It has been said that a defeat every season keeps you honest. After suffering our first Six Nations loss under Warren Gatland to the French in Paris on Friday night, I can speak from experience when I say that it certainly does work you up for the next game. We don't lose many under Warren so it was a hard defeat for us as we lost the chance to win back-to-back Grand Slams, and it broke our eight-game winning streak. Warren said after the game that France seemed to want it more and I suppose that's how it must have looked.
They really got stuck in, they were confident and they shut us down. They simply stopped us playing our game. We also made a lot of mistakes that we normally wouldn't make which contributed to the result. We will be working on these areas in training and Warren may well be making a few changes for the Italy game on March 14. Unfortunately our back three, who are usually solid, made a few crucial errors in Paris and we paid dearly for that.
Blame should not be attributed to any one part of the team though; we all seemed to go to sleep five minutes before half-time and the French capitalised by scoring a try that meant we went into the break all square at 13-13. Understandably that prompted Warren to give us a bit of a roasting at half-time. Dwayne Peel, for one, was certainly listening as I would say he was one of the best players on the pitch when he came on after half time - he really made a difference.
Having said that, it wasn't enough and the atmosphere was very subdued in the dressing room after the game, especially after scoring just three points in the second half. Shaun Edwards [the Wales defence coach] didn't really say very much afterwards. He was pretty quiet - he was down the same as all the players. I'm sure he'll be giving us his views on the game during training in the week. Warren said the same to us as he said to the media - the French seemed hungrier and dictated the game and I don't think anyone can really argue with that. It's not all bad news, though. I think it's positive that we can play badly but still almost score a try just before the final whistle - I think that's encouraging.
One other thing to add about the France game was that it was the first time a Six Nations game had been played on a Friday evening under the lights. I know some people don't like the break in tradition with the scheduling, but I don't really think it made too much difference to the players. We started our day a bit later, went to the gym in the morning and we all got a bit more sleep. The one thing I have to say I did notice was that there didn't seem to be so many Welsh supporters there - far less red shirts in the crowd. It was also difficult to sleep afterwards with the kick-off being later. It takes time to come down after a game.
That's all got to be put behind us now though as we look forward to the Italy clash. We still have the Triple Crown and the championship to play for. We've had a few rest days but training will now start in earnest and we'll want to be ready for Italy. We need to stamp our authority on that game. It's going to be another tough one. They are strong at home and it's a tough place to get a win. One thing is for sure; no-one in the Welsh team wants to taste a defeat like this again.