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Historic Slam triumph raises Welsh horizons

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Bryn Palmer | 20:33 UK time, Saturday, 17 March 2012

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

"I hope Wales is rocking at the moment," mused Warren Gatland, an hour or so after Rhys Priestland had booted the ball high into the stands to spark wild celebrations at the Millennium Stadium.

You can bet on it Warren. Rocking, rolling and revelling deep into another Grand Slam night, a third in eight years, and the second in five years on his watch.

It wasn't pretty at times, and there was little of the flowing rugby we have come to associate with his young side in the past year. But it was mightily effective, impressively composed, and their triumph was richly deserved.

There were several scary moments - Imanol Harinordoquy bearing down on Leigh Halfpenny metres from the Welsh line after a cheeky French line-out routine, and French replacement Jean-Marcellin Butin racing onto a quickly-taken cross-kick to the left touchline from a penalty chief among them.

A score on either occasion might have caused the favourites to falter. But as they have throughout this championship, Wales rose to the challenge of the moment, their self-belief intact. The slight figure of Halfpenny stood up to the marauding French number eight; man-of-the-match Dan Lydiate raced across to make the decisive cover tackle.

Other moments combined to make the majority of the 74,178 present wonder if another red letter day was assured after all: the penalties from Rhys Priestland and Halfpenny that came back off an upright, the announcement that captain Sam Warburton would not be returning for the second half.

Wales celebrate their third Grand Slam in eight years, and their 11th overall. Photo: Getty

With France never less than a converted try away on the scoreboard, the tension ratcheted up into a deafening crescendo. Only when referee Craig Joubert raised his left hand to the air to signal the last of 23 penalties (10 against Wales, 13 against France) with seconds remaining, was the Cardiff amphitheatre finally drenched in blessed relief and the party officially started.

Ryan Jones, who replaced Warburton after the interval, carried his blonde baby son around the pitch; Halfpenny received a bear hug from Rob Howley. Shaun Edwards repeatedly punched the air in delight. Alun Wyn Jones donned a red bowler hat to set off his huge grin. Ian Evans attempted a robot dance on the touchline. Even Gatland couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

Wales had played at times as though intent on not losing the match, rather than going all out to win it.

As Howley observed, it was something of "throwback" game in terms of the aerial ping-pong, Priestland and Halfpenny launching the ball high into the Cardiff sky on at least a dozen occasions, often with little reward, and Lionel Beauxis replied in kind.

Even when Wales did find themselves in French territory, the favoured option - even for the likes of Jamie Roberts - was a chip ahead, a grubber kick to the corner. Game management, territory and field position were Wales' watchwords, the prize on offer - and the threat posed by a belligerent French side relishing the role as party-poopers - too great to indulge in fantasy rugby.

The gainline battle was ferocious, and some bodies laid on it did not last the course.
Captain Warburton's departure meant he only ended up playing one whole game - admittedly a man-of-the-match turn against England - in this campaign, and two other halves.

Such was the pain from his damaged shoulder that he could not even use his right hand for shaking others at the official presentation. He used his left to raise the Six Nations trophy aloft on one side, with Gethin Jenkins on the other.

It was appropriate that Jenkins - who led the side against Scotland and Italy, and took over the captaincy for the second half here - should be centre stage. Alongside Adam Jones and Ryan Jones, the 31-year-old two-time Lions prop has now joined some elite company - Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Gerald Davies - as a three-time Welsh Grand Slam winner.

Gatland was understandably reluctant to compare his own team to those revered sides - "different times, different eras" - and perhaps definitive judgement should wait until the scale of the current side's achievement is fully realised. With nine players aged 25 or under in the starting line-up, this is a side that should still have its best years ahead of it.

Leigh Halfpenny converted a try and added three penalties during the match. Photo: Reuters

In terms of Grand Slams, modern Wales are already on a par with the 70s legends, who also won three (1971, 1976, 1978) in the space of eight years. But their remarkable consistency yielded eight titles (two shared) in 10 completed championships from 1969 to 79, a period in which they lost only seven out of 43 matches in the Five Nations, and none at home, producing a 77% win ratio.

Then again, they only had to win four matches to complete a clean sweep in those days. Winning a Slam in the Six Nations era is by definition harder because you have to win an extra game. Yet Wales' triumph is the eighth time in 13 years that one has been completed since 2000. And Wales have joined the French as three-time Grand Slammers in the Six Nations era.

