Lee Byrne: Warren lifts our heads because we've still got points to make
Sunday 01 March 2009
It took only a few minutes after the end in Paris for Warren Gatland (right) to stand up and say what needed to be said. For the first time in two years it was a losing dressing room for Wales in the Six Nations, it was deadly quiet and all the boys' heads were down. But Warren is not the type to let that atmosphere settle. He told us we cannot be disheartened, the Championship is still there to play for, and that immediately became everyone's focus.
But I would be lying if I said I will be getting up in the greatest of moods today, St David's Day. I spent Friday night with the game going over and over in my mind, and when I got home to Bridgend yesterday it wasn't long before I was rerunning the recording of the match. I guess if we have proved one thing it is how difficult it is to achieve back-to-back Grand Slams. Opposition teams have analysed our patterns whereas before no one knew what we were doing. But I think it's just as important to appreciate that some Six Nations matches are so close that one score either way can swing it. A Grand Slam can be one try away or gone from you in a second.
It's Italy next for us, and they may be rubbing their hands after watching us lose. We have to get back to training and back to the drawing board. We saw James Hook, Dwayne Peel and Gavin Henson come on in the second half, and they are some of the options open to the coaches for Rome. We're lucky with the strength in depth we have. The French showed their delight when they won, and how much it meant to them, and I suppose that is a huge compliment to us too. I didn't hang around at the final whistle and headed straight off down the tunnel. The word to sum it up would be "gutted".
We let it slip, big time, in the first half. We were 6-3 ahead, France were close to scoring on our line, we went up the other end and scored and that's the way rugby goes, isn't it? At 13-3 we should have put a stranglehold on the game and been more streetwise. Just built the lead, that's what good teams do. When we put ourselves in that position again we'll have to play more territorially and kill the game off. Our defence probably wasn't up to Championship standard, either.
OK, so while I was watching the recording I might have paused once or twice to rewind my try. The result put a dampener on it, but when it happened it was a bloody good feeling. It was a basic move: Tom Shanklin made a good burst up the middle, we loaded the short side and I just hit the line and went through. I knew when I hit the line that it was a good one; Stephen Jones (below) is a great distributor of the ball, and when you get on the end of it and score in a great stadium like the Stade de France, it's a thrill.
As Warren said, though, the better team won, simple. I thought Thierry Dusautoir was outstanding for France, he got his hands on everything, slowed our patterns down and we just couldn't play. A few of their players had good games and I felt France were hungrier for it than us. That is not the same thing as saying we weren't hungry, and some might point to a time not so long ago when Wales losing by five points in Paris would have been considered quite a good effort.
This team expects more of itself than that. We need to put it right against Italy and the Championship is not over yet. We've still got the Six Nations Trophy to be won and it's all going to be on points now.
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