So, the final chapter is upon us – can Wales see the job through?
France in Paris will be the toughest challenge yet for Wayne Pivac’s Grand Slam chasing team.
However, they have overcome every obstacle put in front of them to date and, as history tells us, these Welsh players often reserve their best for last.
Here’s how we rate the two teams to see who has the edge ahead of what promises to be a compelling Stade de France showdown…
Brice Dulin 7 v Liam Williams 7
Each are having decent tournaments, scoring tries and setting them up.
Dulin regained his place last autumn after spending three years in the Test wilderness. Wales should be wary about kicking to him because he’s dangerous on the counter and he can propel the ball prodigious distances himself.
Lions 15 Liam has been getting better with every game in the championship. He doesn’t need a second invitation to run and has the happy knack of crossing the opposition try-line.
Damian Penaud 7 v Louis Rees-Zammit 8
Rees-Zammit has been the star of the tournament and another try wonder-show in Paris should see him officially crowned as best player. His presence, searing pace and finishing prowess is one of the reasons Welsh fans have such hope of the Grand Slam.
If his defence is a work in progress, the same applies to Penaud who has missed close on 40 per cent of his tackle attempts in the tournament. He can pop up unexpectedly, though, and is a player who makes things happen.
Virimi Vakatawa 8 v George North 8
A real battle of the giants. The French blockbuster possesses pace, power, size, a step and menace to spare. Vakatawa in full flow is a nightmare to defend against and has an eye for a gap. Wales somehow have to shackle him.
France might be saying the same thing about North, who has eased into the centre position to give him a new lease at Test level and offer Wales a greater cutting edge in the 13 jersey.
This, however, promises to be his toughest test yet in his new role.
Gael Fickou 7 v Jonathan Davies 6
Davies is still working his way back to full fitness, it seems, although he was better against Italy and Wayne Pivac has resisted a clamour for Willis Halaholo to start ahead of him at inside centre.
He’s been there and worn the t-shirt in these big games but hasn’t yet produced the form that made him such a star for the Lions. Hence the lower mark. This, however, is he perfect time for the real Jonathan Davies to step up. Don’t rule that out.
Elegance won’t be a problem for Fickou. He’s a classy runner, with a good skill-set but also enjoys defending. Another fascinating duel.
Teddy Thomas 7 v Josh Adams 7
Which Teddy Thomas will Wales see – the one who, given half a chance, will soar down the wing and skin you for pace with his effortless style, or the one who looks suspect in defence?
The challenge for Adams will be to test his opponent’s appetite for tackling and build upon his own welcome return to try-scoring.
Matthieu Jalibert 7 v Dan Biggar 7
Anyone who keeps Romain Ntamack out of the team has to be good. Jalibert is yet another gifted young Frenchman making his mark at the highest level, but can Wales get in the face of the 22-year-old and exploit any inexperience?
Biggar is at the opposite end of the spectrum, winning his 92nd cap as Pivac opts for his vast know-how. He fared well against Italy, controlling matters intelligently.
But Pivac has used Callum Sheedy off the bench cleverly, too, with the Bristol man helping to steer Wales home against Scotland and England and the coach won’t hesitate to send on the younger 10 again if things aren’t going well.
Antoine Dupont 9 v Gareth Davies 6
The French scrum-half general has been attracting plaudits from far and wide in this championship and his attacking play is something special. His passing is crisp, his box-kicking good, he makes sniping runs and scores tries.
Some already rate him the best player in the world. Stop him and Wales go some way towards stopping France and winning the Grand Slam.
Davies has yet to hit his straps in the Six Nations but he is a better defender than Dupont, who is prone to missing tackles. The Welshman will be aware a fit-again Tomos Williams is waiting in the wings in Paris, but we know he too can produce moments of match-winning audaciousness.
Cyril Baille 7 v Tomas Francis 7
Baille holds down a place in the Toulouse pack, proof enough of his ability. No-one does that without having something about him and the French loosehead is usually pretty good at the pushing and shoving game, but also decent in the loose, where he enjoys carrying.
