Warren Gatland admitted that Wales came “to do a job” as they secured the runners-up spot in this season’s NatWest 6 Nations Championship.
A Liam Williams try and three Leigh Halfpenny penalties swayed a forgettable Principality Stadium contest Wales’ way as they completed a clean sweep of home wins in this season’s tournament by beating France 14-13.
France went the same way as Italy and Scotland before them, yet the visitors could – and probably should – have taken the spoils, given their dominance for much of the match.
Wing Gael Fickou’s try, an early Francois Trinh-Duc drop-goal, plus his half-back partner Maxime Machenaud’s penalty and conversion ensured that Wales were stretched.
But a combination of Welsh resilience and French profligacy meant the game ultimately went Wales’ way, leaving France still without a win in Cardiff since 2010.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Wales head coach Gatland said.
“But we just came here to do a job, and the job was to just win and finish second in this competition.
“We had too many turnovers and stuff, but I thought defensively the boys showed some great character out there, particularly in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a tough, close game. They are a good French team.
“Jacques (France head coach Jacques Brunel) has done a good job, and I think their game will develop over the next couple of years. He is very pragmatic, they were disciplined and defensively very strong.
“They have got some real quality. They are big men, physical and tough to break down.
“The great thing about this competition at the moment is how close it is and how tough it is to win. You need a little bit of luck, but today wasn’t about performance, it was about the result.
“To win the Six Nations – and congratulations to Ireland, they deserve that – you need a little bit of luck as well.
“I think we’ve got to be very positive about this tournament, talk it up and say how good it is. It has been a very competitive year, and there has been some very good rugby.
“Today wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t a great performance. What is pleasing is that we have exposed some players to the highest level, and leading towards 2019 (World Cup) we have got more depth than we had in 2015.
“I think in 12 months’ time we will be in a really good place where we are from a starting XV or 23, and the depth we have created has put us in a good position. We are pretty comfortable with where we as a squad at the moment.”
Next up for Wales is an appointment with South Africa in Washington on June 2, followed by a two-Test Argentina tour, with Gatland set to rest a number of players who were involved on last year’s British and Irish Lions’ New Zealand tour.
“We will probably look at a lot of the players who were on the Lions tour, and whether we take them,” he added. “We will start thinking about that in the next six weeks or so.”
Wales failed to score a point after the 30th minute, but the victory also meant that England finished fifth in this season’s Six Nations on the back of successive defeats against Scotland, France and Ireland.
Reflecting on the tournament, France head coach Jacques Brunel said: “It was satisfactory because we were close to being right up there – by one point today and two against Ireland – but we finished fourth, so there are a lot of things to work on.”
And captain Mathieu Bastareaud added: “I thought being captain would be like captaining my club, but it wasn’t. The stakes were so much higher, but I tried to guide the guys as best as I could.”