Six Nations 2015: Warren Gatland praises forwards after France win
Wales head coach describes fourth win a row over Les Bleus as a special win with Wales still in the title hunt
Warren Gatland praised the performance of the Wales forwards after they ground out a 20-13 win over France in Paris.
The narrow win, which came from a try from Dan Biggar and 15 points from Leigh Halfpenny, keeps Wales’ slim RBS 6 Nations title hopes alive with two wins from the opening three matches.
We improved against Scotland and we stepped up again. We are back in contention.
It meant a fourth consecutive win over Les Bleus, and a first in Paris with Wales for head coach Warren Gatland, but they now need a win over championship favourites Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on 14 March if they are to claim a third title in four years.
And Gatland reiterated his point that the team become better the more time they spend together and there is an air of familiarity with the 2013 championship when they lost their opening game to Ireland, only to bounce back with four consecutive wins to retain their title on the final day with that stunning 30-3 win over England in Cardiff.
“We spoke beforehand about how it’s the first time since the 50s that Wales have achieved four wins in a row against France. This is something special,” Gatland said.
“The more time we spend together, the more we improve.
“Obviously we were disappointed after our game against England; we were written off by a lot of people.
“We improved against Scotland and we stepped up again. We are back in contention.
“I thought the forwards were excellent – the lineout, the scrum as well.
“It was tough at the breakdown for the referee, both team made it difficult for him.
“We went out to play some rugby, and the better team deserved to win.
“It was a step up. We have a massive game against Ireland, and hopefully we will still be in contention [for the title] at the end.”
With only the Ospreys and Scarlets taking part in this year’s European Champions Cup, many of the French 23 would have had limited experience of playing against Welsh players.
Conversely, six of Wales’ starting 23 play their club rugby in France – or have recently returned from French clubs – giving the Welsh coaches invaluable information on their Top 14 team-mates and rivals.
For a lot of our boys playing in France, it was about them proving their worth and their value…I thought there was an edge about those players.
But not all of the current crop of Welsh exiles have been well-received by their club supporters and coaches.
Flanker Dan Lydiate recently returned home and signed a dual contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys after a disappointing time at Racing Metro, while the Parisians are also understood to be on the verge of letting centre Jamie Roberts leave.
And Gatland believes that there was an edge to those players with a point to prove to their clubs that they deserve not only their big-money contracts but also a place in their club side.
“I think the advantage was that our players were able to give an insight on a number of French players. That was positive, “Gatland added.
“For a lot of our boys playing in France, it was about them proving their worth and their value.
“A lot of them did the job: Jamie Roberts’ carrying was excellent, Leigh’s kicking potentially made the difference, Luke Charteris’ defending in the maul was outstanding, Dan Lydiate obviously had something to prove and he kept working hard.
“I thought there was an edge about those players.”