Antoine Dupont says France 'can still win' the Six Nations title
Paris (AFP) - France captain Antoine Dupont said on Friday that his team was aiming “to score as many points as possible” against Wales in the hope that they could exploit an Irish slip and retain the Six Nations title.
A week after running in a record-breaking 53 points as they thrashed England, Les Bleus know they probably need to repeat the feat on Saturday to stand a chance.
France can overtake Ireland and clinch the championship if they run in four tries for a bonus-point victory at the Stade de France and the Irish, who play the last game of the day, then lose to England without picking up a bonus points.
If the two sides finish level in the table, France would need to erase Ireland’s 20-point edge in scoring difference to take the crown.
“We can still win it mathematically even if our destiny is not totally in our hands,” Dupont told reporters.
“We will play the match to win it, to score as many points as possible even if we know the probability of an England win in Ireland.
“We’re concentrating on ourselves, to play as well as possible,” he added.
This year’s Rugby World Cup hosts lost to Ireland in Dublin and Dupont hopes his players do not get carried away by ast week’s dazzling display at Twickenham.
“I think there’s a risk that we’re over confident, it’s something we discussed this week,” Dupont said.
“At this level, you can’t let up, or drop your level of vigilance or you fall into bad habits, like losing games in the final play.
“Confidence can play tricks on you, and we have to be vigilant,” he added.
Earlier on Friday, Dupont’s Wales counterpart Ken Owens said there was no pressure on his side with the hosts unbeaten at home since March 2021.
Owens’ outfit have won just once this campaign, last Saturday’s victory over Italy.
“The pressure is off externally, because no one is expecting anything from us,” Owens told reporters.
“There’s always added pressure when you’re the favourites because generally you have confidence and momentum and that’s what comes with being favourites,” he added.
- ‘Other objectives’ -
Wales’ tournament has been marred by off-the-field issues including allegations of a “toxic culture” at the Welsh Rugby Union with claims of sexism, racism and homophobia made by former employees.
Last month, a player strike over contract problems was cancelled just days before a loss to England, which came after convincing defeats to Ireland and Scotland.
“We know we always have to get better to compete with the top teams in this competition,” hooker Owens said.
“We have done so in certain areas and we will have to be at the top of our game on Saturday,” he added.
This weekend’s fixture will be France’s final competitive match before welcoming New Zealand in the World Cup opener on September 8.
'The pressure is off': Wales captain Ken Owens looks forward to the France game
Before facing the All Blacks, they face Scotland twice as well as Fiji and Australia in pre-tournament Tests.
“For 2023, everyone is thinking about the World Cup,” Dupont said.
“It was important to focus on the Six Nations, to really prepare for matches seriously without looking too far ahead.
“That’s what we’ve done throughout the Six Nations. It’s what we will do this week before thinking about other objectives,” he added.