SAM Warburton may be on the sidelines but Justin Tipuric knows he still has a fight to earn Wales' 7 jersey against France on Saturday.

The Ospreys and Lions ace is front runner for the start at openside after earning the praise of boss Warren Gatland for his display against Italy on Sunday.

Tipuric had to bide his time in the opening three rounds of the championship while blindside Aaron Shingler and fellow flanker Josh Navidi impressed either side of Ross Moriarty.

But after a trio of cameos off the bench, the 28-year-old was given a chance at 6 alongside scavenger James Davies and number eight Taulupe Faletau, with his exploits impressing Gatland.

"Justin Tipuric was outstanding," said the head coach after the 38-14 win. "His line speed was excellent, he defended well and it was priobably the best that I've seen him compete on the ball for a long time."

If Tipuric gets the nod then it would be a little harsh on Navidi, who has been superb since getting a shot in the autumn, while Wales are blessed at 7.

There is the injured Warburton, Davies and Cardiff Blues' Ellis Jenkins played against the Azzurri while Dragons prospect Ollie Griffiths and Wasps' Thomas Young are other contenders.

"We know how good James is and he showed it again against Italy," said Tipuric. "There's so many good sevens out there.

"Even if you took us two out of it you'd have another three or four that could step in to the jersey easily.

"I think it's always been hotly contested, when I first came in it was Martyn (Williams) and Sam (Warburton) and myself. There's so much competition in Wales for that 7 jersey.

"It keeps getting stronger and stronger and that can only be good for the game in Wales."

Gatland must choose who misses out entirely against Les Bleus with Faletau favourite to start at number eight, which combined with Tipuric moving to openside would leave Navidi and Moriarty battling for a place on the bench.

Whoever gets the nod will be braced for a brutal battle with the French, who are buoyed by wins against Italy and England that mean they can still sneak runners-up spot behind Ireland.

"You know what you are going to get with France. They've got big strong men who try and get over the gain line," said Tipuric. If we can stop their go forward it will make out life a lot easier.

"When France gel and play well they are a very difficult side to beat and we knew that last year with that game [Wales lost to a try in the 100th minute].

"France have a lot of big men in the pack and they have big centres as well. You've got to stop them from going forward whether it's at the set-piece or stopping them from coming around the corner."

Gatland names his team at midday on Tursday with the back row and his starter at fly-half - Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Patchell or Dan Biggar - the biggest conundrums.

Owen Watkin could keep his place in midfield after impressing against Italy in the absence of Scott Williams, who had a bruised leg.