Wales defence 'must be at very best' against France, says Neil Jenkins
Published 26/02/2010 | 12:46
Wales, who have conceded nine tries in their last nine games, will need to show defensive qualities of the "very best" variety in their quest for victory over Six Nations title favourites France tonight.
That is the message from skills and kicking coach Neil Jenkins as Wales look to tighten up in that critical area.
Wales appear to have gone back to their loose way, their defensive record being a far cry from their 2008 Six Nations Grand Slam campaign, when they conceded only two tries - scored by England back Toby Flood and Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni - during the entire tournament.
"We haven't played as well as we would have liked in the last few games," said Jenkins. "We have worked hard on our defence and other aspects of our game which were not as good as we would have liked against Scotland, and defence was one of those.
"Our defence will have to be at its very best if we are going to win on Friday night. We want to pick the intensity up, and we've got to do it against France or we will come unstuck. We only did it in patches against England and Scotland."
France, inspired by their midfield powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud, eased past Scotland and Ireland earlier this month to raise hopes of a first Grand Slam campaign since 2004.
They have also lost only one of five previous Six Nations games in Cardiff, scoring 135 points, so Wales know they have their work cut out.
"I think France have been impressive," acknowledged Wales coach Warren Gatland. "They were clinical against Ireland, although I felt Ireland shot themselves in the foot a little bit.
"The yellow card (for prop Cian Healy) was costly for them, they tried to force the game a little bit too much and France were accurate. Ireland missed a couple of chances, so you look at that and it wasn't as though I have come away shaking in my boots, thinking that France are unbeatable.
"The key for us is starting well. France have got some big, strong ball-carriers, and we have got to get in their faces and stop them. France like to have a bit of time on the ball, and they will take risks. They do make mistakes, and discipline is a key for us.
"I believe you need to be positive in the way you play. As a coach, I like us to be smart and positive. I would like to think that Wales have been one of the most entertaining teams in the first two rounds of the Six Nations. We have tried to play positively, and hopefully referees will reward us for that."