Wales v France, Six Nations, February 26
Gatland eyes strong start from Wales
February 25, 2010
Warren Gatland believes his side need to hit the ground running if they are to trouble France © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland wants his side to hit the ground running when they take on France at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night.
France have been in ominous form so far in the Six Nations and thrashed reigning champions Ireland at the Stade de France in the last round, while Wales ignited their campaign with a thrilling comeback to beat Scotland.
Gatland admitted that he had been impressed by France but believed that with a disciplined performance they could be stopped.
"I think France have been impressive," he said. "They were clinical against Ireland, although I felt Ireland shot themselves in the foot a little bit.
"The yellow card was costly for them, they tried to force the game a little bit too much and France were accurate. Ireland missed a couple of chances, so you look at that and it wasn't as though I have come away shaking in my boots, thinking that France are unbeatable.
"The key for us is starting well. France have got some big strong ball-carriers, and we have got to get in their faces and stop them. France like to have a bit of time on the ball, and they will take risks. They do make mistakes, and discipline is a key for us."
Despite their jubilant finish against the Scots, Gatland knows that Wales have a long way to go in defence if they are to trouble France. The former Waikato coach promised an open game, though, and hoped for a clinical edge.
"I believe you need to be positive in the way you play. As a coach, I like us to be smart and positive," he said. "I would like to think that Wales have been one of the most entertaining teams in the first two rounds of the Six Nations.
"We have tried to play positively, and hopefully referees will reward us for that. We know we need to improve on our performance against Scotland. We know we will create chances, but we need to work hard in defence and improve in that area, as well as concentrate on maintaining discipline. Then we need to be clinical, take our points and build in attack. If we can do those things, we know we are in with a chance."
Wales skipper Ryan Jones concurred with his coach and chose to focus on his squad hitting their straps early on, without conceding a head-start as they have done in their last three Tests against Australia, England and Scotland.
"They have been nothing short of superb the last two games, so to a man we have got to be on top of our game," he said. "I have said for two years that if we get our own house in order, we will do well.
"Teams are creating very little against us. It's the likes of missed tackles, defensive line errors and turnover ball that have cost us. You cannot, at this level, afford to give anyone a head-start. We played our get-out-of-jail-free card against Scotland a little bit. The players showed superb commitment and courage, but that has to be the minimum. We have to make sure we start well. It is about not making mistakes, not giving France a 17-point head-start, and it's about getting those little things right."