Dragons' glass half full again
LEIGH HALFPENNY believes Wales are back on the title scent in this season's Six Nations Championship.
The defending champions appeared down and out nine days ago after being beaten at home by Ireland, but a first victory over France in Paris since 2005 has breathed life into their campaign.
The 16-6 success also ended a run of eight successive defeats as Wales now look ahead to consecutive away games against Italy and Scotland before hosting unbeaten leaders England on March 16.
"The confidence we will get from this win will be immense, and we can concentrate now on what we set out to do from the start, which is to retain the title," Wales full-back Halfpenny said.
"We knew this game was key. It was my third time in Paris, and I know how difficult it is to get a win there, but the boys dug deep and had that hunger and desperation to win.
"I am really chuffed for (interim head coach) Rob Howley and the coaches. They give us everything, all the information we need, then it is up to the guys on the field to put in a performance, and that's what we did.
"When you go to France and win, it is special."
Almost a year after Wales last beat another Test-playing country – France in Cardiff to win the Grand Slam – they triumphed through 11 points from Halfpenny's trusty right boot and wing George North's 73rd-minute try.
And although there is still an awful lot to do in playing catch-up behind England, Wales have at least given themselves a fighting chance of featuring prominently at the tournament's business end.
"We are a far better team than we have been showing, and it was fortunate we had another game so quickly after the previous Saturday to put things right," Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips said. "We were adamant we were going to do well in the first 20 minutes and not make another bad start. The body language of the French told us we were doing well.
"They were blowing and had their hands on their knees, and we knew if we could keep the tempo up we would take the sting out of their attack, even though we were blowing ourselves at times.
"But that is international rugby for you – it's hard. We kept the forwards on the front-foot and we took all our opportunities, which we didn't do against the Irish. It was a good day.
"When you are in a losing team, you have got to expect criticism a little bit, but we knew we weren't far off turning it around.
"It's a tough world, and in rugby one minute you are the hero and the next you're rubbish, but you have got to be strong."