6N: Wales start Davies at scrumhalf, France recall Vakatawa
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Gareth Davies reclaimed the scrumhalf spot from Tomos Williams for Wales while France recalled center Virimi Vakatawa for their Six Nations rugby match on Saturday.
Williams started Wales’ first two games of the tournament, a win over Italy and a loss to Ireland, while Davies recovered from injury.
Davies, the first-choice No. 9 at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, came off the bench against Ireland and took his place in a starting XV that contained two changes on Thursday.
Ross Moriarty came in at blindside flanker in place of Aaron Wainwright, who dropped to the bench alongside Williams.
Winger Josh Adams was forced off with a hip injury against Ireland, but a two-week break until round three has allowed the top try scorer at the Rugby World Cup to recover and keep his place.
Dan Biggar has completed the return-to-play protocols after sustaining a knock to the head in the match in Dublin and took his place at flyhalf. The concussion was his third in five months, and Wales said it brought in “a globally renowned concussion expert” to oversee its medical staff.
The Wales starting XV has 859 caps, making it the most experienced side since the tournament expanded in 2000.
France, which won its opening games against England and Italy, made only the one change.
Vakatawa shook off a triceps injury sustained against England, and which ruled him out of the Italy game, to reclaim his starting place at center alongside Arthur Vincent.
Vincent, who captained France to victory at the under-20 world championship last year, retained his place in the senior side after a solid effort against Italy.
Gaël Fickou moved out of midfield to replace Vincent Rattez on the left wing. Rattez will miss the rest of the tournament after breaking a bone in his right leg against Italy. Fickou — France's only player with more than 50 caps — has played a handful of games on the wing for Les Tricolors.
Prop Jefferson Poirot, who was touted to take over the captaincy after last year's World Cup, was dropped from the squad and was not even included in the five players on the standby list.
The uncapped Jean-Baptiste Gros took Poirot's slot on a bench featuring five forwards and three backs. Fullback Thomas Ramos, who had to leave the World Cup in Japan because of injury, was the extra back as lock Boris Palu made way.
Ramos' presence gives Galthié another penalty kicker along with starting flyhalf Romain Ntamack.
Hooker Camille Chat, who featured at the World Cup but missed the first two Six Nations matches through injury, was on the bench as backup for starter Julien Marchand.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Jake Ball, Dillon Lewis, Ken Owens, Wyn Jones. Reserves: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl.
France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gaël Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain), François Cros, Paul Willemse, Bernard Le Roux, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille. Reserves: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bemba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Thomas Ramos.
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