GETHIN Jenkins has underlined the need for Wales to blast out of their starting blocks today when they aim to stay in this season’s RBS Six Nations title race.
The reigning champions were left reeling by a first-half no show against Ireland last weekend as Brian O’Driscoll and company ran riot. Any repeat performance at Stade de France would consign Wales to another defeat and leave them scrapping for minor placings in a tournament they dominated last season.
Wales’ degree of difficulty is compounded by a poor record in Paris – three wins since 1975 – without contributing towards their own downfall by delivering another error-strewn display. And with France on the rebound following a shock 23-18 defeat to Italy in Rome last weekend, Wales know they cannot give Les Bleus any leeway.
“I’ve no idea,” said Toulon prop Jenkins, when asked why Wales found themselves 27 points adrift against Ireland before stirring with three second-half tries and ultimately losing 30-22. “The atmosphere was there, spurring us on, but it just didn’t happen for us. We didn’t have that edge you need in that first 20 minutes.”
Triple Grand Slam winner Jenkins will win his 96th cap this evening – only Martyn Williams, among Welsh forwards, has made more Test match appearances – and he is pivotal to their hopes of beating France.
Thierry Dusautoir has told his French team-mates to use the anger they feel over last weekend’s humiliation against Italy in Rome to get their own Six Nations campaign back on track.
Dusautoir has been restored to the French captaincy in place of second row Pascal Pape, who has been ruled out through injury. And Dusautoir insists inspiring the team to bounce back from their shock 23-18 opening-day defeat will be easy provided they channel their frustration in the correct way.
Dusautoir said: “I don’t think the players need my help. They are angry about their performance last weekend. But we have to remember the Italians played a very good game. We weren’t good enough to win a Six Nations match. I think our pride was hurt enough that we will be able to get ourselves up for the Welsh game.”
Centre Mathieu Bastareaud will return to the French starting line-up in place of Florian Fritz, who has started the last seven internationals but will have to settle for a place on the bench.
France: Y Huget (Toulouse); W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), M Mermoz (Toulon), M Bastareaud (Toulon), B Fall (Racing Metro); F Michalak (Toulon), M Machenaud (Racing Metro); Y Forestier (Castres), D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), N Mas (Perpignan), J Suta (Toulon), Y Maestri (Toulouse), F Ouedraogo (Montpellier), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), L Picamoles (Toulouse). Subs: B Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), L Ducalon (Castres), R Taofifenua (Perpignan), D Chouly (Clermont Auvergne), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), F Fritz (Toulouse).
Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff); A Cuthbert (Cardiff), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff), G North (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Toulon), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), A Coombs (Dragons), I Evans (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Dragons). Subs: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), C Mitchell (Exeter), L Reed (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).