Historically only England, who won four Grand Slams in eight years from 1921 to 1928 - and three in five years from 1991 to 1995 - and France, who won four Grand Slams in eight years from 1997 to 2004 - have done better. Wales, with 11 Slams, are now within one of England's record of 12.

Since Gatland's first season in 2008, Wales have now won 18 and lost seven in the Championship, a 72% success rate. The most exciting aspect for the whole Red Dragonhood is the promise of more.

Wales already had arguably five world-class players in Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Sam Warburton, Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts. The likes of Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau, Luke Charteris, Ian Evans, Jonathan Davies, George North and Leigh Halfpenny have all the ingredients to achieve similar status, if some of them are not there already.

Wales now have a squad rich in quality and depth: 22 players started at least one game in this campaign, and 30 players were used in all. No longer are Wales irrevocably damaged by the loss of two or three frontline players to injury.

Jenkins, Warburton and Charteris were all missing at various times, but their absence did not affect performance levels or results.

While the line-out still creaked on occasions here, there was more evidence of the source of strength the Welsh scrum has become, while the defence was again heroic - a tribute to assistant coach Edwards, who described himself as "the conscience of the players".

Edwards had set his players a target of not conceding more than 11 points, and they surpassed that. Their total of 58 points conceded in five matches surpassed their Six Nations record of 66 in the 2008 campaign. They did not concede a try in their last three matches of this one.

Their work ethic was evident in the way Alun Wyn Jones fought to win the turnover on the floor that led to the all-important try. Wales' backs - who have scored all their 10 tries - have been pigeon-holed as all power and little pizzazz, but the way Alex Cuthbert cut a dash past three Frenchman with a devastating sidestep off the right touchline would have pleased Gerald Davies in his prime.

Gatland's next target is to start beating the three major southern hemisphere sides on a consistent basis in the run-up to the next World Cup in 2015.

"We are not at that level yet, and that is our big aim," said the New Zealander. "But we have got a young enough side that hopefully over the next few years can do that."
That is for the future. This particular Grand Slam party will be rocking for a while yet.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Credit where credits due, deserved winners

  • Comment number 2.

    This Wales team can be as good as it wants to be. England, Ireland and France all played their best games against Wales and still lost. Wales will get better - and they're already very good.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well done Wales, great performance. I really hope the younger players continue to improve and fulfill their potential. Could be a scary prospect. The real test is Australia in the summer though. Do us proud boys.....

    On another note, I wonder if bet 365 are taking bets over who takes headlines on the back pages of the newspapers. My money would be on Englands supposed rise to glory eclipsing Wales Grand Slam in the majority of the national papers. Not that I'm bitter or anything...

  • Comment number 4.

    I wasn't that impressed with France today, without taking anything away from Wales. Their new centre seemed injured+they managed to keep almost in it. Terrible selections didn't help. Careful wales don't believe your own press.
    Found the patronising attitude about the England/ Ireland match as if it was unimportant because it didn't involve Wales and their ambitions a piece of barefaced arrogance... and not on the players' part. England in their pomp never dreamed of behaving like that. But, of course, England are arrogant and Wales gallant. Such doublethink is very irritating.
    On another point:- did anyone listen to the TV commentary on the Scotland/Italy game? It was so one eyed that after a while it stopped being funny. A dose of realism by the Scots would help.

  • Comment number 5.

    i'll believe they are the real deal when they start beating the southern hemisphere sides away from home. That wil still take some doing. Still, best team in Europe.

  • Comment number 6.

    France must have the worst backs in world rugby, slow and can't tackle.

  • Comment number 7.

    Lawrence Dallaglio deserves to be taken of the summary team....his blatant bias to Englands performance over a misfiring Ireand side was sickening.....trying to take the shine away from the achievement that the champions and the grand slam winners had completed was extremely poor!

  • Comment number 8.

    Congratulation to Wales, a well deserved win and grand slam.
    From our point, a bit of frustration for not executing that final pass, but unfortunately too often in this 6 nations we have played 'rugby' only for one half. Nevertheless, with the talent in France and a very successful manager, I'm optimistic about the future.


