France 21-16 Wales, Six Nations, February 27
Williams ready to lead Wales fightback
March 1, 2009
Williams reflects on his side's defeat to France at the Stade de France © Getty Images
Winger Shane Williams insists Wales will bounce back from their Grand Slam-wrecking defeat at the hands of France.
Wales' hopes of back-to-back clean sweeps were dashed by Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Friday night in an impressive 21-16 victory that opened up this year's Championship.
The defeat also ended Wales' run of eight successive Championship matches dating back to victory over England in the last game of the 2007 Six Nations but the title and the Triple Crown remain well within their grasp. Warren Gatland's side travel to Rome to take on Italy in a fortnight's time before what is shaping up to be a Championship decider against Ireland in Cardif on the final weekend.
"It's still all to play for - the championship is wide open," said Ospreys wing Williams. "There are a few teams putting their hands up to win the championship, and we are one of them."
Wales will arrive at Stadio Flaminio on March 14 knowing they not only need to beat Italy, but win by a considerable margin given their points difference is currently inferior by 23 to Ireland's. Gatland had already signalled an intention to make changes for Rome before the France setback, and although he might now prove a little more conservative in selection, a handful of players can realistically expect a chance.
Wing Mark Jones, centre Gavin Henson, fly-half James Hook, scrum-half Dwayne Peel, hooker Huw Bennett and flanker Jonathan Thomas should all be in the frame when Gatland ponders his options.
Williams added: "If you don't play well, you can certainly lose your spot. The boys know that, and the boys will be there to pick their socks up this week and next week, ready for the next game.
"There weren't that many performances that would cement a place for the next game, but we are going to work hard in training. I am sure the training sessions are going to be tough - they are always tough, anyway - and I am sure we will be working on a few areas.
"We are a very proud bunch, and we are as disappointed as anyone, but we will certainly bounce back from this."
Wales were outmuscled by their hosts in Paris and failed to find their usual slick passing game with uncharacteristic errors littering their performance.
"It just wasn't good enough, really," acknowledged Williams. "We started well and scored a nice try by Lee (Byrne). We thought we were in a good position, but it just unfolded from there. We were taught a lesson in the breakdown area, which made it very difficult for us to play any rugby at times.
"What you don't want to do in France is give them hope, and at 13-3 up perhaps we could have played a bit more territory. Unfortunately for us, we conceded a try just before half-time. It seemed to change their attitude, they were far more positive in the second-half and we found it difficult to play.
"The contact area is probably the most important part of the game. They targeted that area and stopped us playing rugby. At times, we only had scraps of possession. There were a lot of heads down and a lot of disappointed faces, but we have got to pick ourselves up. We know we didn't play very well.
"We didn't play many phases or patterns and we didn't create mis-matches, which was because we struggled in the contact area. It was very frustrating. When we did start playing towards the end, it was a little bit too much, too late. That's the way it goes.
"We tried a few things, which is the way we play rugby, but sometimes it just doesn't come off."