On a weekend that saw civil unrest on the streets of Paris, at one point France’s rugby players looked ready to run riot themselves.

“They could be thinking of 50 points,” said one observer as the men in blue effortlessly took control either side of half-time.

But Wales were able to finish with a flourish of sorts. They ended up losing 41-28 but were able to take some positives to go with the negatives that have never been far away during a disappointing Six Nations for them.

Read more: Wales v France player ratings as veteran stands out but others fall short in Paris

Here are the winners and losers.


Welsh character

Let’s start with what some considered the biggest plus. Trailing 34-7 after 55 minutes and edging towards the end of a hugely difficult campaign, Wales could easily have folded.

Instead, they won the rest of the game 21-7.

It means only so much, of course, because they were never in the hunt to take the spoils and France had psychologically eased up. And winning the last 25 minutes of a game is never any cause for a street party.

But the visitors deserve credit for refusing to capitulate and gaining a measure of respect.

Doubtless, Warren Gatland will tell his players how they finished the tournament matters, and Wales ended on a defiant note in Paris.

They can take heart from that.

Justin Tipuric - what stats

No-one embodied the character of the Welsh team more than Justin Tipuric.

There were 18 tackles from the openside without a single miss, a phenomenal defensive effort, topped by a turnover; there were also 34 metres made from seven carries, three lineouts taken and seven passes and an offload.

The Osprey also played a significant part in helping to slow down French ball at the breakdown, with only Ireland previously restricting them to a lower percentage of sub-three second rucks in this Six Nations.

And Tipuric also had a hand in three of the four Welsh tries. He didn’t deserve to leave the field as a loser.

Welsh bench (and especially Tomos Williams)

Improved scrum? Tick. A try from the replacement hooker. Tick. A turnover from the substitute flanker. Tick? A touchdown from the shadow scrum-half? Tick. A superb conversion from the freshly introduced goalkicker? Tick.

For sure, those charged with making an impact did what they were asked to do.

Gareth Thomas and Dillon Lewis helped sort out the set-piece, Bradley Roberts’s energy was rewarded with a touchdown, Tommy Reffell pilfered possession and Tomos Williams, like Roberts, crossed the opposition line. Oh, and Leigh Halfpenny nailed a wonderful goal-kick to end matters.

Williams banged in his best appearance for Wales in a long time.

Not only was he alert in everything he did, he was accurate as well and seemed to be thinking a split-second faster than his rivals in blue.

The performance was quite some statement and what he needed after a run of patchy personal displays.

Now he needs to make it his default setting.

Welsh discipline

Wales have been whistled up more than every side they have faced in this Six Nations, so there’s probably no need to put the flags out for this one.

But eight penalties against them against France was a marked improvement on what they had previously dished up.

The low came with 17 transgressions against Scotland.

They also incurred the referee’s displeasure 15 times against Ireland.

So to keep the indiscretions down to single figures at a famously testing venue was commendable.

The hundred-cap man

There was not to be a win to mark his hundredth Wales cap, but Taulupe Faletau still conjured a high-quality performance.

It’s what he does.

The No. 8 led Wales’ carrying game up front with 67 metres made from 17 carries. He also made 12 passes and three offloads as Wales tried to be more adventurous.

And all that came in 63 minutes.

It is hard to imagine there has been a more consistently excellent player over such a long period for Wales as the No. 8.

All the accolades paid to him he richly deserves.

French half-backs

A young Dan Biggar reckoned that any fly-half can look good behind a dominant pack.

But France’s nine and 10 don’t need such a luxury to dominate games.

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack were excellent against England at Twickenham with their team not quite sharing possession, and they repeated the trick against Wales despite the Welsh forwards securing a decent supply of ball.

For the French pair, it’s not the amount of possession that counts. It’s what is done with it that matters.

They lead the French attack and their game management is on another level.

The first home try against Wales showed them at their best, with Ntamack shoving aside Nick Tompkins before gliding through the cover as if enjoying a Sunday morning runaround with his mates. When he was eventually stopped, Dupont, who runs Will Genia support lines better than Genia used to himself, was on hand to buy himself space with a step and then send out an outrageous 35-metre pass for Damian Penaud to score.

It was an attack executed with the precision, skill and urgency that only the best rugby teams can exhibit, ruining a defence in the blink of an eye.

