Wales face a desperate battle to avoid the RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon after France powered to a comprehensive 32-21 victory in Paris. It had all started so positively as Gareth Jenkins' men, playing with a verve and intensity rarely seen from them this year, surged into a 14-3 lead after just 15 minutes. Alix Popham burst over down the blindside and James Hook then put Tom Shanklin over under the posts. It seemed as if a fourth Welsh victory in five visits to Paris was on the cards.
But France are a lethal unit. They dominated possession, put Wales under pressure and stung them with 26 unanswered points. Christophe Dominici jinked in for the first try, Lionel Nallet drove over for the second and fly-half David Skrela added 19 points with seven successful kicks from eight attempts.
Skrela, who was awarded the man of the match award said: "It was good for us because we began the game with 14 points against us and it took big heart to win this game. We were worried early on, and we need to begin the game more efficiently. We have to improve to try to beat England in two weeks. It will be very difficult because they are a great team, so we have 15 days to prepare for that game and be ready to go to Twickenham."
Stephen Jones meanwhile was in a sombre mood. He commented after the game: "We knew it was going to be difficult today, the French are a very good side, a very efficient side at the moment and they maintained possession very well. At 14-3 we felt good, the gameplan was working and we felt positive. We were creating a lot of opportunities and had a good lead. But in fairness the French played very well in the last 20 minutes of the first half. They kept us under pressure and we defended our lines very well but they crept over for a couple of tries. Up front they are very well organised and they proved that today."
And while France march to Twickenham in a fortnight with their ambitions for a ninth Grand Slam enhanced, Wales travel to Rome in desperate straits.
Chant du XV de France
Allez les Bleus ! Rugby passion, rugby de belle tradition !
Ton maillot bleu enflamme nos cœurs et le jeu !
Jouez, jouez à ce rugby qui vous honore !