Mission accomplished, but Laporte insists France can get better

FRANCE coach Bernard Laporte saw his side maintain the only unblemished RBS Six Nations record in Cardiff yesterday and claimed they can get better.

Wales 22 France 29

The French lead the championship following their 29-22 victory against Wales in Cardiff which gave them three victories out of three. However, Laporte said: "The objective was to win today and that is what we have done. We knew it was not going to be easy as we saw in the World Cup that Wales are a good team as they caused England and New Zealand problems. I would say that 95% of our game today was positive but everything is not perfect. We gave away some ball in the lineout and we did not make the most of all the opportunities we created against Wales.

"But we've got the win and now we can concentrate on our next match against Scotland. We know that it's going to be difficult as it always is up at Murrayfield. But only then can we think about the Grand Slam when we play England in the final match."

Laporte admitted he was concerned at the injury to scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde who limped off having scored 24 points equalling the record by a Frenchman in the championship. The French will have to wait until today before discovering the extent of the injury. Team manager Jo Maso said: "He has got a pain in the back of his thigh. We do not know yet whether it's just a strain or if it is a tear. We'll have to wait until we get back to France."

Maso also revealed that flanker Serge Betsen, who freed Elissalde for the crucial second-half try, had also sprained his left ankle which could make him doubtful for Scotland.

Welsh Coach Steve Hansen believes Wales restored their pride despite the defeat. The New Zealander said he was impressed by his players after they atoned for their disappointing display against Ireland two weeks ago.

"I think pride has been restored," said Hansen. "The team stood up and played the best they could and, unfortunately, were beaten by the better side. We have to accept that and keep working to get better. There are areas which we know we can improve on.

"But we know it's going to take time although we have shown that this team has progressed since last year. We are still a step down from the likes of England and the big guys but we are a lot more competitive. The Welsh public should get behind us. I believe that was a hell of a courageous effort out there today."

Hansen insists England's shock defeat against Ireland will make little difference to the preparations before they travel to face Clive Woodward's men at Twickenham in a fortnight's time.

"It would be a discredit to England if we thought they were going to play any different against us than they did against Ireland," added Hansen.

Outside-half Stephen Jones was relishing the trip to Twickenham saying: "It's going to be great to play the world champions in their own backyard. We know it's going to be a very difficult game but we nearly got a result against them in the World Cup."

WALES: G. Thomas, R. Williams, Taylor, Harris, S. Williams, S. Jones, Cooper, I. Thomas, Davies, Jenkins, Cockbain, Owen, J. Thomas, Charvis, D. Jones. Replacements: Shanklin for Taylor (61), Sweeney for Harris (72), Peel for Cooper (50), B. Evans for I. Thomas (60), Bennett for Davies (77), Llewellyn for Cockbain (64), M. Williams for D. Jones (61). Scorers for Wales: Tries: M. Williams. Cons: S. Jones. Pens: S. Jones 5.

FRANCE: Brusque, Clerc, Jauzion, Traille, Dominici, Michalak, Elissalde, Marconnet, Servat, De Villiers, Pelous, Pape, Betsen, Harinordoqui, Lievremont. Replacements: Yachvili for Elissalde (73), Crenca for Marconnet (60), Bru for Servat (68), Magne for Lievremont (69). Scorers for France: Tries: Harinordoqui, Elissalde. Cons: Elissalde 2. Pens: Elissalde 5.

Referee: S Dickinson (Australia).

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