Kieran Hardy says that Wales “know how good we can be” after pushing Guinness Six Nations title favourites and Grand Slam contenders France to the limit.

Les Bleus will complete a clean sweep and secure Six Nations silverware for the first time since 2010 if they beat England in Paris next Saturday.

But a huge sense of relief permeated the French camp after they emerged unscathed from an absorbing Principality Stadium encounter that saw them prevail 13-9.

While France march on, it was Wales’ third defeat in this season’s tournament and the first time for 13 years that they failed to score a Six Nations try at home.

But captain Dan Biggar’s three penalties kept them in the fight and, had centre Jonathan Davies collected a scoring pass during the second half, Wales could easily have turned the tables on France, 12 months after Les Bleus destroyed their Grand Slam dream.

“We will dust ourselves off, come in on Monday and roll our sleeves up,” said scrum-half Hardy, who was an early replacement for Tomos Williams after he suffered a head injury.

“We know how good we can be, and I think next week (at home against Italy) is a real test for us to show our attacking strengths, try and score four tries and finish with a dominant performance.

“There is frustration, knowing that we probably did enough to win the game without actually winning it. We probably left a few chances out there.”

Hardy proved a key figure in keeping France captain and world player of the year Antoine Dupont relatively quiet during a heavyweight toe-to-toe contest.

“He is a world-class player, and we all knew the threat he posed,” Hardy added.

“It was just about taking his time away and trying to close him down as much as we could.

Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones is available for Wales selection to face Italy (Adam Davy/PA)

“Any turnover ball, it was about staying alert because he is usually the first person to see an opportunity and make something happen.”

Wales’ preparations for Italy will be boosted by the squad return of second-row talisman Alun Wyn Jones, who suffered a shoulder injury more than four months ago and underwent two operations.

Initial forecasts were that he would miss the entire Six Nations, but Wales head coach Wayne Pivac confirmed that the Ospreys lock is available for Italy’s Cardiff visit and he was officially added to the squad on Saturday.

Hardy said: “It will give us a massive boost, someone like Al coming in.

“With his experience, his leadership, he is a real special player to have back in the squad, and it will give us an extra couple of per cent next week.

“I am sure he will be ready to go, and we’ve got to be ready to match him and go with him.”

Whether Jones features and wins his 150th Wales cap remains to be seen, although Pivac looks likely to make changes as Wales target a 17th successive victory against the Azzurri.

“We will have a good look at how the boys have come through. It was a very physical Test match,” Pivac said.

Wayne Pivac
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is likely to make changes for a Six Nations finale against Italy (Nick Potts/PA)

“There were a few boys sore in the changing room, so we will see how we scrub up. It has been a big seven weeks.

“We felt we did enough to win the game, but it wasn’t to be. Certainly, a massive step in the right direction.

“Everything the boys worked on in the last two weeks, we did pretty much everything we wanted to do out there other than winning the game.”