Ireland defeat “pretty painful” - McBryde
Wales coach Warren Gatland expected to play George North in the centre
Wales captain Sam Warburton (left) and George North warm up during the Wales training session at the Vale Hotel. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Robin McBryde readily admits that Wales’ crushing RBS 6 Nations defeat against Ireland 10 days ago was “pretty painful” to watch.
The 26-3 loss meant that Ireland inflicted a heaviest Six Nations reversal on the reigning champions since 2006, and it now means they face a win-or-bust Millennium Stadium showdown with France on Friday night.
Wales, currently fourth in the Six Nations table, must beat Les Bleus to keep alive any hope of lifting the title for an unprecedented third successive season.
France, conquerors of England and Italy earlier this month, have won on five from seven previous Six Nations visits to Cardiff, and McBryde knows that Wales must expect another stern examination, particularly up-front.
It was in the forward battle that Ireland enjoyed overwhelming dominance, and, as Wales assistant coach McBryde’s area of expertise, he felt it more than most.
“It was pretty painful, and I’m not looking to blame anyone other than myself, really,” he said. “I thought those days and those types of performances were behind me.
“It has been well documented that you can play in certain games and you know you are not quite on the money. You don’t need anyone else to tell you it has been a bad day at the office.
“It will have been the first time for some of these players to experience that. Everybody is hurting, but the fortunate thing is we have an opportunity to put it right.
“England would have felt something similar after the final game in last year’s Six Nations (Wales beat them 30-3), and they had to wait quite a bit of time before the next game, so we are fortunate we have the opportunity to put things right against France.
“Hopefully, we will learn our lessons and put the defeat down to one bad day at the office. Ireland were well drilled and well organised, and they certainly exposed us.
“Collectively, we have to do a lot better. That is where I am accountable. Collectively, we weren’t there. There has been good honesty among the group — something that has made us a bit tighter, if anything, and a bit more determined to make sure we front up against the French on Friday.”
North, who has established a reputation during his 37-cap Wales career as one of world rugby’s most explosive wings, could move into the centre alongside Jamie Roberts.
Gatland is without the services of injured trio Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies and Ashley Beck, and he would appear to face a straight choice between North and James Hook as Roberts’ midfield partner.
No other changes are expected behind the scrum, but lock Luke Charteris and flanker Justin Tipuric are both widely expected to start up front.
Charteris missed the Ireland encounter because of a hamstring injury, but he is now fully fit, while Tipuric could claim openside flanker duties with skipper Sam Warburton moving to blindside and Dan Lydiate dropping out.
Assessing North’s qualities, Roberts said: “George is a fantastic player. His physical attributes are incredible, and he is a 17stone Shane Williams.
“His turn of pace is amazing, and his agility is frightening. He is a world-class talent and we just need to make sure we get him in space and get the ball in his hands. The scary thing is he is only 21.”
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre is also set to reveal his starting XV on Wednesday, with front-row changes on the bench guaranteed due to a combination of injuries and suspension.