Rugby Union: Price has reason to remember a glorious day in Paris

David Llewellyn talks to one of the boys of '75, a victor in Parc des Princes
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Even with six enforced changes, France are still regarded as favourites when they take on Wales tomorrow for what will be the last time at the Parc des Princes, before the Tricolores move to the 80,000 all-seater National Stadium which is being constructed in the French capital in time for football's 1998 World Cup.

That favouritism does not stem merely from France being able to call upon some talented replacements, it also takes into account their remarkable record against Wales in Paris: it is 22 years since a Welsh side last won in the concrete bowl that is the Parc des Princes.

Like this year's Wales side, the boyos of 1975 were also written off before a ball had been kicked. They were fielding six new caps that January day, raw recruits to Test rugby, who would have to cope with forwards of the stature of Bastiat, the Dax No 8, the brilliant Bertranne in the backs and a formidable duo at half-back, Romeu, and the man who became coach of the national side, Fouroux.

One of Wales' neophytes that day was Graham Price. At 23 he was already a seasoned campaigner for his club Pontypool. He was grateful, though, to be linking up with his front-row colleagues from the Gwent club, Charlie Faulkner and Bobby Windsor. Incidentally, it was also Faulkner's debut.

Being with them helped put Price at ease, knowing he was part of what was to become the legendary Pontypool Front Row. However much at ease he may have felt, the young prop was quite unprepared for what greeted the Welsh team when they trotted out into the cauldron of French rugby. "It's a hell of a stadium," says Price, who is now 45. "The way it is constructed, all the sound tends to bounce back at you. Obviously, the crowd was behind the French team, who had not long before had quite a good victory over the South Africans.

"They were confident, while we, with six new caps, were being written off, even though we also had some great players in the side [they were captained by the great Mervyn Davies]. But the noise was what I remember most in my first experience of international rugby."

However, the Welsh overcame all the odds, including wet and muddy conditions, running in five tries to France's solitary touchdown. One of those tries was scored by Wales' current director of rugby, Terry Cobner, another forward from Pontypool.

There was also a try for the debutant Price, a try that will live on in the memory of everyone who saw it. It is a score that has been replayed on television every year that Wales revisit Fortress Paris.

Price, who went on to win 41 caps, cannot remember anything of the score. "But it is the same with all my international appearances," he explains. "The matches go by so quickly. And I have seen the try so often on television now that, in all honesty, the TV view of it has become my memory of it."

For those who may have missed the try, it happened like this. Injury time, France already beaten and the Welsh wing, J J Williams, hacked ahead for 75 yards. Remarkably, first man up to the breakdown, having charged upfield from inside his own 25-yard line (Britain was not metric in those dark, unenlightened days), was Price.

He scooped up the ball, which had rolled loose, and plunged jubilantly over the line for a try which earned Wales a 25-10 victory and their biggest winning margin in Paris since 1911. That season Wales went on to win the Five Nations' Championship outright.

Thereafter, though, Price was in on the start of the long run of defeats in Paris. He wants to see an end to it and suggests that tomorrow Wales have the talent to succeed.

"What they need to do is to play to a pattern, just as we did 22 years ago, and not deviate from it. That should allow them to build a platform from which they can expand their play as the game progresses.

"There must be no repetition of what happened against Ireland when too often they ran aimlessly, thoughtlessly at the Irish and turned over possession. They must eradicate the basic errors they made two weeks ago when they lost the ball in the tackle.

"It is never easy to win in Paris, but I hope they do. At least it will spare my family from having to watch that try yet again."

Wales' Five Nations record in Paris

1975 France 10 Wales 25

1977 France 16 Wales 9

1979 France 14 Wales 13

1981 France 19 Wales 15

1983 France 16 Wales 9

1985 France 14 Wales 3

1987 France 16 Wales 9

1989 France 31 Wales 12

1991 France 36 Wales 3

1993 France 26 Wales 10

1995 France 21 Wales 9

Wales team in 1975

J P R Williams (L Welsh); T G R Davies (Cardiff), S P Fenwick (Bridgend), R W R Gravell, J J Williams (both Llanelli); J D Bevan (Aberavon), G O Edwards (Cardiff); G Price, R W Windsor, A G Faulkner (all Pontypool), A J Martin (Aberavon), G A D Wheel (Swansea), T J Cobner (Pontypool), T P Evans, T M Davies (capt, both Swansea).

Scorers: Tries Fenwick, Cobner, T G R Davies, Edwards, Price; Conversion Fenwick; Penalty Fenwick.

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