When Francis is present Wales’ scrum just looks more solid. His stock rises when he is missing, the set-piece wobbles and Wales are in any manner of trouble. He’ll be key to providing sound first ball and ensuring Wales’ scrum again stands up to what promises to be a huge challenge. He’s piled up close on 50 tackles in this championship, too. For the avoidance of doubt, that’s a good effort.
Julien Marchand 7 v Ken Owens 8
There are flashier hookers out there than Owens, but if you want someone to smash through a brick wall then the Wales No. 2 is your man.
As with Francis, his return to the pack has coincided with an upturn in Wales’ fortunes this year. And, we mustn’t forget, there were those two tries in Rome last time out. Also, count those dominant tackles — five of them in the tournament so far, knocking the stuffing out of opponents. Not bad for a warrior who recently turned 34.
Marchand can concede the occasional scrum penalty, but he is solid enough and terrific in the loose, combining ball carrying ability with deft handling skills like a back at times. A modern-day forward, you might say.
Mohamed Haouas 7 v Wyn Jones 7
Haouas isn’t known as Le Enforcer for no reason. At 20 stone he is the cornerstone of the French scrum, but another who is comfortable handling and showing up in the loose. It makes for a potent mix, though in his case there have been discipline issues in the past.
Jones has had a fine tournament, bringing a firmer presence to the Welsh set-piece which he puts down to learning his trade the hard way in the Welsh Premiership. He can give away the occasional penalty, but it goes with the territory for a prop. He’s been outstanding around the field and shouldn’t be found wanting.
Needs a big game, though.
Romain Taofifenua 7 v Adam Beard 6
Taofifenua had a strong game against England, achieving turnovers and showing up well in the loose. He enjoys nothing more than to carry but he’ll also front up in defence. But if Bernard le Roux were fit he probably wouldn’t be playing.
Beard has gone from not wanted in the autumn to key man in this Welsh side, his return to the fold helping to stabilise a previously wobbling lineout.
Wales also seem to win a lot of games when he is playing.
Paul Willemse 7 v Alun Wyn Jones 8
Willemse is a giant of a man, 6ft 7in and weighing in at 20-plus stone. Yet another French forward who likes to get around the field with ball in hand and he doesn’t shirk in defence. France use him sparingly in the lineouts, perhaps because he’s a heck of a lump to lift.
If Wales want a calming presence in the dressing room just before kick-off, and indeed during a frenetic 80 minutes, then the captain is the man.
Alun Wyn has proven his critics wrong during the Six Nations to such an extent that many are tipping him to lead the Lions in his 36th year.
He won’t take a backward step in Paris, that’s for sure. Where the skipper goes, the others follow.
Dylan Cretin 7 v Josh Navidi 8
Cretin is a threat as a carrier and has made some significant inroads into opposition defences in this tournament.
But Navidi is a cut above with his relentless grafting game.
He’s made 60 tackles so far and a decent proportion of them have been classed as dominant. He’s also assisted two tries, poses a threat at the breakdown and is a wonderful team player.
Another whose return from injury has made this Wales team stronger.
Charles Ollivon 8 v Justin Tipuric 9
What a mouthwatering battle.
France’s captain leads in every sense – vocally, but also through his deeds on the pitch. The others take their lead from him. He’s his team’s main lineout target and his carrying is top class.
However, he won’t meet a tougher direct opponent than Tipuric, who has been a huge influence behind Wales’ Grand Slam charge once more.
At the last count it was only one tackle missed in 75 for the Osprey. The next best in the tournament doesn’t even come close.
There have also been three turnovers and not a single penalty conceded. You just sense he’s going to have a huge game in Paris.
He’ll probably need it against the French back-row.
Gregory Alldritt 8 v Taulupe Faletau 9
Faletau has begun to return to the barnstorming form that will make him one of Warren Gatland’s first picks for the Lions this summer.
Strong in the carry, resolute in defence, ready to win turnovers, good in the loose, what’s not to like?
Aldritt is still only 23 and he’s made the kind of early impact on the Test scene that a young Faletau did under Gatland back in the day.
His carrying is a big feature of his game, he puts in the tackles — if not anywhere near as many as his Welsh rival — and is not averse to an offload.
However, he’s up against one of the true great No. 8s in Faletau.