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Six Nations: Wales treble chance back on - Gatland

George North scores the first try for Wales in their record win over France on Friday. Picture: Getty

George North scores the first try for Wales in their record win over France on Friday. Picture: Getty

  • by ANDREW BALDOCK
 

Warren Gatland believes Wales are “back in contention” in their quest to achieve an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick.

That dream appeared a forlorn hope just two weeks ago after Wales capitulated 26-3 against Ireland in Dublin.

But Friday night’s 27-6 demolition of France at the Millennium Stadium means Wales can travel with renewed hope to face England at Twickenham on 9 March.

Assessing hopes of silverware, Wales coach Gatland, pictured, said: “It gives us a better chance than we had before the France game. If you look at Dublin, you would probably have expected it [France game] to be a lot closer.

“We are back in contention. We have got some confidence and can build a bit of momentum. We have had some good results at Twickenham. All you can ask as coaches is for the players to give 100 per cent, and they did that.”

Tries in each half from centre George North and captain Sam Warburton, plus 17 points from the boot of full-back Leigh Halfpenny left France floundering.

And, on a miserable night for Les Bleus, they had also had prop Nicolas Mas and No.8 Louis Picamoles sin-binned, which meant they played half the second period with 14 men.

It was a record Six Nations win for Wales against France, and the home side’s largest margin of victory in the fixture since 1950.

“We know we let ourselves down in Dublin in terms of the way we played and the performance,” Gatland added. “There was a lot of pressure on the coaches and the players, and they responded brilliantly. I thought it was an excellent display. The message is always when you put that jersey on that you need to remind yourself sometimes about the responsibility. We are such a small playing nation that you can’t take that jersey for granted. That was the message.

“The performance against Ireland just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t good enough from the players or coaches. It was a reminder that when we put that jersey on we have got a huge amount to play for, whether it is family or friends or players from the past.

“Even though there was a lot of criticism out there and people calling for wholesale changes, I am a great believer in sometimes giving players a chance to redeem themselves. That is definitely what happened.

“When you are involved in a game that doesn’t go your way, then you want the chance to go out there and put things right.”

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre could not mask his frustration at his team’s sub-standard showing.

“We knew the first 20 minutes would be vital and crucial after Wales’ last game two weeks ago, but after ten minutes we were 11 points down after conceding two silly penalties and a try,” he said.

“We knew if we wanted to win that we would have to start well.

“Our motivation should have been as strong as that of the Welsh team, and our desire should have been the same, but it wasn’t.

“I have told the players that we can still win the Six Nations, and we now have to target wins against Scotland and Ireland.”

 

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