    My 6 nations brief;

    Team of the tournament; Wales
    Team that impressed me the most; England
    Most disappointing; France/Scotland
    Best newcomer; Wesley Fofana

  • Comment number 9.

    Grand slam - fantastic. But the important thing is that we now play for 80 minutes and win tight games against top teams. Still need to step up a level to win 'down south' but now are capable of competing at the highest level.

  • Comment number 10.

    Comment Number 3. If you think that Wales will not be the main story in the Sundays, then you need help, pal, with your paranoia. Why can't you just bask in your glory without having to be insulting about England. Who has said anything about a "supposed rise to glory"? No one in England that's for sure. You just carry on creating the stories to keep your bitterness alive. Are you incapable of giving some credit where it's due. Obviously not.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great to shed the plucky losers tag. I'm sure Gatland and the players are focussed on building on from here to the stage where they can compete the Southern Hemisphere giants.

    The future is bright, the future is red.

  • Comment number 12.

    #3 I think after the efforts of the Welsh Broadcasting Corporation today, your paranoia is a bit much. Not only did they give over half of the half time coverage in both Rome and Twickenham to the Wales game, but at one point they started discussing the Wales game during the commentary of the Italy game. We also had to put up with 80 minutes of Jonathan Davies acting as a Wales cheerleader for 80 minutes.

    Wales deserved their slam as they were the best side this year, but to compare them to the Welsh sides of the 70s is a bit much, against both England and France their much hyped backs looked ordinary - Phillips and Priestland were poor again today. The Welsh pack, and the back row in particular, have been outstanding, but behind the scrum they look one-dimensional.

  • Comment number 13.

    I see my comment has been. Moderated....theorhetically reactively....I dared to mention Da??ag?io is it likely to be moderated again?????

  • Comment number 14.

    Good idea BB-Rouge, here's my picks:

    Team of the tournament - Wales.
    Most improved - England.
    Most disappointing - France.
    Least surprising - Scotland.
    Best newcomer - Ben Morgan (Eng).

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    We also had to put up with 80 minutes of Jonathan Davies acting as a Wales cheerleader for 80 minutes.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Oh good, its not just me then.

  • Comment number 17.

    Twickenhamloyal - hilarious. Yes you are a very good young side, but so are Wales. Lets see how you get on in Cardiff next year. Clearly you are favourites for the World Cup already.... And you can't spell.

  • Comment number 18.

    Italy - Scotalnd....turgid stuff, Rolland killed the game.

    Wales - France...Wales very nervous but did enough in the end. To be honest, Wales are looking a bit predicatable but France still couldn't crack them. Phillips and Priestland very average.

    England - Ireland...what the hell was the first half all about? Second half all England.

    England Grand Slam next year I think.

  • Comment number 19.

    Twickenhamloyal

    Get over it mate, Wales won the Grandslam again!!!

    We were the best team of the tournament, end of

    4. Congrats to Ben Foden, you played your heart out - your baby will be proud.

    Arr that was sweet tho

    You fool!!!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    15 & 18............... sound like sour faced losers to me, because no-one remembers who comes second.

    Do you remember the one dimensional England sides of the 90's? Or are you not old enough?

    You are just stereotypical England rugby fans.

    The stats are : Wales, played 5 won 5....... England, played 5 won 4....... oh dear never mind GET OVER IT!

  • Comment number 21.

    Wales, Wales, Wales, Wales

  • Comment number 22.

    The rightof the English to complain about biased commentetors disappeared when they gave us Brian Moore

  • Comment number 23.

    Von Braun

    You said: England Grand Slam next year I think.

    Nah, you'll bottle it again like last year against Ireland

  • Comment number 24.

    I recind comment 13.... I assume Da..a..lio is a moderating flag!

  • Comment number 25.

    Usual responses - Wales fans cannot take criticism. You preach all this (we are great, we have earned it blah blah blah) rubbish and yet still call England arrogant. Really and you are rude when I make a genuine nice comment. Just like you're rude fans shouting during the silence. (lovely image of Wales). Call me bitter I dont care - you are rude

  • Comment number 26.

    TWICKERSLOYAL

    LOOOOOSER LOOOOOOOOSER

  • Comment number 27.

