North and Lee are on the mend

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Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Wing George North and prop Samson Lee are both firmly on course to resume RBS 6 Nations duty when Wales tackle France in Paris next week.

Northampton star North was rested for last Sunday’s 26-23 victory over Scotland after taking two heavy blows to his head during the England game nine days previously.

Lee, meanwhile, was concussed against England and made way for Ospreys tighthead Aaron Jarvis in Edinburgh.

But Wales head coach Warren Gatland, barring any injury setbacks to players involved in regional and club action this weekend, should be able to select from full strength when he names his starting line-up next Tuesday.

North is expected to return in the back-three, and it could be that his fellow British and Irish Lion Alex Cuthbert makes way, given Liam Williams’ impressive display against Scotland and consistently outstanding form this season.

“A lot of the players have gone back to the regions to play, which gives them an opportunity for them to show what they can do,” Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist Robin McBryde said on Friday.

“There is an element of crossing fingers and hoping we don’t get injuries.

“But from their point of view, especially the boys who haven’t been involved as much, they want to sharpen their tools, and there is no better place to do that than playing for their regions.

“We are in a fortunate position. We’re in the best shape that we ever have been in after the first two (Six Nations) games.

“It’s a healthy camp, and hopefully we can reap the benefits of the squad competition during the campaign.”

Wales are chasing a fourth successive win against France – a feat they last accomplished during the mid-1950s – while Les Bleus have not scored a try in the fixture since 2011.

And the countries’ latest meeting comes against a backdrop of the Stade de France loser knowing that any lingering Six Nations title hopes will be extinguished.

“France had a nervy start against Scotland,” McBryde added. “They were really tested and they were relieved to get off to a winning start.

“They were looking to build on that performance against Ireland, but they came up against a disciplined and well-drilled Ireland team.

“Nothing has changed. We know we are going to be faced with a massive pack and they are going to look to employ a driving game against us, and we’re aware of the threats they have behind.

“A lot of it is what we do. We have to make sure we do things better than we have done so far.”

One of the French strengths during this season’s Six Nations has been the impact of their substitutes, which was underlined by the collective display of front-row replacements Vincent Debaty, Benjamin Kayser and Uini Atonio in Dublin six days ago.

The Wales bench also made its mark at Murrayfield, and the tactical approaches of rival bosses Gatland and Philippe Saint-Andre are likely to have a key bearing on the outcome.

“It’s a 40-minute game for front-row forwards nowadays,” McBryde said.

“It’s something we are aware of, but making wholesale changes early on doesn’t always work.

“You have to get into the rhythm of the game, and sometimes a fresh pair of legs struggle to get into the game. We will have to see where we’re at and react to substitutes.

“A positive from the Scotland game was the impact our bench had.

“We got the timings spot-on, because the impact they gave us showed they wanted to get out there and have an opportunity to perform.”

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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