Friday clash for Wales

Reigning champions Wales will play in the first Six Nations fixture on a Friday night when they tackle France in next season's tournament. [more]

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Reigning champions Wales will play in the first Six Nations fixture on a Friday night when they tackle France in next season’s tournament.

The controversial move has been ratified by RBS 6 Nations organisers.

Wales, who won the title and Grand Slam with victory over France four weeks ago, will head to Paris on February 27 for a 9pm kick-off (local time).

But the decision is likely to be criticised by fans, who could face a difficult task slotting a Friday night game into their travel plans.

Six Nations bosses say they have looked at the success of Friday night rugby at last autumn’s World Cup, which was also held in France, as a factor behind their decision.

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Wales will open their 2009 campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield, then face England in Cardiff just six days later.

England, with their World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson in charge as team manager, face what should be a routine Twickenham opener against Italy.

Wales will be a far tougher prospect though, before England tackle Ireland at Croke Park – they lost 43-13 on their one previous visit last year – host France and then finish at home to Scotland.

Under a new eight-year agreement between the Rugby Football Union and its Premiership clubs which starts on July 1, elite England players will be available for the entire Six Nations campaign without representing their clubs on free weekends during the tournament.

Ireland, also under new coaching direction following Eddie O’Sullivan’s recent departure, start against France, with Scotland visiting Paris a week after hosting Wales.

The so-called ‘Super Saturday’ theme continues on the tournament’s final weekend with three games played in quick succession.

Six Nations Council chairman Jacques Laurans said: "The 2008 RBS 6 Nations Championship concluded recently on yet another high note.

"The atmosphere in Cardiff (for Wales versus France) was electric, and am convinced that next year’s championship will be equally as dramatic.

"Once again, the championship brought huge TV audiences in all its countries, and we are looking forward to even more exciting matches and unpredictable results."

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