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Friday night follies leave Wales feeling bleu

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Bryn Palmer | 03:18 UK time, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Grand Slams are not always won by a team dominating all the others. Just look at Ireland last year.

The only requirement is to finish on the right side of the scoreline, by hook or by crook, in all five matches.

If as seems likely, France go on to win a third Grand Slam - and fifth title - of the Six Nations era, they will look back on Friday night in Cardiff as the one where they flirted with a faux pas but ultimately took a major step.

Three straight wins may not sound like much, but it has proved beyond this Tricolores side in the 26 months of Marc Lievremont's reign as coach, until now.

If that psychological barrier has been cleared, Lievremont looked like a man who knew the ramifications of blowing a 20-0 half-time lead would have led to a whole lot more being erected.

His next battle is against complacency, with Italy next up in Paris before England arrive at the Stade de France for the final game of the Championship on 20 March.

Flanker Imanol Harinordoquy and lock Lionel Nallet celebrate after France's victory in CardiffFrance head the Six Nations table after three wins from three. Photograph: Getty

Wales can only hope that when they host the Azzurri on the same day they still have something to play for.

Instead of a potential title on the line, they could - at the time of writing - conceivably need to beat the Italians to ensure they don't end up with the Wooden Spoon.

That finale would not sit easily with Warren Gatland's post-match claim that Wales "are not far away from being a very good side" and that "when it does click for us, it is going to be good".

But you can where he is coming from. When the head coach picks the bones out of another enthralling Six Nations encounter, he will reflect that for all France's first-half solidity and predatory finishing, his own side could still have won even from 20-0 down.

At half-time, it looked for all the world like Wales were staring at another hiding to rank alongside the one dished out by Australia in the autumn, completely puncturing the pre-match mood.

The bons viveurs had spilled out of the hostelries of St Mary's Street into a Millennium Stadium already awash with the sounds of Sospan Fach, Hymns and Arias and Bread of Heaven.

Welsh light-heavyweight boxing champion Nathan Cleverly was introduced to the crowd before kick-off, showing off his British, European and Commonwealth belts.

But it was France who boxed clever from the first bell, and Wales barely landed a punch as the visitors appeared to land two knock-out blows with interception tries in the sixth and 40th minutes.

That Wales, inspired once again by the brilliance of Shane Williams, not only rebounded off the ropes but took the contest into the final minute, justified the assertion of captain Ryan Jones afterwards that "you certainly can't question the heart and soul of this team".

The answers Wales need to find lie instead in more mundane, but fundamental, areas that tend to win or lose you big matches.

France dominated the set-pieces, where every line-out was an ordeal for the home supporters after Wales lost two in succession throwing to the middle in the 18th and 21st minutes.

They steadied the ship in the second half, when the impressive Bradley Davies - playing after the death of his mother last week - took a series of throws at the front, but the damage was done.

France also won the scrum battle as expected, earning three penalties from it in the first half as Wales were repeatedly pinged for collapsing.

But it was their blitz defence that helped established the Tricolores' commanding half-time lead. They smashed Wales back on the gain line, forcing them into a host of handling errors, and fly-half Stephen Jones initially struggled to counteract it with a wayward kicking game.

Jones's loop around Jamie Roberts and chip to the corner offered one route beyond the blitz, but it wasn't until the 24th minute that the fly-half opted for a chip over the top of the blue battalions rushing up.

The pressure France exerted yielded an early reward in James Hook's desperation to get the ball wide, only for his intended pass to Roberts to be gobbled up by Alexis Palisson for the opening try.

The second interception was again born of Welsh frustration at their inability to break free of the French shackles.

At 13-0 down and half-time beckoning, Shane Williams tried to keep an attack going by flipping a risky ball up from the floor, straight into the hands of Francois Trinh-Duc.

Luke Charteris, Jamie Roberts and Martyn Williams look glum after Wales are beaten on home soilWales were left frustrated at errors after losing two of their first three games. Photograph: AP

No wonder Shaun Edwards looked glum afterwards. "I was very proud that our defence kept France to no offensive tries," he said. "But teams are doing their homework on us and 30% of the tries we have conceded in the last 18 months have come from intercepts."

His fellow assistant coach, Rob Howley, sounded mortified that fallibilities in his department - attack - had spoiled all the advances made in defence.

"We have got one of the best defence coaches in world rugby [Edwards] and we have let him down," said the former Wales scrum-half. "If we hadn't given those two balls away, we would have won."

Perhaps, but Wales could still have negated those lapses if they had finished off two cleverly created try-scoring opportunities in the second half.

After 44 minutes, Hook's footballing skills and deft pick-up after Shane Williams's intelligent kick ahead took him clear of the defence only for his final looped pass to elude the grasp of Luke Charteris with the line at the lock's mercy.

Then, having fought back to 13-20, Wales looked poised to level the scores with France down to 14 men with Morgan Parra - or Morgan Parry as the stadium announcer cheekily called him the first time - in the sin-bin.

