Rob Howley believes Wales will have added motivation to beat France tomorrow, so they can honour the memory of Mervyn Davies who died today.
The Wales attack coach said the players were saddened to hear of his death this morning just before training. But Howley says it will give the team an extra determination to win tomorrow.
He said: “We can speak frequently of world class players, but he was more than that, he was an icon and a legend. This sad news gives us even more motivation for tomorrow, which is hopefully going to be a great day for Welsh Rugby.
“There’s no doubt we want to try and honour his memory. One of his greatest moments in a Welsh jersey was being carried off after Wales had beaten France for a Grand Slam. Hopefully someone can be carried off tomorrow in the same vein.”
Although the mood was low after the announcement of Davies’s death, Howley was upbeat about Wales’s prospects in tomorrow match. The only change to the side which beat Italy last week is the return of captain Sam Warburton.
Howley played down any talk of inexperience affecting Wales’s chances tomorrow, saying he is totally confident in his players. He said: “We trained really well today. If you look back to 2008 I think we have the same kind of experience that we had back then.
“Every game you play as a youngster, you become more mature. They haven’t got that baggage of losing games, and the World Cup gave us a hell of a lot of confidence and self-belief.
“The one thing that’s special about this side is that they find a way. They have a sort of mental toughness, which has been lacking in previous sides throughout the last few decades.
When asked about having to play with the roof open, at the request of the French, Howley seemed unfazed. He said he hoped France would still turn up and play open rugby, even though the roof was open.
He said: “That’s rugby, it’s a Six Nations decision, so it’s fair. I’m slightly disappointed that it’s our stadium and the away side dictates whether it’s open or closed, but we have no complaints, let’s just move on and start the game.
“Everyone talks about France coming here and not playing rugby, but when you look at the talent shown this year, they play excellent rugby with the ball in hand. Maybe 10 years ago Wales would have wanted the roof open and France would have wanted it shut, so I think that’s a compliment to us".
But even though Howley is confident Wales can secure their third clean sweep in eight years, he admits the French team have been very impressive all tournament. But even though it will be a tense game, he feels it will still be a great spectacle for the crowd.
He said: “We’re up against a very good side and we know it. If you look at players like Dusautoir, Bonnaire and Harinordoquy, you know I will be a hell of a game between the 6, 7 and 8s, there will be six connoisseurs of world rugby in those positions.
“But if we play with the confidence and self belief that we’ve shown in the championship so far, then hopefully that will be good enough to get a result.”
The home crowd will also be able to play a part in inspiring a Welsh win tomorrow, according to Howley. He said in his experience, the crowd is a huge factor in deciding the outcome of vital games like this.
He said: “Welsh support is huge, never underestimate them. It felt like the stadium was rocking in 2008.
“Having been away to play international rugby I know how tough it can be and the influence the crowd can have. I’ve always said that the crowd is worth 7 points to a home side. We can’t wait to play in front of the best supporters in world rugby.