Matt Dawson column: Wales being denied Grand Slam by France will haunt them for years

Wales’ late defeat to France, which ended his hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam, would haunt him for years to come.

The score was 30-27 when they were awarded a penalty kick in the last minute with 13 men and France took the opportunity to score.

Wales will still win the title unless France beat Scotland on Friday with a bonus point and a lead of more than 20 points, but nobody thinks about that anymore when you lose a Grand Slam.

Unfortunately, I’ve been in that scenario too many times when the Grand Slam was on the line and England lost. There will be sleepless nights in Wales.

I still dream of the moment Wales’ Scott Gibbs scored a try in the dying seconds of the match at Wembley to deny England the 1999 Grand Slam.

The Welsh will remember this in the 80th minute. They gave the ball away in the second minute and gave France a last chance. It will haunt them – not a good feeling at all.

If you address it, you will still see it on social media. It absolutely haunts me and will haunt me forever.

France is so dangerous

France is playing incredible rugby. Now everyone knows that if you want to beat France you have to play a certain way and score tries.

This does not mean that they are invincible, but I am convinced that we are entering an important period in which France will be a very dangerous country.

Suddenly, the players and coaching staff are using the talent France has always had, but combining it with the discipline and game management they never had, and winning games like this.

Wales were in complete control, but in the 68th minute they were unable to break through for the equaliser. When French lock Paul Willems was sent off in the second minute, it looked like someone in the French camp had pressed the red alert button.

They started playing like their lives depended on it. With a 10 point lead over Wales, I didn’t see France winning the game, but when they took the lead in the 22nd minute and before Willems was sent off, Wales started giving away penalties and conceding to the referee.

They thought it would go down to the wire, but Wales would have had enough in his locker. After this seemingly improbable victory, France now seems so dangerous.

If France are to challenge Wales for the Six Nations title, they will need to beat Scotland in four tries with a bonus point and with at least 21 points to win.

Six Nations sensation

During the Nations Cup after the fall of 2020, I said rugby had to change to avoid the sedate game we were seeing.

And in this Six Nations, most of the matches were absolutely fantastic from start to finish. There’s been a lot of drama.

You may not like it because your team isn’t winning, but mostly the games have been sensational.

Given the circumstances we all find ourselves in, rugby desperately needed a showcase for the Six Nations. I can’t imagine such a six-nation tournament.

Fifth place in English is not acceptable

England won the Six Nations title in 2020 and finished fifth this year after losing to Ireland in their final match. None of the players would find that acceptable.

It’s not necessarily up to the fans or anyone else to decide if it’s acceptable or not. It is the players who will be desperately disappointed because they know they are better than the fifth.

Look at what they did to France when they beat them in the fourth round, and look at what France does in general. England is on that level.

They sided with Wales and France. Losing three games in the Six Nations is unacceptable.

England can’t play like they did against France and suddenly people are saying they are a bad team.

How do players and managers manage to develop this style of English player with such intent and skill that it becomes the norm?

I know head coach Eddie Jones will make excuses and say England can’t play like this every week.

But look at New Zealand, look at France – they’re deliberate. That’s how they want to play the game.

I think England need to stand on their own two feet, and that comes from the top level. My concern is that it’s not as uniform as we all think.

I don’t understand why you don’t go to Dublin and play with the intensity that England played against France.

The conditions were perfect against Ireland. England were without two players, Henry Slade and Max Malins, but it was pretty much the same team.

Why wasn’t there enough intensity for quick layups and rebounds? Why are they all suddenly very poorly disciplined? What’s changed in a week?

I think it has to come from management, but the players still have the responsibility to move forward. It is the responsibility of the older players to raise this issue with the coaching staff.

Matt Dawson had a conversation with the athletic Becky Gray.


You May Also Like