Noves urges youthful France to stay grounded

Guy Noves (File)
Guy Noves (File)

Paris - France coach Guy Noves has backed his young team to continue their winning start to the Six Nations, but urged them to keep themselves grounded for their next game against Wales.

After opening their campaign with a narrow 23-21 victory over Italy, France followed up that success with a 10-9 defeat of Ireland, a 70th minute Maxime Medard try converted by Jules Plisson sealing what, for large periods of the game, seemed like an improbable win.

Next up is a trip away to face Wales on Friday, February 26, the unbeaten Welsh having opened with a 16-all draw with Ireland before edging Scotland 27-23 on Saturday.

"Getting a result like this one, and seeing those young boys so happy, it all feels like a job well done," Noves said after watching his team rebound from a disastrous first hour to snatch the win at a packed Stade de France.

"As for writing our history, we will know in a few weeks. Let's all keep our feet square on the ground, because our next opponent will be an extremely strong one."

Noves added: "I told the boys during the week that we felt they were in there, focused, involved. All in all, the efficiency of the players coming on and off showed massive solidarity in the squad. Those young kids, who were fragile last week, produced a huge performance against Ireland."

One particular bonus for Noves was another superb performance by skipper Guilhem Guirado. The 29-year-old Toulon hooker, playing in his 40th Test, led by example: dynamic around the park, abrasive in the tackle and able to exhort the best out of his teammates.

"When you're next to him, you say to yourself, 'There you are, I want to go with him'. You want to emulate him," said No 8 Damien Chouly.

Prop Jefferson Poirot added: "He's the type of player that I want to follow everywhere."

Notching up a France high of 11 tackles in the match, including one particularly devastating one on winger Dave Kearney, Guirado also showed no small amount of sang-froid when it came to critical decisions.

"Victory was above all based on the choice of our captain to take the touch when we were 9-3 down, rather than take the penalty," Noves said.

After seven long minutes and a succession of scrums in front of the Irish posts, the decisive try arrived, Maxime Medard played in for a touchdown Jules Plisson converted.

"We were expecting to hear 'go for the three points', but he said 'no'," admitted prop Rabah Slimani, whose appearance along with Eddy Ben Arous galvanised the scrum and saw the French pack dominate the Irish for the final quarter.

Wales coach Warren Gatland praised the French scrum, but hesitated when asked whether they have turned a corner under their new coach.

"I think it's still early days to make that call. When someone new comes in and you are trying things, it does take a few games," Gatland said.

"I saw some of the stats from their game and they had second-half territory and dominance over Ireland. They made a lot of unforced errors in the first half, but seemed to improve as the game went on.

"Their scrum was really strong. It's going to be a tough game for us here in a couple of weeks, but having that break and the two-week preparation will hopefully hold us in good stead for that fixture."

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