Rugby-France show fighting spirit at least in Wales win

Reuters

Sat, 19 Mar 23:18:00 2011

By Jean-Paul Couret

PARIS, March 19 (Reuters) - One week after the Rome debacle, France did not exactly shine in a 28-9 home win against Wales in the Six Nations -- but they showed fighting spirit at last.

France finished second behind England following a solid although not brilliant performance at the Stade de France, less than six months before the World Cup in New Zealand.

"We started the game with a huge desire to fight and when you want to fight you give more," said lock Lionel Nallet, who scored two tries in a man-of-the-match performance.

Last weekend, France slumped to a 22-21 defeat against Italy, their first in a Six Nations game against the Azzurri, and coach Marc Lievremont accused the players of treason, admitting he felt clueless before he had to narrow his selections down to a 30-man World Cup squad.

He was in better mood on Saturday.

"I feel very determined, very happy, moved, but also aggressive because if the players could release their emotions on the pitch, I could not," Lievremont told a news conference.

Lievremont added he was proud of his players' reaction after the Italy game as they showed "solidarity to subdue a very good Wales team".

Nallet explained there was no need to talk too much before the game.

"The explanation is simple. Everybody was ashamed of last week's performance," he said.

"There was no need for a big speech. When the anthems were being played, we were sticking together, we had tears in our eyes."

NO ROOM FOR BRAGGING

There was no room for bragging, however.

"For our next matches we need to keep what happened against Italy in mind -- the disappointment, the sadness, so that it does not happen again," said Nallet.

Winger Vincent Clerc, who scored the third try after being set up by a brilliant chip by Francois Trinh-Duc, was more optimistic.

"It was cleaner, more industrious, more efficient (than against Italy)," he said.

"The Italy game was a hitch, tonight we showed our true colours."

Wales coach Warren Gatland was not that impressed by the French performance.

"It was a very disappointing performance (by Wales). We gave away too many turnovers and soft penalties. We were not mentally as strong as we needed for that match tonight," Gatland said.

"We love to be underdogs. Tonight, we had a great opportunity but sometimes we struggled to meet expectations."

Gatland added that the loss of Sam Warburton was a huge blow for his team after the flanker had to be replaced after 16 minutes.

"It was a great loss because he was having a great championship," he said.

"Thierry Dusautoir was outstanding for France at the breakdown and to lose Sam was a problem (...) It's a knee injury. I think it will be scanned tonight."

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