Six Nations 2014: Rhys Priestland dropped as Wales make six changes after defeat
Thursday 13 March 2014
A tale of two imperfect 10s. Rhys Priestland and Jules Plisson have paid the price for stuttering showings in last week's penultimate round of the Six Nations, with Warren Gatland and Philippe Saint-André both deciding the number was up for their struggling fly-halves.
Priestland's replacement by Dan Biggar is one of six changes Gatland makes to the Wales side battered by England last week for Saturday's final match against Scotland.
France did at least beat the Scots last Saturday but so lame was their performance that Saint-André has dropped four players for the potential title decider against the Irish.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has stuck to the XV who saw off Italy with no little swagger in Dublin and arrive in Paris as favourites to win the title.
In a bid to snatch the win that could open the door for his side, or more probably England, to take the title, Saint-André has recalled Castres's Rémi Talès in place of the ineffectual Plisson. Also back in what looks a much stronger XV are Dimitri Szarzewski, in for the dire Brice Mach at hooker, and Louis Picamoles in the back row.
Gaël Fickou starts for France, setting up a battle with Brian O’Driscoll in his final game for Ireland (Getty Images)
The teenage star-in-the-making Gaël Fickou is given a start alongside Mathieu Bastareaud, setting up an intriguing clash at centre with Brian O'Driscoll, playing his last game for Ireland, and Gordon D'Arcy.
Two of Gatland's changes have been forced by injury – Leigh Halfpenny, facing surgery and four months out after dislocating his shoulder against England, is replaced by Liam Williams, while Mike Phillips is back at scrum-half for Rhys Webb.
But Priestland, Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones, three mainstays of the back-to-back title wins, are axed. Hibbard's poor lineout throwing set up a key England score at Twickenham, and Ken Owens is preferred against the Scots, who give a debut to the 23-year-old Edinburgh wing Dougie Fife.
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