But with 11 minutes left, and the visitors the ones now on the ropes, Roberts opted to hang onto the ball rather than feed the supporting Hook to his right, the centre turning back inside before his pass eventually bounced off Hook's shoulder.

Wales didn't just make errors, they made them at crucial moments and in advantageous positions.

When France had conceded their sixth penalty in a row in the third quarter, Lee Byrne inexplicably sent a kick to the corner dead instead, shaking his head in disbelief.

A second misjudgement followed after 67 minutes when France conceded another penalty and Byrne again failed to find touch.

After failing to score a point in Parra's 10-minute absence, the steam appeared to have gone out of the Welsh revival, Frederic Michalak and Parra kicking France's only two penalties of the second half.

But suddenly sizzling Shane was picking up a loose ball, evading two tackles on the touchline and stepping inside Parra for a record-breaking 19th Championship try, and 50th in all for Wales.

Déjà vu? Surely Wales couldn't mount another last-ditch escape act so soon after their mugging of Scotland... could they?

The answer was a resounding 'non'. Unlike the Scots, who with only 13 men and the scores level, opted to kick the ball back to Wales from the kick-off rather than into touch for a draw, Michalak deliberately scuffed his re-start straight out, giving Wales no time to launch one last play before referee Jonathan Kaplan blew the final whistle.

France's relieved players did a lap of honour with the air of men that knew they had avoided the rugby equivalent of the guillotine.

Wales - after a similarly agonising defeat in Paris last year - may conclude the Friday night Six Nations experience has not been kind to them so far.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I wouldn't say Wales were unlucky - they had their chances to win the game for sure, they just failed to take them. Intercept tries are always a real punch in the gut as far as confidence and momentum go and Wales did very well to recover as they did but it was still an opportunity lost I thought.

    Still, although it's not much consolation to Wales, they definitely showed France are beatable. Great defensive work by France but little in attack apart from short spells and Wales exposed the Gallic frailty that is still there underneath it all, you just have to dig harder than usual to expose it. France are still favourites to win, and win with a Grand Slam, but if England somehow pull off a win against Ireland today... Well, could be an interesting end to the tournament. Mind you, pulling off a win against Ireland is definitely easier said than done.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    So intercept passes don't count anymore? That's O.K then we'll have that Lions test back where Wilko lobbed it to Joe Roff.

    The reason Wales had to throw those passes is that the French defensive system was utterly superior and by flinging the ball wide Wales spent most of their time and energy going backwards. It is not possible to play a wide game against a fresh defence, you'll get eaten alive. Wales under the instructions of Gatland and Edwards tried exactly that in the first half.


    The only reason they came back into the game is because the French as they have a tendency to do assumed the game was done and started making silly decisions.

  • Comment number 4.

    Well, the welsh have been going on about playing expansive rugby and yet proved again they don't have skill to do it, 20 blot by half time. Change tactics in the second half and play up the middle and start to get into the game. Of course it's boring rugby when England do it.

  • Comment number 5.

    I really feel for the Welsh (even though I am an English fan), their team plays some of the best rugby of the tournament and they are two defeats from three games. I tend to agree with Gatland that when they do finally "click" they could well be devastating.

    The french were clinical in the first half and congratulations to them for that, but they did start to fall apart in the second and that is encouraging for the Italians and English with their games coming up.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am an Englishman and want to congratulate Wales on a fantastic second half display. Especially Daves who thought showed an awful lot of character out there given his circumstances.

    France defence was rock solid but Wales definately showed that they can be beaten.

    My only critiscm s that Hook s obviously the most talented kicker in the side. So why cant he kick for the corners instead of Byrne? Also, Gatland really is a Grade A Power Tool (post and pre match comments).

  • Comment number 7.

    British fans seem to ignore this French team is not even the number one neither the second one. The strange amount of injuries in the forwards AND the backwards have forced Lievremont make a sort of third choice composition, with players I hardly heard about, and with no time to assimilate the collective axes.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am disappointed that coaches of the stature of Gatland and Edwards are saying that Wales were unlucky and played most of the rugby instead of looking at the teams weaknesses (line out, scrum, failing to find touch with penalties etc). While the tackling improved from previous weeks there were far too many basic errors. Wales did very well to get within 6 points but that has only papered over the cracks of a worrying trend for conceding soft tries (missed tackles and interceptions a common theme) and then only starting to play when the opposition have put 15-20 points on them. France lost the plot for 20 minutes in the second half which the Welsh exploited but when Parra went off for 10 minutes in the bin France outscored them 3-0.
    England were accused of being delusional after Johnson and Borthwick's assertion that England played some good stuff last weekend after a largely inept - but victorious - display against Italy and rightly so. But when Gatland and Edwards say it after a feeble first half people are saying they were unlucky to lose. Double standards?

  • Comment number 9.

    Why oh Why must we give away unnecessary tries. Interception tries in the England Match and now two more against France. Tries which were not even created by the opposition. Unforced errors and poor handling skills by a International team. you have to ask questions.