    There is nothing wrong with fans of any country thinking their team can win. Its called confidence, not arrogance.
    Welsh fans should be rightfully proud and happy and excited, but that doenst mean english, french, irish or whatever fans shouldnt also find reasons to be optimistic. I don't know who will next year, way too early to call.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Wales ARE great. They came into this tournament with an open running game, but other teams denied them space and time and so Wales found another way to win. That's the mark of an excellent team.

    But they're not the best yet. Next year there'll be a greater challenge, and Wales will have to improve again. Seeing if they can do so is part of the fun.

    As for "Wales fans cannot take criticism", you should be here in the valleys when they play badly. No one criticises their team more harshly than we do when it's deserved.

    This year, it isn't.

  • Comment number 30.

    TWICKERSLOYAL

    Genuine nice comment????????

    You really don't like the Welsh very much do you. The six nations has been terrific this year. Shall we apologise for winning? I don't think so.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ok, i'm talking on behalf of most England fans:

    Many congrats to Wales on a well deserved grand slam. They were the best team of the competition and are certainly the best team in the northern hemisphere at the moment.

    On another note...I am interested to hear other (non English) honest opinions of England's competition? At the beginning of the competition most said England would only win 2 maybe 3 games, and that Wales, Ireland and France would beat them easily. Thoughts are welcome?

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    @Nic121

    I was surprised at how good England were. Hugely better than at the WC. Today's result is as much to do with Ireland's mistakes as England's quality, I think, but the win in Paris was an excellent result. England have improved a lot.

  • Comment number 34.

    Twickenhamloyal: You sound like a 12 year old mate. England were POOR in their first two matches, only winning them both after very lucky charge downs (how different the table would look without Mr Hodgson), you deserved to loose to Wales (it wasn't a try, because it wasn't given, and the decision is final), you scraped past France and Ireland were terrible today...

    Also, this nonsense about keeping quiet during the kicks... Have you heard the Twickenham crowd?!?!? Wales and Scotland are about the only fans that keep some form of silence during those moments. All of your comments smack of a sore looser to me.

  • Comment number 35.

    Wales played well for 90 minutes in all 5 matches and were deserved winners, the fact that the team are young makes it all the more impressive. However, we did not play fantastic rugby throughout but did what was required at the time.

    There is much more room for improvement and there are players who are constantly under pressure to perform for their places which is a good thing.

    England have improved but that was not hard after the first two performances, Wales beat them through one inspirational moment and they beat what we all now as a poor french side, while todays win was against an irish side missing their two leaders!

    And the tool who was shouting during the minutes silence was a french supporter.

  • Comment number 36.

    @Nic121

    I stated England as the team that impressed me most (even if I maintain we should've beaten you). But I thought you did what was require, which is very English. Very new team, new manager, poor world cup, I dont know how much better it could have been. Until the last day you had a chance to win it. I'll be happy with foden, and farell. I would also find it hard to tell Lancaster, after 4 wins, that he doesnt have the job. It is a very fine line though, you could have as easily beaten Wales as lost to Scotland.

  • Comment number 37.

    Remove my account....another post deleted....absolutely ridiculous!

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm suprised about all the criticism of the welsh here. I think they deserved to win it despite not playing that well. They played their best when down to 14 men against ireland and won the rest by defending their hearts out and closing out tight games which they never used to be able to do. Winning a grand slam without playing that well is good news!

    Enough whinging about try no try, all the teams had them, ryan jones against ireland, laidlaw against england. To all the english who say they were only a try away from winning vs wales they were also on the lucky side of one aginst scotland.

    Pretty disappointing from ireland today, what happened to them? I think the final table is where all the teams deserved to finish up.

    Roll on the summer!

  • Comment number 39.

    NIC121

    England have played fantastic in this tournament after the two first games.
    Looking in very good shape for the future as long as they keep Lancaster in, thought they made Ireland look very average today and thoroughly deserved the win and even found myself cheering on England against France which in my opinion was game and performance of the tournament, (just don't tell Twickenhamloyal i said that)

  • Comment number 40.

    Nic121

    Hooray - sense has prevailed.

    Front 5 - Improving all the time with Cole terrific.
    Back Row - Need a Richard Hill / Lydiate type to graft
    Half backs - Need to sort out who you want in at 9 and stick to it
    Centres - Poor distribution and not enough creativity.
    Back 3 - Ashton has to go but Foden and Strettle good

    For goodness sake don't can Lancaster and go back to the dark ages

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Nic121 @ 31............... England's performance in the last 3 games has been a dramatic improvement........ Your scrum was impressive today, glad we played you earlier as we did, your back 3 was awesome, 9 & 10 impressive again, not sure about your centre pairing but defensively you couldn't ask for more.

