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78 min: Priestland's drop goal attempt goes wide. But the territorial advantage is still with Wales.
77 min: Wales have a lineout .. which they lose. Ryan Jones isn't prepared to give up that easily and storms through to gather and Wales keep the ball. Priestland is in the pocket waiting for a drop goal. The go for one more surge ...
75 min: PENALTY! WALES 16-9 France. Leigh Halfpenny slides it through the post and once again a converted try stands between the sides.
74 min: What a break from Halfpenny. he very nearly gets through the French defence - it takes two man to drag him to the ground. Eventually Trinh-Duc takes the ball into touch but then needlessly throws the ball away and Wales have a penalty. Why did he do that?
73 min: PENALTY! Wales 13-9 FRANCEYachvili knocks the simple penalty over. What a big seven minutes coming up.
72 min: Penalty to France! They decide to go for goal. Jonathan Davies reckons Wales will be happy with that. I'm inclined to agree.
72 min: It's desperate defending - truly desperate defending. It all came from a high Beauxis which Halfpenny spills France look to be in on the far side but a combination of sterling defence and bad decision making from the French and the scoreline remains at 13-6. Wales knock on and it's going to be a French scrum.
69 min: Ken Owens is making a real impact here. The substitute hooker rides one huge hit in midfield and then carries the ball again on the left touchline before george North is penalised for handling on the ground and France have a penalty - Yachvili clears for touch and Wales will have some defending to do.
67 min: A lovely low, driven kick from Priestland doesn't quite find touch but forces Trinh-Duc backwards and he has to find touch and Wales have a lineout in the French half. All of this eats up time and puts Wales in French territory. Now they need to eliminate handling or disciplinary errors.
65 min: Here come France. They're on the Wales line. Great tackle from Evans. Ken Owens then holds up Dusautoir and France are penalised for holding on and the decision is greeted by the home crowd as if it is a try.
64 min: "I wonder if the BBC might consider taking the microphone from Jonathan Davies?" wonders Stephen Davenport. "He could then fully indulge his fandom and make himself – and me – a lot happier." But then you would just be left with John Inverdale's patronising fandom. I don't think you've thought this through.
62 min: Great from Faletau who gains ground but can't quite release. It's chipped ahead but Roberts can't quite gather. Dan Lydiate then beats his own tackle of the match with a hit on Buttin which is so hard that the crack is picked up from the ref's mic. Wales make a flurry of changes and the new men need to hit the ground running.
59 min: It's quickly taken from France, kicked across field and gathered by Buttin but that man Dan Lydiate is there to make the tackle of the match. It's going to be a French scrum - but they are penalised and Wales breathe a massive sigh of relief. Rhys Priestland boots downfield.
58 min: ... France have a penalty. It was poor from Wales who let the frustration get to them and attempted to force the game but lost possession.
56 min: ... it's very slow from Wales. France aren't committing any men to the rucks and Wales just can't inject any pace into the attacks. Instead they go for Cuthbert who tries to bulldoze the French defence which he's pretty good at. Evans then goes on the stampede like an elephant in a safari park.
55 min: Wales are awarded a free kick and Priestland drills it into touch inside the French 22. The lineout is cleanly taken by Ryan Jones. George North and then Jones try to gain ground but are driven back by the French defence. This is a big play in the game ...
52 min: PENALTY! WALES 13-6 France. That is a huge kick from Leigh Halfpenny in every sense. It's from his own half, but he clears the post by some distance. It also re-establishes Wales's seven-point advantage at a time when they were coming under intense pressure from a French side who have starter the second half a lot stronger.
50 min: It's ever so scrappy now. The game has really opened up. Dusautoir brings a Welsh attack to a halt with a huge hit before turning over. Fofana, the French danger man, tries to weave through on the right. Wales clear their lines before the awesome Dan Lydiate forces France to penalise on halfway and Halfpenny is going to have a pop at goal.
48 min: Wales turn over as Ryan Jones ploughs through Yachvilli. Phillips kicks deep into the French 22 where Palisson gathers and does really well to clear his lines. He catches Cuthbert in a, ahem, sensitive area with his follow through and the clock is stopped for some treatment
47 min: William Servat has gone off and that is the last we'll see of him in a French shirt. Wales are still on the back foot as France come again. As soon as they work any sort of opening Beauxis tries a drop at goal but again it's off target and that's a terrible waste of possession. Wales need to up their game.
44 min: PENALTY! Wales 10-6 FRANCE. Beauxis makes no mistake and it's a four-point game. That lightening break from the French shows just how finely balanced the game is.
