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Wales restore pride against wounded French

Maxime Machenaud of France (front) struggles with Mike Phillips of Wales (C, rear) during their Six Nations rugby match against France at th
Maxime Machenaud of France (front) struggles with Mike Phillips of Wales (C, rear) during their Six Nations rugby match against France at th

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Wales restored their dented pride and inflicted a second straight defeat on France as the reigning champions ended an eight-match losing streak with a 16-6 win over the World Cup runners-up in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Wales, who had not won a game since last year's victory against France in the Six Nations, defended fiercely throughout and wrapped it up thanks to a late moment of inspiration from Dan Biggar and try scorer George North.

For France it is the first time since 1982 that they have started the championship with two defeats having lost to Italy last weekend.

"How do I explain this black hole? You have to accept that the Welsh came here to win after losing eight games in a row," France manager Philippe Saint-Andre told a news conference.

"You have to score when you're on top, and in the first half we had two great chances but couldn't take them...

"Things are tough for us, we have to accept that," Saint-Andre added, looking ahead to their match in England on February 23.

"We have to lift our heads up and prepare like commandos to go and play at Twickenham. We can't win the Six Nations now but we can win respect."

Wales interim coach Rob Howley was delighted that this time the defending champions were "on the right side of the scoreboard".

"It's been a long time since we've won a game. It is pretty special for the Welsh team to be honest," he said.

"The players showed character and the style of defense we operated put them under a lot of pressure."

Wales's in-to-out defense did indeed prove tricky to handle for France, with only centre Mathieu Bastareaud able to get the better of it.

"The preparation was perfect this week," said defense coach Shaun Edwards.

"France seem to bring the best out of our defense. It's the third consecutive game they haven't scored a try against us."

Howley added: "We had a huge defense. I thought we defended pretty well.

"We put pressure on the ball and France did exactly the same to us. I thought our defense was absolutely outstanding this evening.

"You don't become a bad team overnight. Those narrow losses became a win today and now we can take that to Italy," he said, referring to his team's trip to Rome in two weeks.

Saint-Andre was left to contemplate France's freefall after they beat Australia and Argentina last November.

"They had one opportunity to score a try and they scored a try, it's fair for them. They lost eight games in a row and they did not give up. We were flying in November and we're now at the bottom of the Six Nations," he said.

"So we must not give up and carry on, and play with more spirit. We must not be scared at all (to play at Twickenham). It's a fantastic challenge.

"In rugby you can fight for pride. Against England it's always something special."

Saint-Andre will announce his squad for 'Le Crunch' next week, with doubts now hanging over Benjamin Fall, who took a knock on the thigh and Fulgence Oudraogo, who picked up a shoulder injury. Both will have scans on Sunday.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Toby Davis)

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