    First Half........why did it take so long for the coaches to recognize that we were not getting through the French Blitz defense by running out wide when no French Players were being sucked into mid-field by our forwards or centers to create the spaces out wide?

    Second half we did exactly that....as Colin Charvis said run it up the guts and then put it out wide where there was now space and when that was not possible to grubber or chip it over that Blitz defense and open up the space!! All 40 minutes to late, this should have been done in the first half. Mr T no team needs to throw risky passes in an attempt to break a blitz defense we simply had to change our attack. Our players need to think more and Captains need to realize that something has to change and let the players know.

    Why did we persist on Huw Bennett whose throwing was again poor, we have the World Cup next year lets try Ken Owens.

    Championship over, lets get some new players tried and tested, Ken Owens, Andrew Bishop, Eifion Roberts, Tom James etc. We need strength in depth so lets try and get some!!

    Well done to Shane Williams and Stephen Jones and well done to Wales for the fight back though but unfortunately to late.

  • Comment number 10.

    To be honest, I think that the Roberts-Hook combination is not working and I think we need to change things. Maybe bring Andrew Bishop in at 13 with Hook on the bench. He certainly will tidy up our midfield defence. In the pack, I feel we need another reshuffle. Sam Warburton is due an opportunity at 7. Martyn Williams is not up to scratch at the moment. Yes he has been threatened but until he is actually dropped we will not see him really fight for a spot.

    On a positive note, I thought Richie Rees and Bradley Davies were absolutely outstanding. Rees faced Morgan Parra, the in form scrum-half in the northern hemisphere, and made him look like a dog's breakfast. Davies was constantly putting in tackles, making loads of yards and hitting the rucks. Shane Williams was immense again. He is back to form now.

    Unfortunately, we cannot seem to play for eighty minutes and that is a severe problem. We need to start cutting down on our errors. Hopefully good results will follow.

  • Comment number 11.

    Aha! Interesting to see the usual "French frailty" lines already cropping up. If that had been England, the same people - all the way up to M Johnson himself - would have been praising their resilience against fierce opposition or saying "we ground it out but a win's a win" - but because it was the French it has to be their complacency at fault that meant they weren't as strong in the 2nd half.

    Fact is that Wales were awful in the first half. Their only dangerous moment came from Jones's little kick through. If the ref had spotted Roberts blocking Basteraud that would have been a penalty against them and the scoring chance irrelevant. Even as it was, France's defence dealt with it.

    Wales played so much better in the 2nd half. If they'd started as well they'd have won - no doubt about it. But for Gatland to say France were "on the ropes" is just nonsense. There was about 20 minutes of the whole game where Wales looked the better side, but the remaining 60 went to les Bleues. That Williams try once more came from not just one but two missed forward passes, but I'll give him credit for a great finish.

    Didn't agree with Jonathan Davies choice of man of the match either. Should have gone to Clement Poitrenaud. Apart from one mis-cued kick he had his third brilliant game of the championship. The weakness in the blitz defence is the chip over, but he has been well up to the challenge so far.

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm French and agree with Mr T.

    Despite Wales changed tactics in second half, they could play like that because in french minds, the match was won and over.

    French team is full of promise but they need more maturity.

  • Comment number 13.

    Wales have become quite predictable they do well for new coaches then lapse into a preference for under-dogism with occasional great games and periods of play. Often going behind. It was almost tedious, sat at home without the stadium atmosphere, suffering deja vu. What kind of plan is put game almost out of reach and wait for oppos level to drop now comeback.... yaaawwwwwnnnnnnn

    If I was Gatland and Edwards I'd find an excuse to get out now. The players don't seem to have the ambition to consistently put themselves on the line. The last world cup showed they dominated a game whenever they were underdogs against Fiji but as soon as the odds moved in their favour they choked horribly.

    Even in 2003 Wales at the world cup let themselves get well behind England and New Zealand before giving them a scare.

    Really whilst you can come from behind and be underdog every round it's unlikely to win a world cup. I am sure even France will know what to expect next time. I see no future for Welsh rugby with this mentality beyond securing Northern bragging rights every few years when the fixtures align to make them underdogs almost every game and they get a new coach to impress.

    To consistently win teams need to be manly and try to win from the front and not go for the miracle win every time. Not play only when you have nothing to lose.

  • Comment number 14.

    After the whole game what really sickened me was the booing that rung round the ground as the French kicked it straight out to touch after the last Wales try. As it meant a sure French victory I can only assume it was the Welsh fans who were doing the booing. Were they booing their own players? Possibly. But I got the very distinct impression that they were booing the French for not kicking it the Welsh and thus letting them have one more chance to win it. Disgusting behaviour for sure. After all no one likes a sore looser.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hate to say I told you so but.... I told you so. Wales were awful in the first half when they tried to use their "electrifying" backs. There back row couldn't keep up and they looked exposed for what they really are... old men and nobodies.
    Wales started to look good when they gave Jamie Roberts the ball and let him run straight up the middle of the park. Boring rugby? Not in my book. Hook looks a like he's coming good as well. He has vision, pace and a very good boot on him too. It pains me to say it and I'll get the usual Welsh tripe that I#'m a football fan but Wales were unlucky not to pull it back. Its a shame that they try so hard to play a style of rugby that they are simply not good enough to play. Keep it simple boyos and you might win something... Even against the Irish.

