France coach Fabien Galthie hailed his side’s heroic defensive effort after a gutsy 13-9 victory over Wales that kept alive dreams of a first Six Nations Grand Slam in 12 years.
The only obstacle to France’s first championship cleansweep for the Holy Grail of rugby union in the northern hemisphere since 2010 is England, who travel to Paris next weekend.
Galthie said the players would celebrate the Welsh win, but then immediately turn their focus to the English challenge ahead.
“What’s important is to win,” Galthie said after watching his team keep Wales tryless in a home Six Nations match for the first time since 2009.
“In this competition, when you have won a string of matches, the tough thing is to win again, especially against a very tactical team.”
Galthie, a former France scrum-half and skipper, was under no illusion about what lay ahead and how his “talented and ambitious players and a staff that leaves nothing to chance” would go about it.
“The dream scenario is to win all the matches,” he said. “The team is young, the team is progressing.
“We’re going to celebrate, have a nice weekend, then get into the working week, get in position and play the game.
“We’re going to focus on that objective from Monday. We just have to go on our route as we’ve done and not change route, grow and get better.”
France captain Antoine Dupont, who was largely closed down by an aggressive Welsh defence, added: “We have to be better in attack and kicking.
“We had difficulties in these two fields in the first half, and also catching high balls and linked phase play. We’ll have to improve those, as well as defence and discipline.
“Most of the team is already thinking about the match against England, we’re all looking forward to playing next Saturday.”
Talk of the Grand Slam, Galthie added, was no longer taboo.
“Now we can start mentioning it, we’re just one victory away from the Grand Slam,” he acknowledged, adding however that they were not calling themselves the best team in world rugby, as many pundits have been quick to.
“I’m not sure we’re asking ourselves this question,” he said. “It’s very flattering to be praised by other teams, but we’ll see who’s the best later.”
Galthie’s Welsh counterpart Wayne Pivac was left frustrated by the result, which he said hinged on “one or two decisions”.
In a tight game, Dan Biggar hit three penalties for Wales, while France scored the only try of the game through Anthony Jelonch, the rest of the points coming from the trusty boot of Melvyn Jaminet.
“We did a lot of things very well against the in-form side in world rugby,” said Pivac.
Biggar said he was “frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, all of those things”.
“I thought tonight we were the better team. We have to make sure we come here next weekend and do a real job on Italy.”
The defeat by France leaves Wales with a sorry tally of just one win, over Scotland, from four games, having also lost to Ireland and England.
But Biggar insisted the side was improving, despite having come out second best in what he said had been “an arm wrestle, a bit of a slug fest” against France.
“There’s no doubt that we’re in a better place than we were when we started.”