Six Nations

Gatland: Defence behind French flair despair

Warren Gatland (Getty Images)
Warren Gatland (Getty Images)

Cardiff - Rugby fans bemoaning the absence of "French flair" have to come to terms with the marked improvement in modern-day defences according to Wales coach Warren Gatland.

Many pundits have been severely critical of this season's ongoing Six Nations Championship, highlighting a dearth of attacking rugby compared to that on offer in the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship -- which provided all four semi-finalists at last year's World Cup in England.

France, finalists in 2011, crashed out at the quarter-final stage of last year's World Cup following an embarrassing 62-13 thrashing by eventual champions New Zealand.

However, Wales coach Warren Gatland said supporters lamenting the absence of successors to the likes of bold free-running backs such as Serge Blanco, Philippe Sella and Patrice Lagisquet were missing the point.

"Everyone talks about French flair and where has the French flair gone? In the past, they had absolute world-class quality players in attack," said Gatland, whose Wales side play France in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Friday.

"The reason is not so much French flair any more -- it's not because they haven't got the players -- it's just teams defensively are so organised. There is just no space on the field.

"In the past, they (France) have gone out with the attitude of 'let's play and let's play what is in front of us'. For teams like us, that is just happy days. We love that sort of thing if you are going to come and play like that against us, because it's just so easy to shut down."

The New Zealander added: "You get breaks in the game. They are made by someone missing a tackle or someone making a system error -- that's where the breaks are.

"At this level, not many players make mistakes any more and not many players miss tackles.

"Where's the flair gone? Well, we are all trying to be innovative and hopefully trying to create space, but the more you try and be creative in attack, the better teams become defensively as well."

France and England are the only two teams left in this season's Six Nations who can complete a Grand Slam.

But France, under new coach Guy Noves, have not yet set pulses racing following grinding wins over Italy (23-21) and Ireland (10-9).

However, Gatland made clear his respect for Noves -- the man behind Toulouse's four European Cup triumphs -- who was appointed to the France job in succession to the heavily criticised Philippe Saint-Andre

"They are two (wins) from two, and that makes them dangerous," Gatland said.

"They have won two games, that's what makes them tough, and a new coach coming in and giving them some confidence.

"There were a lot of things said about the previous regime and a lot of unrest in that team. The thing about Guy Noves, as a coach you look at his track record and what he has done at Toulouse, and it has been absolutely exceptional. He has been outstanding as a coach."

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