Gatland fires warning to players
Wales coach Warren Gatland has issued a stark warning to his players about places being on the line.
A 26-3 RBS 6 Nations defeat against Ireland earlier this month - Wales' heaviest in 32 Six Nations Tests since head coach Gatland took charge - has left their title hopes hanging by a thread ahead of Friday night's Millennium Stadium appointment with France.
Wales have enjoyed considerable success during Gatland's coaching reign, winning three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and reaching a World Cup semi-final.
But with the countdown beginning to gather pace towards World Cup 2015, Gatland knows any repeat of events in Dublin cannot be tolerated.
"I think when we look back, there were a number of players who had not played a lot of rugby, and that probably was a reflection of us not being as sharp as we were and a couple of performances were not to the level we expect," he said.
"We've had a couple of conversations with a couple of players and said their performance was not good enough and not what we expected, and they are aware of that.
'Hopefully, they will respond, because it is important now for us in terms of not just this competition, but for a lot of those players they've got to start thinking about the next 12 months and you start thinking about the World Cup, and if they don't play well on Friday night it could be the last time they will play for Wales."
Gatland is not alone in being alarmed by the paucity of Wales' performance in Dublin.
It was an uncharacteristic display in so many different ways, leaving them to reflect on a first Six Nations away defeat since March 2011 and the reality that if they do not beat France then hopes of achieving an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick will effectively disappear.
"It was a poor performance, and sometimes you can't plan for that," Gatland added. "We weren't at the races. Every now and again, it happens.
"From a coaching perspective, the last time it happened to us was 2010 when we lost to Ireland at Croke Park and played poorly that day as well.
'It was probably a bit of a watershed for us four years ago in terms of personnel that we changed. We brought a lot of youngsters in after that, and the focus was on the (2011) World Cup build-up.
"But this time it's a little bit different because we have some players who did not fire for whatever reason. Sometimes that happens. It's disappointing and it's not acceptable, and we are hoping for a big turnaround on Friday night.
"This tournament is about confidence and momentum.
"If you look back, you also need a bit of luck. France got that against England, and seemed to me that they got a few turnover opportunities against Italy and started to play a little bit of rugby and build a bit of confidence.
'I think they will be coming Friday night with a spring in their step and some confidence, and we expect another physical game, particularly up-front.
"For us, it's an opportunity to get back on the horse and to put the performance against Ireland behind us."