Six Nations
Warren Gatland: Where has the French flair gone?
PA Sport
February 25, 2016

Wales boss Warren Gatland has underlined the huge degree of difficulty that teams face in present-day Test match rugby when it comes to trying to break down opposition defences.

Critics of this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship have pointed to a lack of quality, attacking rugby being at a premium, and condemning it among the worst Six Nations tournaments in its 17-year history.

Wales' next Six Nations opponents France - who visit the Principality Stadium on Friday - came in for particular fire after grinding out home victories over Italy and Ireland earlier this month by a combined total of three points. But Gatland is quick to point out the challenges currently faced by teams in terms of their attacking strategies.

"Everyone talks about French flair and where has the French flair gone? In the past, they had absolute world-class quality players in attack," Gatland said. "The reason is not so much French flair any more - it's not because they haven't got the players - it's just teams defensively are so organised. There is just no space on the field.

"You come up against an organised defence and people who are as conditioned and as fit as you are, then you have got an ability to shut teams down. In the past, they (France) have gone out with the attitude of 'let's play and let's play what is in front of us'. For teams like us, that is just happy days. We love that sort of thing if you are going to come and play like that against us, because it's just so easy to shut down.

"You get breaks in the game. They are made by someone missing a tackle or someone making a system error - that's where the breaks are. At this level, not many players make mistakes anymore and not many players miss tackles.

© Stu Forster/Getty Images

"Where's the flair gone? Well, we are all trying to be innovative and hopefully trying to create space, but the more you try and be creative in attack, the better teams become defensively as well."

Wales have reeled off four successive victories against France since losing to them in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, and another win would take Gatland's men top of the championship, although England can then reclaim top spot by beating Twickenham opponents Ireland on Saturday.

And Gatland expects a tough challenge from Les Bleus, who are in their first campaign under new head coach and former Toulouse supremo Guy Noves following his appointment as successor to a much-criticised Philippe Saint-Andre.

"They are two (wins) from two, and that makes them dangerous," Gatland added. "They have won two games, that's what makes them tough, and a new coach coming in and giving them some confidence.

"There were a lot of things said about the previous regime and a lot of unrest in that team. The thing about Guy Noves, as a coach you look at his track record and what he has done at Toulouse, and it has been absolutely exceptional. He has been outstanding as a coach.

"If I am looking at that from the outside, to have a coach like that come in, he is already going to command respect for what he has achieved as a coach, and that makes a big difference to a squad and a team, and the players coming in respect him for what he's done. So I think that in terms of unity and harmony within the French team that maybe they haven't had in the last few years, I think it is going to definitely be there.

"It's like all of us sometimes in the Six Nations, particularly new coaches, it's a work in progress, and they've made progress in the first two games."

© PA Sport

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