Wales target killer instinct
March 19, 2011
Ryan Jones attempts to stride out of Morgan Parra's tackle during Wales' defeat to France © Getty Images
Lee Byrne and Ryan Jones led a chorus of condemnation following Wales' Stade de France no-show that resulted in another disappointing Six Nations return.
For a 10th time in 12 seasons of Six Nations rugby, Wales found themselves in the table's bottom half, dropping like a stone from second to fourth after Les Bleus blew them away 28-9 in Paris. They went into battle knowing an improbable 27-point winning margin would give them the title at England's expense, but Wales ended a sobering night in St Denis reflecting on their heaviest Six Nations defeat for five years.
Not since Ireland crushed them 31-5 at the old Lansdowne Road had Wales experienced such Six Nations misery, and neither fullback Byrne nor 2008 Grand Slam captain Jones were in a mood to hold back.
"France came out fired up from their defeat last week (against Italy) and they did a job on us, to be honest," admitted Byrne. "We just didn't turn up. We know we are a better team than that, so it is a disappointing finish after the hard work we have put in.
"It will be a while now before we can pull the jersey on again and make things right. Hopefully, we can go out here next time and compete better, because it was shocking at times. Physically, we are in great shape, but the killer instinct is something we can get better at."
No.8 Jones agreed with Byrne's assessment and insisted that Wales must improv at producing on the big occasion with the World Cup in New Zealand less than six months away.
"We've got to deal with it, and reflect on it. It's a big (World Cup) year," Jones said. "All in all, we have made some improvements, but collectively we have got to be far better on the big occasion.
"They are all going to be big games (at the World Cup). First and foremost, we've got a warm-up series in the summer that we've got to be firing on all cylinders for. There is going to be finger-pointing, we've got to be honest and true to each other and make sure we come back as a better team."
Apart from a couple of fleeting moments in attack, notably when wing Leigh Halfpenny burst clear only to be sent sprawling by a brilliant Francois Trinh-Duc ankle-tap tackle, it was a Saturday night horror show for Wales.
They spent much of the game defending and struggled to cope with France's driving lineout, whose star operator Lionel Nallet scored two tries before wing Vincent Clerc's touchdown compounded Welsh misery.
Clerc scored less than two-minutes after James Hook was harshly sin-binned for what appeared to be a dangerous tackle. Hook, who kicked all his team's points, became the fourth Welsh player yellow-carded in this season's tournament after Craig Mitchell, Bradley Davies and Byrne.
And even the younger team members, individuals such as flanker Dan Lydiate, knew Wales had gone missing on an occasion when the promise generated by three successive Six Nations victories evaporated.
"We let ourselves down, we let the coaches down and we let all our fans down. It was a shocking performance all-round," said Lydiate. "We had a good week's training and were feeling really confident before the game, but we didn't up. We hadn't played that badly in the whole campaign.
"We have to take a long hard look at ourselves. France were well beatable, but we handed them a couple of tries, which you can't do at this level or any level. We are all gutted. Hopefully, we will never play that badly again. We will pick through the bones, but from one to 22 we were not good enough on the day.
"We could do with a game next weekend to put it right because it's disappointing and frustrating to finish the campaign like we did. We had a chance to win the tournament, but we didn't deliver."
Wales do not play again until a June 4 appointment with the Barbarians in Cardiff, which is followed by home and away World Cup warm-up games against England and then a final fixture against Argentina before heading to New Zealand.
Unless they can find consistency in their collective performance, the prospect of a World Cup group that features reigning champions South Africa, Samoa and Fiji - Wales' pool stage conquerors in France four years ago - is riddled with potential pitfalls.
"We didn't play how we wanted to play in terms of working the French forwards," said prop Adam Jones, who made a 53-minute comeback on his first start since suffering an elbow injury in mid-January.
"To be fair, they bossed us with their driving lineouts and we couldn't get into the game. They raised their game a hell of a lot after last week."
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