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France ready for Welsh 'test of maturity' - Ollivon

Luke PHILLIPS
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'We're calm, we know our rugby,' said France captain Charles Ollivon as his inexperienced team prepared to face battle-hardened Wales

'We're calm, we know our rugby,' said France captain Charles Ollivon as his inexperienced team prepared to face battle-hardened Wales (AFP Photo/Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)

Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) - France's Six Nations match against Wales on Saturday was another tough "test of maturity" for a youthful side, according to French captain Charles Ollivon.

France opened the tournament with a confident 24-17 victory over World Cup finalists England, followed by a 35-22 win over Italy, two results that have left Les Bleus atop the championship table.

Wales handed the Italians a 42-0 drubbing before going down 24-14 away to Ireland and desperately need a victory to keep their campaign alive.

That France top the table is all the more impressive because coach Fabien Galthie has rung the changes and drafted in inexperienced players.

The French XV at Cardiff's Principality Stadium on Saturday will boast only 234 caps compared to Wales' Six Nations record of 859.

"It's our first away game so it will naturally be a test," said openside flanker Ollivon.

"We know this stadium, its atmosphere, but we've done some serious preparations all week to play away from home and against the opposing players.

"It's a test of maturity, like it was against England and Italy. It's yet another step."

- Caps unimportant -

Ollivon dismissed thoughts that France could be overawed by the experienced Welsh.

"In truth, it doesn't really matter," the Toulon player said.

"We're calm, we know our rugby. We must apply ourselves to be able to impose ourselves here. The number of caps doesn't really change much."

France team manager Raphael Ibanez echoed his skipper's thoughts, saying: "It's just a fact, we can't lie.

"We have very young players in the team and we trust them and are confident in their ability to cope with atmosphere."

Ollivon added that the squad, with ex-longtime Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards now among their ranks, had also not talked much about what is traditionally a raucous atmosphere in Cardiff.

"We'll stay focused on the rugby. We all know what we'll be up against tomorrow," he said.

"We'll keep our energy for then because I think we'll need it."

Ollivon said they were expecting it "to be tough up front, and a quick game".

"There won't be much time for a rest. We know the Welsh game, they like to play the ball and are capable of putting together multiple phases. It'll be a tough battle with a lot of intensity."

France have not win in the Welsh capital since 2010, but manager Ibanez wasn't keen on dwelling on history.

The reason for no French win in 10 years? "Wales are a very good team and have some great players," said Ibanez, the former France hooker capped 98 times for his country.

"We focus on the game now."