Six Nations 2021: Ibanez hails France belief after last-gasp win over Wales

By Sports Desk March 20, 2021

Raphael Ibanez paid tribute to France's unbreakable belief after they kept their hopes of Six Nations glory alive with a last-gasp win over Wales.

French hopes of a comeback victory appeared to have been dashed when they had lock Paul Willemse sent off and a try chalked off in one fell swoop by the TMO with 67 minutes gone.

That left Fabien Galthie's side a man down and 10 points behind a Wales side who looked destined to complete a Grand Slam in Paris.

However, the visitors lost both Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams to the sin bin in quick succession before Charles Ollivon crossed the line and Romain Ntamack converted to reduce the deficit to three.

And Brice Dulin broke Welsh hearts in the 82nd minute as he made the hosts' extra man tell, touching down after the ball had been worked quickly to the left.

Reflecting on the drama, team manager Ibanez told the BBC: "It was an incredible finish. Mixed emotions. It was a fantastic battle for the whole game and obviously, we got the win but it's just incredible for the boys, a massive effort.

"At times during the game, we were under massive pressure. Wales scored their opportunities, we missed a few opportunities, made a few mistakes during the game.

"But in the end what really matters in sport is just to believe and that's what the boys did until the end thanks to magnificent tries."

Asked if he thought France's hopes of winning had gone when Willemse was dismissed, Ibanez heaped further praise on the players' character.

He added: "Yeah, but you still have to believe in yourself when you start the game of rugby. 

"The intensity, the battle was just immense. Credit to Wales, they fought until the end, but the boys showed so much character. 

"I think, in the end, it's going to give a lot of confidence to the boys for the next game."

That next game pits France against Scotland at Stade de France on Friday, with the hosts knowing that a bonus-point win by a margin of 21 points would see them crowned champions.

On refocusing for that challenge, Ibanez said: "It's pretty simple. We're still in it and the next game will define our Six Nations. 

"We still have a chance to win the Six Nations so let's celebrate tonight in the changing room and then tomorrow we are going to regroup and work hard as we did this week."

Related items

  • 'We don't have Azerbaijan to play' – Tite hits back at Mbappe's CONMEBOL comments 'We don't have Azerbaijan to play' – Tite hits back at Mbappe's CONMEBOL comments

    Brazil head coach Tite has rebuffed Kylian Mbappe's suggestion that World Cup qualifying is more difficult for teams in Europe than it is in South America.

    Paris Saint-Germain and France forward Mbappe said in May that European teams have an advantage in the global showpiece due to playing "high-level matches" in qualifying.

    Mbappe, who lifted the World Cup with France in 2018, added that football in South America "is not as developed as in Europe".

    However, Brazil boss Tite does not agree with those comments and feels the quality of football in the CONMEBOL region is as high as anywhere in the world.

    "Maybe he is talking about these Nations League clashes or European friendlies, but not World Cup qualifiers," Tite told ESPN.

    "We don't have, with all due respect, Azerbaijan to play. We don't have anyone that gives you a break.

    "The qualifiers here have a much higher degree of difficulty than the group stage [of European qualifying]."

    The past four editions of the World Cup have been won by European teams – Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 and France in 2018.

    That is the longest run of victories for a single continent in the history of the tournament, with only one runner-up – Argentina in 2014 – coming from outside the continent.

    Indeed, 12 of the previous 21 World Cups have been won by European teams, with South America responsible for the other nine winners.

    France booked their spot at Qatar 2022 by finishing top of their qualifying group with five wins and three draws from their eight matches.

    Brazil also went unbeaten in qualifying thanks to 14 wins and three draws en route to finishing six points ahead of Argentina in top spot in the 10-team pool.

  • NZ Rugby CEO admits to making mistakes before backing Foster NZ Rugby CEO admits to making mistakes before backing Foster

    Mark Robinson accepts New Zealand Rugby made mistakes with the way they handled uncertainty over All Blacks head coach Ian Foster's future.

    The NZ Rugby board on Wednesday gave Foster their "full support" to stay on until the Rugby World Cup in France next year and appointed Joe Schmidt as his assistant.

    That announcement came just a few days after NZ Rugby chief executive Robinson stated that the governing body would "take stock" and hold a debrief following a 35-23 Rugby Championship win over South Africa on Saturday.

    The win over the world champions at Ellis Park came after the All Blacks had suffered five defeats in six Tests and sunk to a new low of fifth in the world rankings.

    Robinson had only guaranteed that Foster would remain head coach for the tour of South Africa and he admits NZ Rugby did not handle the situation as well as they could have done.

    "We acknowledge we haven't got everything right, we're not hiding from that," he said during a press conference in Auckland.

    "Aspects of the sequencing in how we interacted with media and the public is something we could have done differently."

    Robinson added that "clearly some aspects of the interface between the media and the public wasn’t as good as it could be."

    He also conceded: "There's a few things we've done in recent times that could have been done better."

    Robinson felt NZ Rugby had a difficult balancing act.

    He said: "People want to hear what's going on, they want engagement and access and openness. When you attempt to achieve that, but you're not in a position to really say a lot, then the flip side is you are criticised for doing that. We are always learning.’"

    When asked if stating that NZ Rugby would "take stock" following the win in Johannesburg last weekend added "fuel to the fire", Robison replied: "Hindsight's wonderful, isn't it?

    "We were attempting to respond to a general demand to be want to be more open and want to be more transparent and give as much as we can possibly can at a time when people are curious, and we don't always make the right decisions.

    "It's difficult, isn't it, if you don't say things and think of the best interests of the team and wait till they're out of the country, you're criticised for going missing in action.

    "But if you turn up and do have something to say when you're not in strong position to say a lot of things, you get criticised for having to be in a position where you're not saying anything."

  • Foster to remain All Blacks head coach, Schmidt named as assistant Foster to remain All Blacks head coach, Schmidt named as assistant

    Ian Foster is staying on as New Zealand head coach and Joe Schmidt has been appointed as his assistant.

    Foster had been under huge pressure following a dismal run of five defeats in six Tests, before the All Blacks lifted the gloom with a 35-23 Rugby Championship win over South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday.

    New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson had only guaranteed Foster would remain in the role for the two Tests against the Springboks.

    Robinson stated after the victory over the world champions in Johannesburg that the governing body would "take stock" and hold a debrief, with Foster saying he expected to retain his job.

    NZ Rugby on Wednesday confirmed that the 57-year-old will be in charge through to the Rugby World Cup in France next year, with Schmidt taking on a full-time role supporting him.

    Stewart Mitchell, the NZR chair, said during a press conference in Auckland: "[The board] have unanimously agreed they have absolute confidence that Ian and this coaching group are the right people to lead the All Blacks through until the World Cup.

    "This has been privately and publicly validated by our players and various conversations with our high-performance team."

    Former Ireland head coach Schmidt had already been working in the All Blacks' set-up and Foster welcomed his appointment.

    "Joe Schmidt has been on my radar, probably for a couple of years," said Foster.

    "We flagged at the start of this year that his role was to join us after the Irish series as an independent selector to replace Grant Fox and in addition he was going to do some opposition analysis work and work alongside myself in the strategy area.

    "We started that after the Irish series [which Ireland won 2-1] and delighted with how that's going. I have a great relationship with Joe."

    Holders New Zealand are back in Rugby Championship action against Argentina at Orangetheory Stadium a week on Saturday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.