NATIONS CUP FINAL ? France v Wales preview

Wales are expected to be unchanged for the Rugby League European Nations Cup Final against France on Saturday in Carcassonne (kick-off 5pm CET, 4pm GMT).

Wales have had the tougher route to the final beating Scotland 22-14 and Ireland 31-10. France have had it a little easier, hammering European minnows Russia 80-0 and Georgia 60-0.

?We could be the stronger side because of this,? said Wales coach Martin Hall. ?But make no mistake; this will be a difficult match. The whole squad are up for the challenge and we want to bring the Cup back home to Wales.?

France have not beaten Wales in over 24 years. Their last win against the Welsh was on January 21st 1981 when they won 23-5 in Narbonne. The French then went on to beat England to win their sixth and final European Championship. Wales are aiming for their fifth title and their seventh successive win over France.

Wales won three back to back championships from 1936-38 but then had to wait until 1995 before winning their fourth. Coincidentally, this championship was also won in Carcassonne. Wales beat France 22-10 following an earlier 18-16 defeat of England.

The two teams last met a year later in 1996. This match was again played in Carcassonne with Wales winning 34-14. Wales then lost their title to England, going down 26-12 at Cardiff Arms Park.

John Monie has named an 18-man French squad. Christophe Moly has made the starting side as loose forward, with Mounis listed in the second row, while big Sebastian Raguin is on the bench.

Olivier Elima misses out due to injury. The big rangy Wakefield second row or prop would have been expected to be in the French side if fit, especially given his fine performances against New Zealand and Australia last year.

Monie has decided to use two back rowers and only one prop off the bench unless he is thinking of using Raguin as a prop, which he did against Georgia.

The performance of the half-backs on each side will be decisive. If Rinaldi and Greseque are playing at their best, then Wales will find it tough.

This also goes the other way. If the two Wales half-backs, Manly?s Mark Lennon and Warrington?s Lee Briers, are both in top form as they have been throughout the whole tournament, then Wales could come out on top. Briers is looking to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Davies and lead Wales to the European title from the stand-off position while also taking the kicks.

France's Sports Plus will televise the match live. BBC2W will screen highlights on Monday evening.

WALES: 1. Damien Gibson (Halifax), 2. Bryn Powell (Featherstone Rovers), 3. Anthony Blackwood (Halifax), 4. Adam Hughes (Widnes Vikings), 5. Richard Johnson (Aberavon Fighting Irish), 6. Lee Briers (Warrington Wolves, Captain), 7. Mark Lennon (Manly Sea Eagles), 8. David Mills (London Broncos), 9. Ian Watson (Swinton Lions), 10. Gareth Dean (Carcassonne), 11. Chris Morley (Halifax), 12. Jordan James (Castleford Tigers), 13. Phil Joseph (Swinton Lions). Substitutes (from): Karl Hocking (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Byron Smith (Castleford Tigers), Neil Davies (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Gareth Price (Rochdale Hornets), Lenny Woodard (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Paul Morgan (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Aled James (Sheffield Eagles), Kevin Ellis (Bridgend Blue Bulls).

FRANCE: 1. Renaud Guigue (Catalans), 2. Olivier Charles (Villeneuve Sur Lot), 3. J?r?me Hermet (Villeneuve Sur Lot), 4. Teddy Sadaoui (Catalans), 5. Fr?d?ric Zitter (Barrow), 6. Maxime Greseque (Pia), 7. Julien Rinaldi (Catalans), 8. J?r?me Guisset (Catalans), 9. David Berthezene (Catalans), 10. David Ferriol (Limoux), 11. Gr?gory Mounis (Catalans), 12. Jamal Fakir (Catalans), 13. Christophe Moly (Carcassonne). Substitutes: Adel Fellous (Catalans); Laurent Carrasco (Villeneuve Sur Lot); S?bastien Raguin (Toulouse); Adam Innes (Saint-Gaudens) or Laurent Frayssinous (Catalans)

The route to the final (click on links for match reports)

Week 1 - 15-16 October France 80 Russia 0 at Arles, Saturday 15th October, 5pm Wales 22 Scotland 14 at Brewery Field, Bridgend, Sunday 16th October, 3pm Week 1 Summary

Week 2 - Sunday 23 October Russia 48 Georgia 14 at Luzniki Stadium, Moscow, 3pm Scotland 6 Ireland 12 at Glasgow Hawks RFC, 2.30pm Week 2 Summary

Week 3 - 29-30 October Ireland 10 Wales 31 at Terenure College RFC, Dublin, Saturday 29th October, 3pm Georgia 0 France 60 at National Stadium, Tbilisi, Sunday 30th October, 7pm Week 3 Summary

Final - Saturday 5 November France vs Wales at Carcassonne, 5pm Final Summary

WALES? RECORD AGAINST FRANCE MONTH YEAR RESULT SCORE VENUE ATTENDANCE Jun 1996 Won 34-14 Carcassonne 4,382 Mar 1995 Won 22-10 Carcassonne 6,000 Oct 1995 Won 28-6 Cardiff 10,250 Mar 1994 Won 13-12 Cardiff 6,287 Mar 1992 Won 35-6 Swansea 10,133 Dec 1992 Won 19-18 Perpignan 3,700 Jan 1981 Lost 5-23 Narbonne 4,120 Jan 1980 Lost 7-21 Widnes 2,804