  • Comment number 16.

    The first half was a mess and at half time I thought the second would be worse. In reality it was a fabulous second half and Wales could have been level on 69 minutes. Call me an optimist but I still believe with the players waiting in the wings (Phillips, Biggar, Bishop) and our tight five when they are together again we will do the business. Yet of course we will continue to self destruct now and then but what fun and excitement - oh and prepare to be bored if you are waiting to support Eng later - ABE!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Insane Reindeer

    As a Welshman it bitterly disappoints me also that there is this booing element with Welsh crowds, it started with crowds at regional games and now seems to have got to the International stage.....why I don't really know...a certain element of the crowd maybe and probably to mush booze with the late kick off. I am still confident that most Welsh fans like myself are decent enough to show some sort of respect.

  • Comment number 18.

    Am I the only one to feel Hooke is overrated. He gave away an intercept try-not for the first time. His goalkicking is suspect compared to Jones. When he ran in support of Roberts in the breakaway he ran behind Roberts who lost sight of him. He should have gone wide to either side of Roberts. He misses tackles as he showed against Scotland. So why is he so esteemed? I was impressed with Wales 2nd half showing. They did enough to win if they had had a little more luck. France were gifted the win and never looked as if they could create chances. Well done to Welsh defence on that score. If England ever play like the French did after 1/2 time, well...

  • Comment number 19.

    Good old Colchins... They're off again. If we had Phillips and Biggar and Bishop... Yawn... And if you still had Barry John and Gareth Edwards.... Boring nonesense. You lost because you try too hard to play out of your depth.... But you needn't have done. Boring rugby will get you as far as you can but suicide will always kill you.

  • Comment number 20.

    what annoyed me about the french was after the conversion of the last gasp try there were 20 seconds left, the ball bounced off the post an michalak hoofed the ball away, i feel if a player does this, the clock should be stopped because it was cheating

  • Comment number 21.

    Sweet, sweet revenge after that awful dive by Lee Byrne last week robbed Scotland of a thoroughly deserved victory. And how wonderful to see France kicking straight to touch at the end; what did the Welsh crowd expect, France to give them the ball back so they could score again?! If only Scotland had had the nous to do that last week and deny Wales the most shockingly undeserved win for many a year!

  • Comment number 22.

    Jiminoz

    Its always good to see unfair English Bias ;]

  • Comment number 23.

    What is it with the welsh, against England in the first half they didn't get going, England got complacent and let them back in. Against Scotland dominated for the majority of the match, then nerves and stupid booking, a dive (never a sending off), and unbelievable decision not kick the ball into touch and Wales win (with flair to be far). Then yesterday France, France squeezed the life out of the Welsh in the first half, took their foot of the gas and back come Wales.
    The story appears to be that when team pressurise the welsh they can't play to their potential, give them space and they will. Its a bit like the English Cricket team always winning the dead rubber when the pressures off.
    Until Wales learn to live with the pressure, their flair will fail, which is a great shame because in attack they are fantastic to watch

  • Comment number 24.

    I was at the game last night.

    Great atmosphere. Wales had plenty of ball in the first half but no cutting edge to break the superb French defence. Horrible way to concede two tries.

    The second half was much improved but against a team who were 20 points in front and who took their foot off the pedal.

    Insane Reindeer...

    The reason why the Welsh fans booed at the end of the game is because when the conversion was taken it appeared that there was still time for one more attack. The booing wasn't directed at the French but the referee. Who made some shocking decisions. The penalty in the first half never was as well.

    Some great performances from some new players. I think there is plenty to be happy about. Need to cut out the errors and learn from this game.

  • Comment number 25.

    I stand corrected. When the conversion was taken the clock had turned 80 mins but when the try was scored there was still a minute left on the clock.

  • Comment number 26.

    Thanks Flytaff. I know its childish but rialling the taffs is always fun Wales were pretty good value in the second half last night but I wish they'd stop trying to fling the ball about with abandon. Its lost them 2 games this year already and it will cause divisions within the side and coaching staff. You really aren't THAT good but when you play to your strengths you can give anyone a game. Scotland and Argentina are showing that but Wales seem to have everything to prove. I stand by my guns on your back row though. They were terrible last night. Martyn Williams really needs to put his feet up and I really don't know whats happened to Ryan Jones.

  • Comment number 27.