43 min: Great break from France, who switch play in a flash and Buttin makes a fine break. He chips ahead and the ball looks for a moment like it might bounce favourably for him, but Halfpenny gets a touch before Jenkins gathers. Jenkins was offside and it's a penalty to France. n
42 min: Priestland tries a drop goal from a very long way out but, much like Beauxis's effort at he start of the first half, it's nowhere near being a scoring effort.
41 min: The second half continues in much he same vain as the first - plenty of kicking. Rhys Priestland tests the new French full-back Buttin with a high up-and-under but the debutant deals with it very well indeed.
Peeep! Rhys Priestland gets what you have to say is a fairly big 40 minutes in the lives of these Wales players underway.
BREAKING HALF-TIME NEWS ... Sam Warburton has a shoulder injury and is being replaced by Ryan Jones. He's destined not to finish a game against the French.
HALF TIME: WALES 10-3 FRANCE. So far so good for Wales, who have been the better team in a scrappy game. One brilliant turnover is really what separates the sides. France haven't been much of an attacking threat and will need to improve their ball handling considerably if they're to get back in this game. Wales will look for more of the same.
40 min: Halfpenny missed the penalty! Again it comes off the upright and that's a bit of a let-off.
38 min: This is frantic stuff now. Yachvili's kick is charged down by Evans. Wales have a penalty advantage. They try to fling it wide to North to turn it into seven rather than three points but it is just that - a fling - and it sails over North's head and into touch so they'll go back for a penalty. In the midst of all that France have made a sly substitution as Buttin comes on for his debut in place of Poitrenaud
36 min: Yachvili is penalised in the Wales half - Priestland kicks for touch but gets greedy and aims deep in the French 22 but doesn't quite reach touch. France clear and the lineout will be 30 metres back towards halfway.
33 min: George North kicks ahead and wants a penalty as he feels he's taken out off the ball. Craig Joubert reckons it's an accidental trip by Fofana and there's no penalty. It's the right decision. For a moment it then looks as if Wales have an overlap on the right but Phillips lets the greasy ball slip from his hands.
32 min: PENALTY! WALES 10-3 France. Leigh Halfpenny slots it between the sticks and Wales are opening up a healthy lead.
30 min: It's all gone very sloppy and more terrible French handling as Jonathan Davies pounces on Beauxis, very nearly intercepts the ball. Davies kicks on on the ground, Palisson gets back but plays on the ground and it's a penalty to Wales.
27 min: Terrible handling from the French as Harinordoquy blindly flings a pass out of play. From the lineout Faletau makes a burst and suddenly the French defence doesn't look quite so organised as it did 10 minutes ago.
22 min: CONVERSION! WALES 7-3 France. Leigh Halfpenny steps up this time and makes no mistake. Wales are up and running.
21 min: TRY! WALES 5-3 France. Brilliant try from Alex Cuthbert. Wales turned over thanks to sterling work from Dan Lydiate and Alun Wyn-Jones who stopped Dusautoir in his tracks and weaselled the ball back into Welsh hands. It came to the winger on the right but the finish was brilliant, weaving inside off the flank, surging past flailing French tackles to send the Millennium Stadium wild.
19 min: A big break for Wales as Papet is penalised for not releasing inside the Wales 22. For a moment there is looked like Attoub was in and all he had to do was pop off the pass and France were in.
18 min: At the risk of sounding like a stuck record this French defence is looking really strong. They're not committing too many players to the rucks and Wales are finding it really different to penetrate the massed ranks whenever the ball does come loose.
15 min: Priestland misses the penalty. It comes off the upright. It's a decent effort but I'm surprised that it was Priestland, and not Halfpenny, who was given the opportunity.
14 min: Good response from Wales but the French defence looks really strong so far. An ominous sign for Wales? Jamie Roberts ducks, swivels and makes a break but is held up, then Leigh Halfpenny has a go with the same result. Yachvili is then penalised for not rolling away and it's a penalty to Wales and Thys Priestland (strangely) is going to kick at goal. "Is ball dropping the new catching?" asks Niall Mullen. "Because I'm not sure it's an effective tactic."
11 min: PENALTY! Wales 0-3 FRANCE Yachvili makes no mistake with a routine kick just to the left of the posts and France have the lead.
10 min: France surge forward from the lineout and Gethin Jenkins is penalised and this is a kickable penalty.
9 min: Penalty to France after Phillips was tackled to the ground, failed to release and popped back to his feet to go again. Beauxis kicks for territory and Wales are going to be under a bit of pressure.
