Away games to France are always unpredictable, and with all three Welsh international teams up against it over the weekend, they would all have to be at their best to get any sort of result against French sides that are always that much stronger playing at home.
On Saturday, Wales’ senior side took to the field, desperate to end their run of losses. After 80 gruelling minutes, locked in an arm wrestle with a French team as worried about losing as them, it took one moment of magic from Dan Biggar and George North to break the deadlock in the 71st minute.
After being tied on points for the majority of the match, as shuddering defences had cancelled each other out, two respective drives from Ken Owens and Ian Evans finally saw Wales pushing deep enough into the French 22 to have an effect. A speedy if faltering pass from Lloyd Williams saw Dan Biggar put a delightful dink of a kick into the corner, only for the perfect bounce to land in George North’s arms as he finished the try spectacularly, despite the best efforts of France’s Trinh-Duc.
Leigh Halfpenny, ever Wales’ most reliable player, nailed the conversion, and following it up with a penalty a few minutes later, he helped seal the away victory for Wales.
Relief was the main emotion on show, with tearful interviews from the players afterwards. It may not have been the prettiest of games but to get such a gritty win away, in one of the hardest places to travel to, should be enough to give this young team the confidence boost it needs to kick on in this tournament.
Italy away awaits them next, a tougher challenge than in recent times, and there’s no doubting Wales will have to again dig deep to get the much needed victory in Rome.
Result: France 6 – 16 Wales
Wales Women’s 6 Nations campaign suffered a further loss in their trip away to France. Having been forced to make changes due to injuries, they suffered further set -backs during the game when a lack of discipline crept in. Being on the receiving end of three yellow cards had them on the back foot for a large portion of the match, and this French team at home did a much better job than the men’s team of bouncing back from an Italian defeat.
Two tries to France in the first half had started to set alarm bells ringing that Wales could be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat, yet France only managed a further two tries in the second half. Wales kept battling, but unfortunately it was in vain.
They now face a must win match against Italy, as they look to finally get points on the board in a tournament that must see them finish fourth if they are to qualify for the Rugby World Cup.
Result: France 32 – 0 Wales
Perhaps the best display, although not the gutsiest, came from Wales’ youngsters this weekend. Playing at the intimidating Stade Marcel Michelin, the U20’s side started the match brilliantly, pressurising France and forcing the mistakes.
Wales ran in three tries through Sion Bennett, Cory Allen and Rhodri Williams, with Williams’ being the most spectacular, having run in a try set up by a superb break from wing Ashley Evans. Sam Davies at fly half also had a much better game with the boot, slotting over the conversions with ease.
The second half saw France ring the front row changes, and Wales were soon facing a tough time in the scrums. With a prop yellow carded, they faced a torrid ten minutes of trying to keep a fired up French team out. France managed to claw back a try of their own, but an assured performance from Wales saw them stay strong in defence, and a Sam Davies drop goal and penalty saw them take their lead beyond the reach of France.
It was a heartening display from Wales’ U20’s, and a much improved one from their home game against Ireland the week before. Wales are now the only unbeaten side in the tournament, and they head to Italy full of confidence.
Result: France U20’s 13 – 27 Wales U20’s