    Jiminoz
    Jiminoz

    Right now your right we really are not that good but we can only get better.......I just wish you could admit that England were in the same category;]

    Maybe it's your Press or something but every time you have a victory it's like winning WW2 or something? The English tabloids persist on giving you a full page spread on how you are now World beaters and then Ireland beat you and its all gloom again;]

    Agree with the back row issue we need a number 8 like Xavier Rush or Scott Quinnell and Sam Warburton needs a shot instead of Williams.

  • Comment number 28.

    England U20 10-25 Ireland U20 has a nice sort of ring to it for this afternoon don't you think. ABE

  • Comment number 29.

    Well, I thought that France would absolutely batter Wales (and hoped so, too) but you have to say that the Welsh can play. So, well done for a great comeback. I am not sure it would have turned out that way if it had been tight at half time, but we'll never know. Don't think that wales will win the championship now and I don't think England will finish fourth either, though that is what one Welsh supporter confidently predicted after wales played England.

  • Comment number 30.

    Like Ireland 2 weeks ago Wales threw the game away. All England players take note. The French and that arrogant *insert expletive of your own here* Morgan Parra, are fast replacing the English as the team, the Irish most want to obliterate.

    I say Bryn, your blogs and 606 won't be affected by these BBC budget cuts will they?

  • Comment number 31.

    Wales often try to go wide too early before there is any space, instead they need to break the gain line and get behind the defence either around the breakdown or in the centre of the pitch. To do this two support runners need to run close to the ball carrier so he can pop a short pass either way out of the tackle, once behind the defence the wide defenders get sucked in, then you need quick ball to go wide and you have a chance of a try. Too often Wales go wide early, the support runners drift away from the ball carrier waitng for the long pass which then gets intercepted. If you throw a long pass it needs to be like shane williams pass to halfpenny when the french defnce had already been drawn in, will greenwood was the master of the long pass for england.
    As for this being a third choice french team I suggest you watch more french rugby not just the six nations when england win a few games, also as for wales only being able to play well when well behind on points suggests you have maybe only watched this years six nations. Good luck to england today and their true rugby fans.

  • Comment number 32.

    Flytaff - you arent very sharp are you? England won against Italy yet the tabloids were merciless in their criticism. When we beat you guys, there was only a hint of optimism. On the whole, the Englsh game (including the press) is pretty grounded....in fact, I would accuse MJ and Borthwck of being too grounded and not ambitious enough.

    Anyway, realistically, Wales have not been good this year. No need to take out the frustration out on England....I would say we are not n the same league as you as strongly believe we are better in all aspects of the game.

    I actually think you guys will struggle against Italy.

  • Comment number 33.

    Thats a fair point about England. I reckon they're getting the same treatment as the soccer team. If you win a game or two then why can't you do it week in week out. I disagree with the potential in the current team though. Any ships only as good as its master and MJ, though a God when he was playing, has no idea about coaching. In saying that he's not on the pitch when the whistle blows and every man needs to stand up and be counted. Look at the England side on paper... Tight 4 are mediocre at best. The loose 4 with Shaw, Moody and Haskell look good and Easter can hold his own. JW's still cool and I like tghe look of Flutey/ Tait. Foden needs a chance at 15 though.
    England aren't out of their depth in this company and the rugby they play is hard nosed and ugly. But it works and they can still grind out a win or two. lets face it their never going to play hot potato with it are they?

  • Comment number 34.

    There is a point in saying that this is not necessarily the best french side. They are without outstanding players such as mermoz, medard, clerc pape, ouedraogo and picamoles. Their success this season has to be a result of the rotation policy they have been operating in recent years. After trialing 70 odd players, they are able to know who they can call on at international level and so despite injuries and loss of form of some players, france are still able to be the side tipped as grand slam favourites.

  • Comment number 35.

    In the context of the World game I think we're seeing just how far behind bhind the 6N really is. I live in Oz and watch the Super 14 which is a proper spectacle. Its faster, harder and played with a fierce code of competition. Having avidly watched all of the drudgery served up in the 6N so far I fear the RWC is still going to be half a World away come the end of next year.

  • Comment number 36.

    I really do believe Gatland and his coaching staff have become jaded. They take to much time to react to a situation on the field (as I mentioned on comment 9). To add to that why can't our players realize what is going on (especially the Captain) and change the tactics as needed?

    It is obvious to any fan that (for instance) Huw Bennett is poor with his throw in's....so why persist (to show your faith in the player?...that only goes so far...look at Gareth Cooper;] This is International Rugby..there is no room for showing loyalty to a player...if you don't perform your out.......so Martin Williams, Huw Bennett, Ryan Jones, Paul James, Lee Byrne beware;]

  • Comment number 37.

    Morning folks; Thanks for all your comments, keep em coming.

    The French were celebrating with large beers and whisky at 11am here in Cardiff this morning. Think they've enjoyed their weekend.

    Re: No 3 - Mr T - of course interception passes count, and I think we agree with each other. The reason Wales were trying to force the play was because they couldn't find a way through or round the blitz defence. But when they tried different tactics - Jones's loop and chip through, Shane's delicate kick ahead for Hook to break through for the try that wasn't, launching Roberts up the middle, Byrne's chip and gather late on - they had more success. Just a shame - as others have pointed out - that they were too one-dimensional in the first half.

