France to use pain of Paris defeat against Wales

The Welsh have a dominant recent record over Les Bleus, but fly-half Ntamack says France can turn stunning defeat earlier this year to their advantage.

OITA, 14 Oct - France fly-half Romain Ntamack says his team must use their confidence-sapping defeat by Wales in this year's Six Nations to positive effect when the two teams meet in the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

Les Bleus led 16-0 at half-time in Paris in February, before Warren Gatland's team stormed back to win 24-19 and set themselves on the road to a Six Nations Grand Slam. 

Gatland and his players referred to their good recent record against France - they have won seven and lost just once since their heartbreaking semi-final defeat at the 2011 World Cup - after their final pool match against Uruguay on Sunday. 

The French camp, in contrast, have suggested that painful defeat eight months ago was more a case of them losing the match than Wales winning it.  

"We must turn it to our advantage," said Ntamack, above, who made his test debut in the match at the Stade de France. "We had a great first half. We put them in trouble. We have to take that as our working base.

"But we have to correct things - we only played 40 minutes against them. This time, we'll need to play for 80 minutes - more even. And last 80 minutes."

Ntamack admitted such failings have become common for France, but vowed that the team will show an improvement this weekend.   

"We start matches strongly, we have the opportunity to kill them off, but we don't and teams come back," said the 20-year-old.

"We hold back, our first-half success deserts us. We have to correct that and we'll correct it this weekend.

"The goal is to make the same start, last 80 minutes, and if we have the chance, kill off the match. Little things make us depart from our gameplan. We've corrected them so we'll be ready this weekend."

France coach Jacques Brunel said the lessons from the February defeat were clear as he prepares his players for the last-eight clash in Oita.

"Our lack of control was where we went wrong," he said. "Remember it was 16-0 at half-time. Wales didn't change their approach, they came out and played the same way.

"But we made mistakes. We gave them control of the match. The match was turned on its head due to our lack of control. It's up to us to keep things tight."

France scrum-half Baptiste Serin, above, who came off the bench in the Paris defeat by Wales, admitted the turnaround had left some mental scars.

The 25-year-old Toulon man said, however, that by focusing on their performance in the first 40 minutes they could replicate the 2011 France side by knocking Wales out of the World Cup.

"Everyone thinks about it," said Serin. "When you have a first-half like that and end up losing, it leaves its mark.

"But we'll make use of the experience, look at what went well, work on what didn't. But we're not going to focus on that match - there's a big gap between the Six Nations and the quarter-final of the World Cup.

"If you look at the past matches, it's more us giving the game away than them winning it. There were big mistakes which we paid for dearly. But there are things we need to concentrate on, especially the first half of the past match."

RNS sg/rl/ajr