PARIS (Reuters) - As thrilling as France's 32-30 Six Nations win over Wales was, the game also exposed Les Bleus' weaknesses for the first time since Fabien Galthie took over as coach last year.
France came from 10 points and a man down to beat Grand-Slam chasing Wales with a Brice Dulin try two minutes after the end of normal time, giving them a chance to win the championship with a bonus-victory against Scotland on Friday.
Wales were 30-20 up with France down to 14 after Paul Willemse was sent off for eye gouging in the 68th minute, but Wayne Pivac's team picked up back-to-back yellow cards and had only 13 men for the frantic finale.
France's attacking efficiency then came to the fore with flanker Charles Ollivon powering through to reduce the arrears before Dulin dived over after a long spell of possession stretched the Welsh defence.
Les Bleus, however, were lucky to be level at 17-17 at the interval after Wales had pierced their defence with ease in the opening half.
Suddenly, France's defence, masterminded by Shaun Edwards, looked fragile.
"The last minutes should not hide the reality of the match," former France captain Thierry Dusautoir wrote in his column in L'Equipe on Sunday.
"It is the first time since Fabien Galthie took over that I see France struggling so much."
Wales repeatedly burst through the defence and France's usual strategy of leaving the ball to their opponents looked questionable.
Since Galthie's arrival, Les Bleus have gladly relinquished possession, looking to hurt the opposition with quick counter- attacks.
That can only work when the defence holds up, which was not the case on Saturday.
"I had already mentioned the fact that Les Bleus were relying too much on playing without the ball and I think one of the take away from Saturday's game is that they can be efficient when they have the ball," wrote Dusautoir.
"This team need to believe that they can have the possession and that they are made to attack."
The big scare against Wales should keep France on their toes, keeping them humble as the 2023 World Cup on home soil looms.
Should they beat Scotland by 21 points with a bonus point, France will win their first Six Nations since 2010. If they don't, it will keep them hungry for at least another year.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)