been by a double-figure margin.
- Captain Alun Wyn Jones will win his 148th cap to equal Richie McCaw’s world record, with 139 coming for Wales and nine for the British and Irish Lions.
- Uncapped pair Sam Parry and Louis Rees-Zammit could make their international debuts off the replacements’ bench.
- Wing Josh Adams has scored nine tries in his last eight Tests.
- France won their first three Six Nations games, but lost to Scotland.
- French players will only be allowed to play a maximum of three matches each during the six-game campaign after the French Rugby Federation and the French league came to an agreement last week over player availability away from club duty.
- Captain Charles Ollivon has scored five tries in his last five Tests.
France: Anthony Bouthier; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (capt), Gregory Alldritt
Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Arthur Vincent, Thomas Ramos.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, James Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Patchell, Louis Rees-Zammit.
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Ian Tempest (RFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU).