by Matt Williams
WALES make the trip to the French capital in what is largely considered a warm-up to both sides’ final Six Nations fixtures next weekend.
France enter the game as favourites following what has been an improved year so far, and an uncharacteristically positive Six Nations campaign to date, including a 27-23 victory over Wales in February.
Wales enter the game with 20 wins from 46 away games in the French capital, but tonight’s game promises to be one like no other. With the effects of the coronavirus still in play, the two sides will contest the game in front of an empty arena.
However, former Wales International Mark Ring believes an empty arena will play into Wales’ hands.
“There won’t be a crowd there, that’s going to help them. Whenever I played there [Paris] from my experience, the first twenty minutes are electric. The pace of the game over there, they can score two or three tries potentially in the first five minutes.”
“The crowd gets behind them; they create an amazing atmosphere. So that’s going to be a massive help for them [Wales].”
One of the big talking points from the pre match build up is George North starting at inside centre, However, 32 cap former Wales International Ring believes North’s lack of game time at number 13 could prove a problem for him.
“I’ve always thought George North has been a centre. He’s always been a massive threat in the centre to me and I think he’s been massively underused by only playing him on the wing.”
“The only concern is that he hasn’t played there enough for my liking. He hasn’t developed his game, because you’ve got to be very sharp in making your mind up defensively.”
Another player vying for game time is 19-year-old Gloucester winger Louis Rees-Zammit. The promising youngster will start on the bench on Friday evening, with many Welsh fans believing he should be starting.
Ring said: “I haven’t really seen enough of him to make a comment on his overall ability. I’ve seen that he’s extremely quick. I don’t know how much training he’s had with the whole squad.
“The hope is that he settles into international rugby very quickly. Sometimes if you bring somebody on and the game’s going the wrong way, then is it the right move to bring him on at all? Personally I’d have started him.”
Ring went on to draw comparisons between Rees-Zammit and his younger self. “When I had my first cap at 20, the game just passed me by. I was 12 stone 4 and I wasn’t even ready. I just got lucky that I had another season behind me and became established the following season, so the experience won’t be lost on him.”