CARDIFF: Wales have an enviable record against France, having racked up four straight wins over Les Bleus and conceded just a sole try in the last five games between the two sides.
But Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde insists that any thoughts of under-estimating the French under new coach Guy Noves ahead of the Six Nations match in Cardiff on Friday should be well and truly buried.
“They are two (wins) out of two, so we can’t take this challenge too lightly,” McBryde said, with France having beaten Italy (23-21) and Ireland (10-9) in their opening two games.
“The records of the past should stay in the past tomorrow night. We are going to have to step up in our defence and attack.
“If we have got any ambition to get anything out of this championship, we have got to win tomorrow night.”
France have not beaten Wales in Cardiff since 2010, their last victory coming over the Welsh in the controversial Rugby World Cup semi-final in 2011, won 9-8 after captain Sam Warburton was sent off.
But McBryde stresed: “You can never take a French team too lightly, especially with an experienced coach like Guy Noves in charge and the success he has had with Toulouse over the years, especially in the European Cup.
“If you create an identity in your team and everybody buys into that team, and then you match that ambition with the way you train and play, you are going to be a handful for any team.”
For many of Noves’ XV, Friday’s match will mean heading back to the Cardiff city centre stadium where they suffered a humiliating defeat by eventual winners New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals last October.
Noves, however, played down any likely effects of what will be a hostile home reception from a packed-out 74,500-seater Principality Stadium where the roof will be shut for the 2005 GMT kick-off.
“On the pitch, there’ll only be 15 blokes lined up against you,” said the former Toulouse coach who guided the Top 14 club to four European Cup titles.
“Fans will scream well, but they can do only that.”
Two years ago, France suffered the mental torment of being stuck in traffic coming from their hotel in Newport, arriving just 45 minutes before kick-off.
They then spent two long minutes in a stadium plunged into darkness, awaiting the arrival of the Wales side.
“All the atmosphere around the match, it’s great for television and the fans,” Noves said.
“It’s nice to see the flames heating up the heart,” he added of numerous huge flame throwers used to build tension before the Wales team runs out.
“All that is very beautiful and nice. But once the whistle is blown, it’s 15 blokes who’ll play 15 brave players and we’ll try to enjoy it and make it enjoyable.
“Besides, all the players here have played big European Cup matches in packed-out stadiums.”
With questions over modern-day rugby stifling the “French flair” of yesteryear, former Wales hooker McBryde said that aspect was but one “part of the French identity with rugby”.
“They have got a strong scrum, and you can hear the crowd getting behind their pack when the scrum is being as competitive as it can be, or they see a rolling maul gathering a head of steam,” he said.
“And it’s getting the balance of that style of play with the swinging of the hips and the off-loading game they’ve got.
“They have potent individuals behind the scrum – big threats with ball in hand – and the challenge for any team is to create the space on the field and to take advantage of the opposition.
“There isn’t that much space to be found in modern-day rugby with defences being as organised as they can be.”