International action returned this weekend, as the Guinness Six Nations kicked off in Paris on Friday evening. A host of Cardiff Blues players starred in the famous red jersey over the weekend, as three Welsh sides took on their French counterparts.
France 19 Wales 24
Tomos Williams was handed the number nine jersey for the Stade de France opener on Friday evening, making his Guinness Six Nations debut in the process.
The lively scrum half was partnered with his regional team-mate, Gareth Anscombe, who retained his place at outside half following an impressive autumn series.
Josh Navidi also returned to the international scene, after missing out on the summer tour to Americas through injury, to take his place in the back row alongside Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric.
Warren Gatland’s side faced an uphill battle at the interval after tries from Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget gave the hosts a 16-0 lead at half time.
However, a stunning comeback was sparked after scrum half Williams crossed for an early second half try. The 24-year-old got on the end of a Josh Adams break to open his side’s account.
Ospreys’ George North touched down for two predatory tries, thriving from French mistakes, to ensure a winning start to the campaign.
France Women 52 Wales Women 3
Outside half, Robyn Wilkins, and back row teenager, Manon Johnes, were the Cardiff Blues representatives in Rowland Phillips’ side for the Women’s Six Nations opener in Montpellier.
Following cancelled flights as a result of the adverse weather conditions, the side had been forced to alter their travel arrangements at the eleventh-hour and jet-off from London on the morning of the game.
Phillips’ side came up against an in-form French outfit, who are looking to defend their Six Nations crown following last season’s Grand Slam. Annick Hayraud’s side also secured an impressive autumn victory over the Black Ferns for the first time since 1991.
The defending champions took only four minutes to open their account through Caroline Thomas, who crossed for the first of her three tries.
Wilkins’ 14 minute penalty proved to be her side’s only score on a difficult night, as the home side touched down for a total of nine tries, surpassing the half century mark in the final moments of the game.
France under-20 32 Wales under-20 10
Gareth Williams faced a tough start to his tenure as Wales under-20 head coach, as his side travelled to Vannes to take on world champions, France, who were looking to retain their Six Nations title.
Ioan Davies, Teddy Williams and Ben Warren were named in the starting XV, while Jamie Hill was a late call-up to the number nine shirt after Ospreys’ Harri Morgan pulled out ahead of kick off.
The Cardiff Blues quartet impressed, but their side were eventually over-powered by a strong French outfit.
The hosts were dominant in the opening stages, but had to settle for a penalty as they were met by a stern Welsh defence.
However, the visitors struck against the run of play to cross for the game’s opening try, as replacement Joe Roberts found a mis-match in midfield to slice open the French defence.
A try from back row Sasha Zegeur regained the hosts’ lead, but live-wire scrum half, Hill, came within inches of Wales’ second, but was unable to beat the deadball line following a charge down.
Cai Evans drew the visitors back level from the boot, but it was France who went into the interval with a 17-10 lead, after Matthis Lebel raced in for a score in the final moments of the half.
Full back Davies produced a stunning tackle to initially deny France a third score, but Sébastien Piqueronies’ side worked the ball wide for Killian Geraci, who did touch down.
Zegeur was shown a red card in the final moments following a dangerous tackle, but Les Bleus did seal the bonus point in the final play as Vincent Pinto ran in from distance.
HSBC World Sevens Series: Hamilton and Sydney
Dane Blacker, Sion Bennett and Dafydd Smith all featured for Wales Sevens during the HSBC World Sevens Series legs in Hamilton and Sydney over the past fortnight.
Wales faced a tough draw in New Zealand last week, losing all three pool stage games to Argentina, Australia and eventual winners, Fiji, before losing to Spain and France in the knockout stages.
However, Geraint Lewis’ side will be encouraged by their outing in Australia. They were edged out by New Zealand in opening clash, with former Cardiff Blues duo, Owen Jenkins and Ben Roach, cross for tries.
Blacker crossed for one of Wales’ four tries in their pool stage victory over Scotland on the second day of action, but they once again suffered defeat to Spain in the third and final pool stage clash in Sydney.
They progressed to the Challenge Trophy semi final after an impressive 19-14 win over Kenya, but were eventually knocked out following a 19-17 defeat to Japan.
Next up for the Sevens side are trips to Las Vegas and Vancouver in March.