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France 6-16 Wales, Six Nations, Stade de France
Howley revels in "special day" for Wales
ESPN Staff
February 9, 2013
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny enjoys the moment, France v Wales, Six Nations, Stade de France, Paris, France, February 9, 2013
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny was named Man of the Match at the Stade de France © PA Photos
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Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: France | Wales

Wales boss Rob Howley described his side's hard-fought 16-6 victory over Six Nations rivals France in Paris as a "special day" for his under-fire side.

Interim head coach Howley saw his side go into the Stade de France clash riding an eight-game losing run but they emerged with their first victory in the French captial since 2005 thanks to a late try from winger George North and 11 points from the boot of fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

"It is a pretty special day for the Wales team," Howley said. "We kept on saying we hadn't become a bad team overnight. Fine margins are the difference in Test match rugby. The players showed character and our defence put France under a lot of pressure. The players deserve all the accolades."

France failed to score a try against Wales for the third successive game with their outstanding defensive hailed by Howley and defence coach Shaun Edwards. "It was a huge defensive effort - we defended particularly well," Howley added. "We were effective in terms of putting pressure on the ball, and our defence was absolutely outstanding."

And Edwards said: "France seem to bring the best out of us in defence. We respect and fear their attack so much that it brings the best out of us. That was the third successive game they haven't scored a try against us."

Wales now move on to an appointment with Italy in Rome later this month and Howley believes his side can kick on from their long-awaited triumph. "The belief and confidence you can get from a result like this is so important, and we can take that with us to Italy now," Howley said.

"The important thing is it that it hasn't felt like we had lost seven or eight games on the bounce. The one thing these guys have continually done is worn that jersey with pride and given 100%. Today, we came on the right side of the scoreboard. The players deserve all the plaudits. There are three games to go, but we have to enjoy tonight."

Ryan Jones celebrated his 30th Test as Wales captain by leading the reigning Six Nations champions to a notable victory. "France is one of the most difficult places to come and win," Jones said. "We talked about the battle it takes to come here and win. It was by no means a flawless diplay, but we worked incredibly hard. We fronted-up and we were bold and brave. You have got to tackle a team like France head-on, and I thought we did that."

Fullback Halfpenny was named man of the match but was content to revel in the team's success. "I can't describe how much that means," he said. "The boys played incredibly well, we stuck together and what a fantastic win - it's been a long time coming.

"The boys were outstanding in defence, working for each other, just wouldn't give in. When we had a chance we took it, and that's what international rugby's about, taking your chances. We came out on the right side of it today. We've come out on the wrong side in a few games, with narrow defeats, and this win is amazing.

"It means everything - playing for that jersey, we're doing it for all the fans here and everyone back home and the boys were outstanding today."

France face an in-form England at Twickenham in their next outing with the wooden spoon is a distinct possibility. "It is a difficult time for us - we know we can't win the Six Nations any more," France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. "It was most frustrating. Our defence went better this week, but we had the opportunities to score and did not convert them, whereas Wales scored from their only opportunity.

"Wales were very aggressive in the rucks and tackles, and we lost the ball many times. When we won turnovers we were not able to use the ball properly. Wales were the better team. They were clinical - they had one chance and they took it. They never gave up after losing eight games in a row, and they got their reward.

"We are at the bottom of the Six Nations, but we must not give up and we need to play with more precision. We must not be scared. England at Twickenham is a fantastic challenge. You can fight for pride and show desire, and we need to do that in two weeks' time."

And skipper Thierry Dusautoir added: "Losing at home is not good, but you cannot expect to win if you cannot convert your opportunities. If we can't score when we have the ball then there is always the risk of the other team scoring."

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