6 min: Lydiate pounces on a loose ball after a sloppy up-and-under from Halfpenny. Phillips feeds Priestland who kicks on and gives chase but he's facing a losing battle to get to the ball before the French three-quarters and Palisson clears his lines.
4 min: Rhys Priestland launches a huge up-and-under which Palisson can't gather. Wales hold possession but some excellent defensive work from Dusautoir stops them in their tracks.
2 min: It's a bright start from Wales as Jonathan Davies picks up a flat pass from Priestland and gains ground on the left touchline. Again France are forced to kick for touch - this time it's Beauxis - and Wales have another lineout.
1 min: Lionel Beauxis tries, what is now his customary long range drop goal. As is also customary he barely gets it off the deck. Rhys Priestland then sends a kick deep into the French half and Poitrenaud is forced to boot for touch. First lineout for Wales.
Peeep! Craig Joubert blows his whistle and France get the game under way playing from left-to-right. "It's not going to be pretty, but it's going to be brutal," says Jonathan Davies.
La Marseillaise, as always, sends shivers down the spine. Old Land of My Fathers is pretty rousing too. Is it obligatory that, no matter how much you are lost in the moment, you have to point at yourself if you appear on the big screen? "Oh, look. There's me. I should point at myself."
Wales now come charging onto the pitch. There's going to be a minute's silence for Mervyn Davies who sadly passed away yesterday, as well as New Zealand's Jock Hobbs who also died this week. A small ripple of applause rings out - as well as a couple of customary morons trying to get their voices heard - but the for the most part it's impeccably observed. Now for the anthems.
The teams are lining up in the tunnel. The roof is open in the Millennium Stadium on the insistence of the French which, along with plenty of overnight rain in Cardiff, means that it's a really greasy playing surface which may suit the French game plan.
Good afternoon. A little nervous, are we? There's not much more to be said other than what has been written, spouted or churned out this week. Practically anyone who has ever even been to Wales has voiced their opinion over the past few days but what it all means is that there is surely not a Welsh person on the planet who at this stage doesn't just want to get this game up and running (and possibly just get it over with). It's time for the talking to stop and for affirmative action to begin.
But just in case any Wales's fans are feeling a little over-confident, it's worth remembering that France have had the upper hand in fixtures against the Welsh in recent years. In fact, Wales have won just one of their past eight games with France and have the bitter memory of defeat in the World Cup semi-final last year still very much at the forefront of their minds. Warren Gatland insists that revenge is not on the agenda today but I think some of the Wales supporters might have a different opinion.
Many credit that crushing (and unjust) 9-8 defeat at Eden Park with hardening this young Wales team. They say it's given them the steel to win tight games in a ruthless manner. Maybe it has, but at the same time had it not been for some very generous refereeing in Dublin, and a last gasp try at Twickenham, then they wouldn't be in this position.
But win them they did, and now it's just the unpredictable French who stand in the way of a third grand slam in seven years. Incidentally just two members of that 2005 team remain in the side today, which shows just what a new force in world rugby Wales can be. But depending on which French side shows up then the smiling faces in the Millennium Stadium may not be quite so chipper over the next 80 minutes.
Shane Williams has outlined the five things Wales need to do against France to seal the grand slam. These are 1) Attack their scrum, 2) Change the point of attack, 3) Dictate the tempo, 4) Nullify their back row and 5) Don't change our game plan. He might add to that 6) Win by any means possible.
So, in summary: no more messing around. Let's get it on. Here are the teams ...
15- Halfpenny; 14- Cuthbert, 13-Davies, 12-Roberts, 11-North; 10-Priestland, 9-Phillips; 1-Jenkins, 2-Rees, 3-Adam Jones, 4-Alun Wyn Jones, 5-Evans, 6-Lydiate, 7-Warburton (c), 8-Faletau.
Replacements: 16-Owens, 17-James, 18-Charteris, 19-Ryan Jones, 20-Lloyd Williams, 21-James Hook, 22-Scott Williams.
15-Poitrenaud, 14-Fofana, 13-Rougerie, 12-Fritz, 11-Palisson, 10-Beauxis, 9-Yachvili; 1-Poux, 2-Servat, 3-Attoub, 4-Pape, 5-Maestri, 6-Dusautoir (c), 7-Bonnaire, 8-Harinordoquy.
Replacements: 16-Szarzewski, 17-Debaty, 18-Pierre, 19-Picamoles, 20-Parra, 21-Trinh-Duc, 22-Buttin.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Touch judges: Wayne Barnes and Stuart Terheege (both England)
TV: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
Saturday, 17 March 2012
Six Nations 2012: Wales v France - live! | Evan Fanning | Sport | guardian.co.uk