My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Start slowly again and Wales are in for long night against France

Credit: Welsh Rugby Players Association

Former international referee Nigel Owens has told William Hill that he doesn’t think Wales have a problem with slow starts, but says if they open Friday’s Six Nations game with France like they did against England then they’re in for a long night at the Principality Stadium.

Wales have been criticised for starting slowly against Ireland and England during this year’s tournament, but Owens doesn’t believe it is an issue heading into Friday’s game.

Nigel Owens

“They started well against Scotland, so I don’t think slow starts are a problem for Wales, but certainly against England they did start slowly and gave too many penalties away,” the Welshman told William Hill. “They were lucky they were only 12-0 down at half-time. But if you play like that against France you could be 25 points down at half-time and then it’s a long way back. So they need to start like they finished against England or play like they did in that second half, where I thought they were the better team at Twickenham. I’m not saying they should have won but they could have and with another five minutes of that game I think they would have.

“If you want to beat the French you need to start well and you need to play well for 80 minutes. If the Welsh crowd get behind the team like they did against Scotland, with pressure on the French, this is the question, what will France be like under pressure? Or if they are behind on the scoreboard and with the atmosphere building in the Principality? Wales need to do that on Friday night otherwise if they don’t start well against the French and France get a couple of tries on the board, it could be a long evening because this is a very, very good French team.”

Owens is also expecting the Principality Stadium home crowd to play a major role for Wales on Friday night.

“The Principality Stadium certainly does make a difference for Wales,” he said. “I will feel much more confident in Wales turning France over in Cardiff rather than in Paris. But, saying that, they should have won that game in Paris last year. They should have had that penalty try in the first half and then it would have been a very different outcome to the game, and they would have won the Grand Slam.

“Wales should have won in Paris last year and this is a very similar French side. Some changes, some new faces, but it’s still that new French look. So I think the home advantage will make a difference. Wales will be confident after that second half against England and if they can do that on Friday night with the home crowd and get amongst the French, they can win this game.

“But this French side are a very, very good side. They’re coming to Cardiff very confident, enjoying their rugby, they know they could win a Grand Slam, if they didn’t need anything else to focus on… I don’t think they will look too far ahead and take this week for granted. I think they will be too good on Friday night but Wales can beat them but they need to play well for 80 minutes and start wellz

“What Wales need to do on Friday night, is they need somebody to make sure that Antoine Dupont has no room on that field as he is the best player in the world and is involved in everything. Whatever they do, defensive-wise or scoring a try, he is involved in it. He is absolutely brilliant so Wales will need to make sure he is shut down and what you need then is an openside to be on him all the time and not given him any space.”

As well as a strong start to the game against France, Owens says Wales must also work on their indiscipline which let them down against England at Twickenham.

“If you’re not going to improve your discipline and are giving penalties away it’s going to be very difficult to win a Test match,” Owens said. “If you think of the penalties Wales gave away at Twickenham, if they hadn’t have given them away they wouldn’t have been 12-0 down. Would they have scored a try or won a penalty themselves instead of giving one away? All of a sudden you’re looking at a very different score line. Discipline really is key in the modern game and Wales will need to improve on that if they want to beat France on Friday night.”

Owens says the return of Alun Wyn Jones from injury to the Wales squad will be a boost to the side, though he isn’t expecting the forward to feature on Friday.

“HIs return will be a big lift,” Owens said. “It’ll be a big ask to get him back on the pitch, but you never know with Alun Wyn Jones! He’s going to have to play some rugby somewhere before coming back for Wales. But certainly having him in an environment where he’s pushing to get back in will be enough to up the confidence in the Wales squad as well. In the team environment he adds a little bit extra as well, with his experience around the squad. Having him back in the mix is a huge positive for Wales for sure.”