RUGBY NEWS - Outgoing coach Jacques Brunel insisted France could look forward to a "brighter future" after their heartbreaking World Cup quarter-final loss to Wales.
France were leading 19-10 in Oita on Sunday when lock Sebastien Vahaamahina, who scored the first of their three tries, was sent off in for a blatant elbow on Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright in the 49th minute.
Despite being a man down, France remained ahead until six minutes from time when a converted try by replacement back-row Ross Moriarty gave Wales the lead for the only time in the game.
But the silver lining for France amid the bitter disappointment was that several youthful players - half-backs Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack are 22 and 20 respectively - should be battle-hardened by the time the country stages the next World Cup in 2023.
"We were one of the youngest teams in the competition, this will be an experience that will help them mature and grow up," said Brunel.
"I think there's a brighter future for this team," added the 65-year-old Brunel, who arrived in Japan knowing he would be replaced as coach by former France captain Fabien Galthie after the tournament.
This was just the second World Cup meeting between France and Wales.
Once again it ended in a one-point win with the losers a man down, after then Welsh captain Sam Warburton was sent off in France's 9-8 semi-final victory eight years ago in Auckland.
"The overall performance was not positive, we wanted to go further, in some respects this is a failure," said Brunel.
"Nobody expected us to get out of our pool, nobody expected us to win a quarter-final."
'They played with panache'
Meanwhile Brunel had no qualms over the red card shown to Vahaamahina by referee Jaco Peyper.
"The red card, I don't contest it, when you see the images they are very clear, it was a reflex, I don't contest that decision."
France captain Guilhem Guirado added: "Of course he (Vahaamahina) feels bad about what he has done, he's not happy with it, but that's rugby."
Brunel, however, was far less accepting of South African official Peyper's decision to allow Moriarty's try off a close-range scrum amid suggestions Wales may have knocked on.
"There are other decisions I don't totally agree with.
"I would like too see the last try, the ball went forward, I would like to see the images again."
But Guirado said the officials had ruled Wales had "ripped the ball", meaning it wasn't a forward pass and that, in any event, France should have "killed off the game before that".
Brunel though was still proud of his players,.
"Of course the red card changed the match, of course when we were playing with 14 men it was difficult, but I want to stress the quality of this team, their courage.
"They played with panache and they had opportunities to score (more points)."
Guirado, for whom this was his last Test given the hooker had already announced his international retirement, lamented a "cruel" exit.
But the 33-year-old, a veteran of 74 Tests, had faith in the team's future.
"I hope I've been a good guy with the younger players, I was quite hard on them.
"We wanted to be the best and I told them the important thing is what they do tomorrow. Today in the game we showed we are not far off reaching that level."