Six Nations: Gatland hails Wales' 'real character' despite France defeat
Warren Gatland saluted the "real character" demonstrated by Wales in their Six Nations defeat by France at Stade de France.
Gatland's side concluded a disappointing campaign, in which they finished fifth, with a spirited display, rallying back from 34-7 down before eventually succumbing 41-28.
George North, Bradley Roberts, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer all crossed, but the visitors still suffered defeat, the first time they had done so in a Six Nations match when they had scored four tries.
Nevertheless, Gatland heaped praise on his players' efforts in Paris.
"I thought we showed some real character," he said during his post-match press conference.
"We started the game well. We were positive in how we wanted to play. Accuracy has been hurting us. We worked hard for our tries, and we gave them a soft one.
"I'm proud of that performance because we dug in, and it could have got away from us. The bench helped, and we've been critical of that over the last few games.
"There was no real change in the message. It's just about being brave. We expected France to kick more, so that allowed us to play more.
"In the second half, the variation in our game management was better. Sometimes, we overplayed, but I was pleased with the ambition."
Attention now turns to the Rugby World Cup later this year with Wales joined by Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal in Pool C.
Despite their recent struggles, Gatland and captain Ken Owens are confident their nation can compete with the best.
"We'll surprise some teams in the World Cup by how good we will be," the coach said. "We've taken some steps in the right direction. How we stop allowing tries and easy points, if we tidy that up, that's how you win games."
Owens added: "We knew [the Six Nations] was going to be tough with the transition of new coaches coming in and some new combinations.
"But we have built and got better as the competition has gone on. We have just got to keep tight, keep working and look forward to our time together leading up to the World Cup.
“I've seen enough in camp to think we will get it right. The more time we spend together, the more we get it right. We will have some tough times in camps, which will be enjoyable.
"We will raise some eyebrows at the World Cup."