    Re: 8 and others - Must admit I was surprised to hear Gatland saying the French were 'on the ropes' and 'out on their feet'. I thought Michalak played a tidy hand when he came on in a difficult period for his side, taking the right options amid all the welsh pressure. Until Wales establish a better set-piece platform, where France were 10/10 at the line-out and only conceded one scrum penalty, Gatland's side will always leave themselves open to that type of defeat. If they can tighten up in those areas in next fortnight, I give them a decent chance in Dublin.

    Re: No 30 - WillyGilly - No word yet on what these reported cuts may or not mean for us. I'd like to think the popularity of these blogs will ensure they remain an essential part of our operation. Here's hoping!

  • Comment number 38.

    As an Englishman, it's always a joy to see Wales defeated (after all, they've handed our arses to us on far too many occasions). However, Gatland makes this schadenfreude even more agreeable; his typically Aussie hubris in defeat made me fume. Yes, he can be understandably proud of the Welsh resurrection in the second half (what's Welsh for déjà vu?), but why can't he at least give France some due recognition? In his post-match interview, he gave not one word of praise for the French victors, and only marginally stopped short of 'saying the better team lost'. Fortunately his brave players were far more magnanimous in defeat than he ever could be.

  • Comment number 39.

    A few home truths about last night's match

    1.People were talking even before the match started about how to deal with the French blitz defence - you chip over the top. Quite why it took 40 minutes to work this out I have no idea

    2.For as long as we continue to make stupid mistakes, we will not be a top side. We need to be far more disciplined

    3.If we have our first choice team fit, in form and on the pitch, we can be competitive. We have missed the all Lions front row and Mike Phillips badly. (That said Richie Rees was outstanding last night). And some of our bigger names are not performing at the moment. Roberts has done little this season, Hook makes too many mistakes, even Byrne is off colour at the moment.

    4.The trend for starting late in matches (when some distance behind) is worrying and indicates something radically wrong with the midset of the players. I say this with some degree of hesitation, but do Gatland and Edwards need to have a look at themselves.

    Overall the better team won. Wales could have won but did not derserve it. Bradley was outstanding. But I fear for the retirement of Shane Williams

    Keep the faith (an ever optimistic Welshman)

  • Comment number 40.

    No.37 Bryn- Nice article ;]

    What I want to know is why did the Welsh Coaching set up wait till half time to change the tactics and game plan???

    Why were no instructions sent down to the team at a stoppage in the first half? Neil Jenkins come on;]

    The Welsh players have played against Blitz defenses many times so why not use the standard methods of breaking down a Blitz defense (as mentioned) rather than wait till Half time to be told it by the Welsh set up???????? Can our players not think for themselves????

  • Comment number 41.

    Gatland is quoted as saying: "At no stage did we feel under pressure because I don't think France played a lot of rugby."

    Does he seriously expect us to believe that at 20-0 down at half-time both he and his team did not feel even slightly under pressure? What did he tell his players at half-time - "relax boys, everything's going to plan"?

    Is he also trying to tell us that the 20-point lead was not the result of a highly accomplished French performance in the first half?

    Yes, Wales fought back well in the second half, but we see this time and again in internationals, when one team establishes a big first-half lead.

    Gatland's comments are embarrassing and insulting to the French, who played more than their fair share of rugby throughout the match.

    Shaun Edwards is playing the same game by seeking some half-arsed moral victory with his comment: "I was very proud that our defence kept France to no offensive tries,".

    Sorry Shaun, but as someone rightly pointed out above, interception tries do indeed count, and are often the result of sides failing to cope with the pressure being heaped on them by opposion defences. And if sides have "done their homework on us", it is Edwards' job to counter that. He can't have it both ways.

    As defence coach Edwards knows all this (or at least should) but instead chooses to contribute to the predictable and delusional post-match chorus of: 'we only ever beat ourselves, France played no rugby etc..'

    A rugby match lasts 80 minutes, for the majority of this period France were the better side. If Gatland and Edwards genuinely can't see this, they cannot hope to put things right for their team.



  • Comment number 42.

    I must say I was very impressed with Bradly Davies, having lost a parent recently I can say the pain is unbearable. How he managed to play let alone put in a MoM worthy performance is amazing.

    Wales on the other hand need to learn a game starts in the first minute not the 60th. They need to stop playing "expensive" (reckless) rugby do the basics then throw it about when the defenses have been split.

  • Comment number 43.

    Same old story. Wales are never beaten: it's simply that sometimes their opponents score more points.

  • Comment number 44.

    dudepod45

    Don't worry Mate...you'll have plenty of time to moan, we'll see u back later on here after England lose;]

  • Comment number 45.

    Well I never, The "holier than thou" Parra cheated and got a Yellow Card. I thought it was only the Irish who cheated (according to Parra)

  • Comment number 46.

    You don't beat the French by flinging the ball around from the first minute. Teams that have done well against France have played tight at first, frustrated them, and then gone for it in the second half.

  • Comment number 47.

    I hope Welsh fans don't take this the wrong way but your team is some way from being a very good oufit - unlike the claims made by Gatland.

    You have played three abysmal first halves of rugby on the spin - shot through with a catalogue of errors, poor decisions and indiscipline. Good teams don't do that. Wales were lucky to beat Scotland - who were the better side. Take a reality check, change the tactics and cut the mistakes before bragging about how good you are and how you would have won but for massive error count and poor lineout.

  • Comment number 48.

    Can someone clarify for me the position re France’s last kick last night.
    13.7 KICK-OFF OF UNDER 10 METRES AND NOT PLAYED BY AN OPPONENT
    Law 13.7
    If the ball does not reach the opponent’s 10-metre line the opposing team has two choices:
    To have the ball kicked off again, or
    To have a scrum at the centre of the half-way line and they throw in the ball.

    Surely France, by kicking it straight into touch without going ten metres the Welsh should by rights have had a scrum?

    Confused (and not Welsh)

  • Comment number 49.

    DrTel,

    Jonathan Davies said the same thing and didn't deny he wouldn't have done the same. I'd say blame it on the ref for not knowing all of the laws and wanting to get the game over.

  • Comment number 50.

    An entertaining game in which both teams have displayed their strengths...and their weaknesses. Marc Lievremont had clearly said that he was going for the win, even should this requires some more Anglo-Saxon approaches (i.e. less glamourous, more realistic).
    It has been mentionned on a couple of occasions but needs underlying here: France have won a game despite losing 13 players to various injuries, 5 of them at least being major first team players.
    Morgan Parra is the main worry to me as he will easily wound up by the English. He is young and unsettled, unlike Trin Dhuc who has matured faster. Should England's factory produce a new version of Mark Reagan, little Parra will lose it and become ineffective.
    Wales, for a spell too short, played some wonderful flairy rugby, but I totally agree that Gatland is a sore looser and lacks understanding and diplomacy. Perhaps he meant that France were expected to be running more and be more diparate and spread on the field, and that is where Wales expected them?
    Much of the beautiful Welsh game was enabled by France going into arrogant "we've won it already" mode. But whatever the manner, in the end the result matters the most. I'm French and can only say that the Millenium Stadium should now be named the Temple of Rugby as the atmosphere there is just mindblowing. And the fans from both sides have grown to appreciate each other's company. Maybe Gatland should be invited for a pint on an air of accordeon for la troisieme mi-temps: he would loosen a bit.

  • Comment number 51.

    44. At 2:46pm on 27 Feb 2010, Flytaff wrote:
    dudepod45

    Don't worry Mate...you'll have plenty of time to moan, we'll see u back later on here after England lose;]

    Should be back soon then :)

  • Comment number 52.

    Bring me someone English I need to do some gloating

  • Comment number 53.

    Wales are a "picture" team. You can "take a picture" of them as a team, or specific players, or their coaches, and say, correctly, how brilliant they are . . .or look. But they aren't finishers, as in killers. They don't have the killer instinct out of the gate. (England actually does, but they are missing what Wales have, and so are doing poorly because they are all intent but inadequate playing, coaching, and preparation talent.) Yes, Wales came back to beat Scotland, but that's because they stayed with their game and style and Scotland came totally unstuck, NOT because Wales reached down into themselves and pulled put something remarkable. As Scotland fell apart, Wales's talent and coaching came trough, and they won. But when another team stays "up," as France did, or bests Wales on talent and coaching, they don't have the "junkyard dog" personality to get on top and stay there. Ireland do, and that's why Ireland beat England against the run of play, and have been so good recently; Ireland-France was a matter of superiority in all facets on the day. In a crude analogy stolen from American political commentary, Wales bring a knife to a gunfight; Ireland bring the gun (and France shot them to pieces in Paris because they had all the ammo, the grudge, and the home ground).

  • Comment number 54.

    Get rid of Byrne (how can you not find touch from there?), put Hook back to 15, bring back Shanks and then beg Henson to re-think.

    And keep Gareth Cooper away from the squad!

  • Comment number 55.

    P.S. To all Welsh fans: It could be worse - you could have the legends that are Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson taking your game back 20 years.

  • Comment number 56.

    32. Chas

    Hmmm what were you saying about England being better in every aspect of the game than Wales......whose the sharp one now ;]

  • Comment number 57.

    Steve J - "Gatland . . . his typically Aussie hubris." Careful, mate. Gatland's from the Waikato, in New Zealand. Many a man has come to grief for accusing Waikato natives of being Australians. A complaint has been lodged under the "offensive usage, libel, and 'other objectionable language'" terms of the House Rules, but it was disallowed due to the oppressive neo-colonial attitudes at the BBC. It is likely Steve J and the BBC may expect immediate and forceful action from the South Pacific Forum for Protection Against Slights Considered to Offend Though Perhaps Unintentionally (SPFPASCOTPU), and its ad hoc subcommittee, Especially Involving Allegations About Being Australian (EIAABA). These matters are of great concern in the FABROTW(EA) (Formerly Abused-by-Britain Regions Of The World (Excluding Australia) and are not to be trifled with, i.e. are not to be served with trifle. It would certainly be a matter for alarm to hear Maori refer to Martin Johnson as Portuguese, would it not? Kiwis observed to "assume" Lewis Hamilton is from Brazil (Brasil) would also be a cause for tut-tutting. It is vital to the emotional harmony of all races, creeds, colo(u)rs, beer preferences, hairdos, stadium seating charts, and hybrid vehicle choices that a (very) heightened level of sensitivity be maintained when referring casually to a not-identified-by-gender-pronoun person's background, birthplace, eye-col(u)r, earlobe length, or leg-length-to-trunk proportions.
    This advice has been brought to you by CUPVIPD, the Council for the Use of the Passive Voice In Public Discussion.

  • Comment number 58.

    I was going to ask whether anyone thought that a change in the rules is due preventing deliberate kicking straight to touch from a restart, but I see someone has already observed Kaplan got it wrong and Wales should have had a final scrum. Would have kept a fascinating game alive for a few more minutes and possibly changed the result. Fair dos, I would have banned kicking over the dead ball line (as Jones did in 2005) too.

  • Comment number 59.

    Richie Rees was inspiring at 9, and did the job on Parra.

  • Comment number 60.

    As an expatriate welsh,the comebacks are papering over the cracks.Scottish carelessness and French complacency let Wales back in.France are a bit like Ireland last season,able to win without playing well(particularly away from home-see Twickenham yesterday)The French have spent the last 3 seasons looking for the best players and almost found them all especially the front&back row and half backs.Lay off Parra,his coolness for a guy-only 22 will make him one of the world's best soon.Time methinks for Gatland to use the scalpel,the World Cup is next year.Terific atmosphere on Friday next though

  • Comment number 61.

    I would just like to say you have to lose all games to be given the Wooden Spoon.

  • Comment number 62.

    Well I never, The "holier than thou" Parra cheated and got a Yellow Card. I thought it was only the Irish who cheated (according to Parra)

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    the way you changed his words makes you a suitable journalist for the sun. he said the irish cheat, he never said they were the only ones who cheat. now english is only my third language, but im fairly certain there's a big difference there.

    as for the wales v france game, all this wales lost the game and could have won...everyteam can win a game prior to kick off. at no stage in that game did wales have control of the game to lose it. if anything France lost their lead a bit, thats it. Wales didnt win because France were better, and not becasue they were unlucky. please, show some sportsmanship.

  • Comment number 63.

    Synopsis of the teams so far in the 6 nations:

    Gatland needs to sort out the Welsh lineout which is abysmal. He also needs to get selection right which has been very questionable. Then I think Wales can get back to being a very good side. England are just poor - their tactic sems to be to keep the ball as long as possible at the back of a ruck just to bore everyone to death and stop the opposition from getting the ball (i.e if we can't work out how to score tries we'll run down the clock and stop the opposition from scoring). Ireland play to their strengths and have the best back five (second row and back row)in the tournament but have a poor front row and average half backs, the rest of the backs being very good. Scotland are now a half decent side although they still struggle with creativity (aka England) to score tries and thus will just be a team that is difficult to beat with the capability of the odd big win against the top sides (Oz, NZ, SA, France). Italy are becoming more difficult to beat and are tough at home but the backs just don't cut the mustard at the moment and play too far behind the gainline. France are developing into a top side and will definately be one of the favourites at the next World Cup.

  • Comment number 64.

    As an expat,Wales are living in some form of collective amnesia"we were unlucky", "france were on ther ropes-GATLAND", I've looked at SW try again and THREE french defenders smothered a Welsh attack in the 79th minute,hesitated when they knocked on, and SW then collected his try, a consolation if ever I saw one.If it's about ifs and maybe then it would have been another try!France play a different game away from home as they have lost more games than anyone by interceptions.They are still the best hope for WC in 2011 although England will give them a hard time in Paris.Wales will lose to Ireland but if the game goes on for an extra 19 minutes" we would have won it" Get a life Wales you only uderstand how English you are until you leave Wales

  • Comment number 65.

    I thought that the score pretty much reflected the difference in quality between the teams but was disappointed that Wales was unable to come up with anything better than seven-a-side tactics to try to negate the French advantage in personnel. Come on, boyos, this is EXACTLY what the French are best-equipped to handle. And handle it they did, without even sustaining their concentration...!

  • Comment number 66.

    What excuses will Mr Gatland find this time?
    And how long will it take the Taffs to say something along the lines of "So what if we lost? You're not much better. We can beat you anyday!" When actually you can't!
    Anyway... 4th place is better than last eh!

 

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