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Second-half renaissance from Wales to beat France in Six Nations leaves Warren Gatland proud

The Welsh turn around 16-point deficit at half time to win 24-19 in Paris on Friday

George North celebrates his try for Wales in their win over France in Paris in the Six Nations. EPA
George North celebrates his try for Wales in their win over France in Paris in the Six Nations. EPA

Warren Gatland proudly claimed his Wales team had "forgotten how to lose" after they staged an epic Six Nations fightback in Paris.

Wales trailed by 16 points at half-time but responded magnificently to beat France 24-19, claim a 10th successive win and equal their longest undefeated run since 1999.

Tries by scrum-half Tomos Williams and wing George North, who capitalised on opposite number Yoann Huget's defensive howler, plus two Gareth Anscombe conversions and a Dan Biggar penalty edged Wales ahead following a 15-minute purple patch.

And after France went back in front through a Camille Lopez penalty, North claimed his second try - a stunning 60-metre interception effort that Biggar converted - to give Wales a seventh victory from the last eight starts against France.

"France were very good in the first half," Wales head coach Gatland said. "We made too many errors and tried to play too much rugby.

"We were much better in the second half and created some chances.

"For me, the big difference between the two teams is that we've become a side that has probably forgotten how to lose and can dig deep like that.

"On the other hand, they are probably a team searching for some confidence, having not had a great run in the last seven or eight matches."

Wales, unbeaten since losing to Ireland in last season's Six Nations, were up against it as Les Bleus dominated the opening 40 minutes and cruised clear through touchdowns by Louis Picamoles and Huget, while Lopez booted a penalty and a drop-goal.

Gatland added: "We know that we get better the more time we have together.

"To win this tournament, you need a bit of luck. We look back on our victories and know that sometimes you have the bounce of the ball.

"It's tough in the Six Nations when you come up against one of the big teams. France in Paris is a real challenge, and if you can win the first game then you have a good chance of winning the tournament.

"Hopefully we can build on this and start thinking about the rest of the tournament."

Gatland also praised North's two-try contribution, although he was disappointed with a defensive lapse that saw Huget claim France's second touchdown.

"It was great that he scored two tries, but I'm more disappointed with France's second try when he stepped in off his wing. He should have stayed on his man," Gatland said.

"But he has gone hard at that intercept, and it's a big moment in the game. He is a quality player.

"George has got some real special qualities as a player, and those two tries had a big impact on the game."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones said: "Had we not taken the opportunity early in the second half, we might have felt the fear. If France had got the first opportunity in the second half, we probably would have chased the game.

"Sixteen-point swings usually don't happen, but we were able to get that snowball effect."

France now play England at Twickenham on Sunday week and head coach Jacques Brunel said: "We'll try to keep the same spirit despite the disappointment, and focus on the positives.

"We have to improve the control we lacked in this match. But facing England will be as difficult a challenge as facing Wales, and it will also be a mental test for us.

"We were fully committed, did lots of interesting things, especially in the first half. Even if we didn't master everything, we managed to put Wales under pressure.

"We know they have a formidable defence, and unfortunately we didn't start the second half well and they did."

Wales' comeback was officially confirmed by Six Nations statistician Stuart Farmer as the biggest in a Five or Six Nations game.

It beat France's effort against Ireland in Dublin 30 years ago, when they trailed 15-0 after 37 minutes and fought back to win 26-21.

Updated: February 2, 2019 08:51 AM

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