• January 28, 2023

France 32-30 Wales: Wayne Pivac ‘numb’ after side let Grand Slam slip

Welsh head coach Wayne Pivac spoke for a nation when he called himself “deaf” as midnight approached in Paris on Saturday.

Hopes of winning a Grand Slam had just been dashed in the worst of circumstances when Wales conceded a try against France in the final act of a game like no other in Six Nations history.

After 72 minutes, Wales led 30:20 and had a second Grand Slam in three seasons. This was a change for a team that had only won once in the past year.

But those aspirations went up in flames in a chaotic ending.

At first she abandoned her discipline, and Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams received the first yellow cards from Wales of the entire Six Nations, reducing them to 13 men.

Then France threw itself and first met by captain Charles Ollivon. In stoppage time, Brice Dulin sat on to seal the most dramatic French victory – and break Welsh dreams of a first Grand Slam, which had been secured on foreign soil since 1971.

The Wales players fell on the turf in exhausted despair. The silence of an empty Stade de France was broken by the solemn howl of their cheering opponents.

“It’s really a pretty numb feeling,” said Pivac.

“The boys did a fantastic job. At that point we were against the players. At that point we were pretty bad, 15-5. I think that was it.”

“We had one last warning and we lost two players, so it was very difficult to defend 13-14 at that point.”

“The boys had done brilliantly to survive the French attempts at the goal line, which were several in the last few minutes.

“But it was only one too many.”

That was the overall feeling for Wales after an exciting encounter in which they met with one of the strongest attacking teams in the world.

It also felt like a fitting round-up of the Wales championship that they had started with with next to no expectation.

Pivac lost seven of its first ten responsible Tests last year, with Wales seeing the worst six nations since 2007.

It was therefore a surprise when they beat Ireland in this year’s opening game and even more so when they beat Scotland a week later.

After an all-out win over England and a win over Italy, performances improved and Wales suddenly played for a fifth Grand Slam in 16 years.

They took their game back to the next level in Paris, playing at the pace and attacking strength many had hoped for when Wales appointed Pivac.

“It’s just desperately frustrating and the players have come so close and yet come so far,” added the New Zealander.

“It’s a tough time for them, but we have to be proud of our accomplishments, proud of the efforts we’ve put in throughout the championship.”

France can overtake Wales to win the title if they beat Scotland next Friday

Pivac was remarkably calm in the face of the chaos he was just a part of.

But after getting so close, it was difficult not to wonder what, if, what could have been.

“In order for us to be able to continue between 27 and 20 minutes before the end, there was an important point for us,” said Pivac.

“We had a fantastic drive and there was a yellow card and I was expecting a little more than the yellow card, maybe a penalty attempt, but it wasn’t given.

“That was frustrating because at 34-20 I think it’s probably championship and possibly Grand Slam.”

The way it was, the chance passed – but not all is lost.

When Wales wakes up on Sunday morning with bodies aching, emotionally consumed, they can at least comfort themselves with the knowledge that they could still win the Six Nations Championship.

France’s celebrations were particularly wild as this bonus point win kept their own hopes of winning the title alive.

Les Bleus will now have to beat Scotland in the newly arranged final of the tournament on Friday with a bonus point and a point difference of at least 21 to be crowned champions.

“I hope they don’t,” Pivac said with a laugh when asked about France’s chances of taking Wales to the title.

“Look, it’s a difficult question. It’s a very good French team as you saw today.

“When we got to a position in the game where we should have started, they kept coming back. They have a lot of great men and they come hard on the ball.”

“They are a good team especially at home and it will be a difficult task for Scotland to come here and win the game.”

“But we will be curious and just wait and see what happens.”

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Jack

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