Howley faces France with great redemption in mind

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The Independent Online

Rob Howley believes that Wales can bounce back from their "thoroughly embarrassing" defeat to Ireland in Dublin and turn the form book upside down against France in Cardiff tomorrow.

France won 36-3 on their last visit to the Millennium Stadium two years ago and, although Bernard Laporte's team are currently weakened by injuries and suspensions, the 1999 World Cup finalists are still favourites to compound Wales' misery.

Howley, however, is not so sure. "We often give our best with our backs to the wall," he said. "We've found ourselves in this situation time and time again. I remember us losing to Ireland and Scotland in the first couple of games of a previous championship, and then we went to France and won when nobody gave us a cat in hell's chance. If we can win equal possession and play territorial position, then we will have a great opportunity to redeem ourselves."

Injuries keep out the centre Jamie Robinson and lock Chris Wyatt – Tom Shanklin and Andy Moore deputise – while Andy Marinos takes over from Iestyn Harris in an otherwise unchanged line-up.

Redemption for that painful 54-10 defeat in Dublin remains uppermost in Howley's mind. "I've taken many Wales thumpings over the past six years against England or France," he said, "but when a Celtic nation beats you by 50 points, then you stand up and ask questions. You won't see a Welsh side play like that ever again. It was thoroughly embarrassing, and I felt sorry for the supporters who went over to Dublin.

"The fans have a right to expect. We are all accountable for our positions in Welsh rugby."

Howley is now looking to the future with Steve Hansen in charge, but as Wales prepare for life after Graham Henry, he paid the 55-year-old Lions coach a fond tribute.

"I have seen both sides of Graham. I was dropped as captain by him and, as a player, then recalled and taken on the Lions tour to Australia," Howley added. "The underlying thing I can say is that I respect him wholeheartedly, and it's a shame he has been lost to Welsh rugby. I will miss him and his quality of coaching, which I haven't experienced in the rest of my rugby career."

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