Dupont and Ntamack were on top of their brief throughout, putting their side into good positions with their kicking and running the show with intelligence.

Outstanding, really.


Wales’ midfield defence (again)

It was better than against Italy.

There again, the bar was set low because Wales’ young centres missed eight tackles between them in Rome with their defensive operation looking vulnerable pretty much every time the Azzurri attacked.

But it was still nowhere near perfect against the French.

A dash of Romain Ntamack magic exposed crossed wires in the midfield for Gael Fickou’s touchdown, with the centre surging through a gap as wide as the Champs-Elysees. George North attempt to head off the damage was never going to be enough to kill the move.

Earlier, Nick Tompkins was left standing by Ntamack as the France fly-half opened the cover with North unable to do a thing about it as Les Blues rolled off a sumptuous play that resulted in Damian Penaud scoring in so much space he might have felt lonely.

No-one is suggesting it’s easy to come out on top against Jonathan Danty and Fickou, with the pair arguably the best midfield duo in world rugby right now.

It should also be noted that Tompkins and North had their moments in attack themselves, with the pair beating 11 defenders between them.

But the next time Wales get together they need to do what it takes to tighten up their midfield defence, because it hasn’t been good enough in this Six Nations.

Not by a long chalk.

Wyn Jones

The old adage tells us that if you don't have a scrum in rugby, don't bother turning up.

And the old adage is right.

Wales had a scrum in Paris. It just wasn't fantastically effective for a fair chunk of the game.

Wyn Jones had his work cut out against Uini Atonio.

Let's be clear: the France tighthead is not the easiest opponent to scrum against. Weighing in at a few quarter-pounders shy of 23st, he takes some shifting. Indeed, some bulldozers might struggle to push him back.

Jones ran into bother against him when the game was a contest. The couple of penalties he conceded allowed France to build momentum.

One game proves only so much, of course, and the Scarlet will doubtless dust himself down and consider how he can come back strongly.

He did actually have his moments as a carrier at Stade de France.

But his primary job is to scrum and in that area he hit problems.

Wales overall in the tournament

A report card might suggest “unacceptably mediocre” or, more generously “islands of encouragement in a sea of disappointment”.

Warren Gatland won’t need telling.

He and his coaches have been cut slack over the past six weeks because of the mess they inherited, but it isn’t altogether clear matters have improved significantly.

Wales may have been trying to assess and develop players but it’s still debatable what their best team is after a campaign in which they have made 26 changes over four matches.

The age profile of their squad is hopelessly off beam, with a core of vastly experienced players and a number of promising youngsters but not too much to sing about in between.

Their attack is belatedly showing signs of improving but it still lacks flow and Wales failed to convert a number of chances in the opposition red zone in Paris. Nor do they carry particularly impressively, on average breaking a tackle once in every 7.49 carries in this Six Nations. Compare that to France, who break a tackle once every 3.86 carries. Stuff like that matters. Hugely.

Nor are Wales’ defensive glitches confined to midfield.

They have leaked 19 tries in this championship, a tally that compares unfavourably to the eight that were conceded in the previous Six Nations and is the most they have leaked since the Six Nations started in 2000.

The fans' Wales Six Nations verdict: Have your say

There were 19 touchdowns run in against Wales during their 1998 campaign, with Kevin Bowring subsequently leaving his post.

No-one is expecting Gatland to depart any time soon, and the coach will believe there have been signs of progress over the past two rounds.

But he will know there’s much work to be done before the World Cup.

Steve Hansen once likened a coach sorting out problems to someone cleaning windows. “You shine up one area, then you realise there’s another part of the window that needs attention. It’s the same in rugby. You fix one area, then there’s another area to put right.”

Right now, Wales have a lot of cleaning to do.

Ghost in the machine?

Knowing what’s going to happen before it actually unfolds is a rare gift indeed.

On Saturday, it seemed as though Miles Harrison possessed such a quality when he called the France v Wales game for ITV from Paris.

With the commentary a split second ahead of the pictures, viewers were left complaining excitement was wrecked as events were flagged up via the audio before the images on the screen. It was all more than a bit shambolic.

It certainly wasn’t the fault of Harrison, an excellent operator who prides himself on his professionalism.

And we can’t be sure where the glitch in the system stemmed from.

But ITV should be annoyed because it blighted their coverage.


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