‘Welsh players must prove their worth’
Wales have been urged by scrum coach Robin McBryde to produce a performance against France in Saturday's Six Nations clash at the Stade de France which will erase memories of their defeat against Ireland last weekend.
The 30-22 home defeat to the Irish was Wales' eighth defeat in a row and left them without a win since landing the Six Nations Grand Slam in imperious style last year.
And with only three wins in Paris since 1975, not many are pinning their hopes on them ending their losing streak here.
However, McBryde, as pugnacious a coach as he was as a hooker for his country, insisted that with France also having lost last weekend – 23-18 to Italy in Rome – Wales could restore some pride.
"The players are hurting as much as we are as coaches so they need to go out there and prove their worth and prove they're better than what they were last week," said the 42-year-old, who was a member of the 2005 Grand Slam-winning side.
His fellow former international Neil Jenkins, now skills coach, said that the hosts would be feeling the pressure, too, although unlike the Welsh they were on a four-match winning streak going into the Italy game.
"France, after their defeat last week, there'll be a fair amount of pressure on themselves as well," said Jenkins.
"It's something we're really looking forward to.
"We do know what the French crowd is like as well and if they don't come out and play as well as they can play, or the crowd expect them to play, obviously they can get on top of them," added the 41-year-old.
Jenkins, capped 87 times for his country as well as four caps for the British and Irish Lions, said that he was looking for the players to repeat their second-half performance against the Irish when they came back strongly after trailing 30-3.
"We started very poorly in the first half and played some excellent rugby in the second half," said Jenkins.
"We obviously want to put the second half together for the full 80 minutes if we possibly can and put as much pressure on France as possible."
McBryde admitted that the late withdrawal of captain Sam Warburton, who has a stinger (nerve) injury, wasn't ideal but they had the ideal replacement both as captain and in the back row in Ryan Jones, who will skipper the side for a record 30th time.
"He's a good leader," said McBryde. "As much as we want to use his qualities as a leader in the team it's very much allowing Ryan to focus on his own game.
"We have plenty of experience in the front and the back row, so really looking forward to seeing how we front up against what will be a formidable challenge."
McBryde, who nominated rookie lock Andrew Coombe as the pick of the Welsh pack against the Irish, said that having hooker Richard Hibbard back in the starting XV was a boost for the side as well.
"He's another player coming into the championship in a bit of form, arguably the most in-form hooker in Wales.
"There were comments made that he was arguably the best hooker in Europe with one shoulder, so with two hopefully he can improve on that as well."