Flower: Wales don't fear France
Wigan forward Ben Flower concedes that Wales will be underdogs when they take on France but he insists they will not be beaten for pride.
France coach Aurelien Cologni is able to pack his side with Super League experience, with no fewer than 17 of his 19-man squad being past or present Catalan Dragons players.
Flower is one of just five Super League regulars in Iestyn Harris' 19-man squad, which also contains seven part-timers, but he says they will be undaunted by the size of their task in Lens on Saturday.
"It's going to be a massive challenge for us," Flower said. "They're a big physical side but they haven't got pride like we've got.
"Pride is a massive thing in our team. We've got a real young side but it's enthusiastic and the sort of side who are not going to give up.
"We're going to give it to them for 80 minutes and, if we come away with a win, that will be absolutely fantastic. But, if we don't it's going to be a game that they know they've been in."
If the Welsh, who arrived at their base near Lille via Eurostar this morning, needed any more encouragement, they can draw confidence from their last visit to France, two years ago almost to the day.
Flower is one of seven survivors from the team that gained a shock 12-11 win over the French in the European Cup decider in Albi to secure a place in the 2011 Four Nations Series against Australia, England and New Zealand in which they acquitted themselves with pride.
"It was the best feeling in the world, knowing we'd be coming up against the best players in the world the year after," Flower recalled.
"That was a bit daunting but, if you ask any of those three teams, they would say they were in a game with Wales. We played as well as we could and it was a tough battle for them."
At 24, the Cardiff-born Flower is already one of the senior members of the Welsh squad and on the four-man leadership group from which Harris will announce his new captain tomorrow.
Formerly with Crusaders in both Neath and Wrexham, Flower is coming off the back of his first season with Wigan, where Harris is the assistant coach, and gained valuable experience with 18 senior appearances.
He won representative honours in rugby union at junior level but has been a regular in the Welsh rugby league team since making his debut in 2008 and, after witnessing marked progress in that time, is excited about the future.
"It's my fifth year with Wales and, from when I first started four or five years ago, you can see how much it's progressed," he said.
"Last year in the Four Nations people were writing us off but I thought we played with a lot of courage and pride in those games.
"I'm the proudest Welsh person you'd ever meet. I love playing for Wales. It is a real honour to be part of this and it is only getting better as well, which is great."
After Saturday's opening game, Wales will host England at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham a week later, hoping to secure a place in the November 11 final at Salford.
The big picture, however, is the 2013 World Cup, which Wales will co-host with England, playing games in Neath, Cardiff and Wrexham.
"This is a stepping stone to the World Cup," Flower added. "We've got a lot of games in Wales as well which is nice.
"We should have a pretty decent run in the groups so hopefully we can do pretty well. We're aiming to get up in to the top four. We're the sort of side who are going to build every year."
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