    On the basis of what I saw today, the 2013 lions looks like being mostly English and Welsh.

    I think Lancaster has done a great job, he should be made permanent and the ^ Nations needs a strong England because if a team like ours wins a GS we want to do it by beating equally good teams. We ground out lots of our wins, something we couldn't do in years gone past and something which England in the 90's and early 2000's were VERY GOOD at.

    I'm sure if England were to win the GS next season they will enjoy it more by beating equally as good teams, and if only for a piece of solo magic and a TMO decision, then England could well have been celebrating tonight instead of us.................. and I for one did not predict that England performance following on from the RWC.

    You have the basis of a very good team, good luck!

  • Comment number 43.

    think my comment at 32 was removed because twickenhamloyal ran crying to his Mummy................. if you can't take it, don't dish it!

  • Comment number 44.

    Why is it always the English invading this board with negaive comments, strange how its hardly ever a Scot,Italian,French or Irishman trying to steer the discussion on how great their team were (wow 2 tries in your first 2 matches and both from charge downs waa hey!)

    Bottom line is Strettles try attempt was not a try (if it was then Scotland were robbed of one against you thus meaning you would most likely have lost your first match), any English fan thinking they are going to win a grand slam really is dillusional

    Not a great perfomance today boys but you won, what does that tell you about how good this side can get?

  • Comment number 45.

    7.




    Excuse me but we english have to put up with Jonathan Davies in the commentary box every weekend.....


    He was shockingly bias when Wales played Italy, I had to put up with him groaning every time a Welsh player dropped the ball or a a penalty went against his team...

  • Comment number 46.

    BBC - Get Rid of EDDIE BUTLER AND JONATHAN DAVIES

    An OK game but ruined by the Welsh Cheerleading commentary of Jonathan Davies and Eddie Butler.

    The presentation was ruined by a pair of Welshman only interested in providing a celebratory and one sided commentary.

    Bring back Bill McClaren - even in his current state he would be better than these tow!

  • Comment number 47.

    Wise Owl - to be fair Eddie Butler and Brian Moore arguing over pretty much everything is worth the license fee on its own,,,

  • Comment number 48.

    45 & 46..................... do you think Brian Moore would have been any different? What about Lewis Moody??

    Maybe we should have Southern Hemisphere studio guests as well should we?

    The only way for the Beeb to be impartial is to NOT have former players reviewing their own teams.

    You're all bitter losers

  • Comment number 49.

    45 & 46..................... you do have a "power off" switch on your tv remote........................ that's if you can wrestle it off your wives............... ask Scott Williams for tips because he rips a ball away from 2nd row-ers really easily!!

  • Comment number 50.

    @ Nic121

    England have done well they made their own luck against Italy and Scotland, they built off that and ran Wales close, I was rooting for England against France trying to beat France at home is a very tough ask for any side even if France are not at their best. Ireland were shocking today in part it was due to the poor conditions, I haven’t seen Ireland play that bad for a long time and that performance was probably one of the worst performances in this year’s tournament by any team, that shocking performance was caused by England totally dominating at the scrum and Ireland losing all confidence. I would like to see Lancaster get the job.

    As a Welshman it was great to see Wales get the Grand slam, France did play well today but had the wrong tactics in the first half, losing Warburton had a big impact on the game, I felt Keith wood said it well when he said Wales have being getting tighter as the tournament has gone on but still managed wins, Wales played some exciting rugby against Ireland and in the other matches the opposition did raise their game and put in amazing defensive efforts, even if Wales have been found out they still found a way to win and defensively they have put in a huge effort, most notably Dan lydiate normally we get players really hyped up but today we saw all the hard work he puts in around the tackle area and I hope he is named player of the tournament.

    After today I would agree on current form the Lions team would be mostly England/wales but that could change.
    In my mind both England and Wales have a lot of potential with young sides and more young players looking to break through but France, Ireland, Scotland need to answer some questions.

    I don't normally complain about refs but i think Rolland should get the sack he was shocking in the Italy V Scotland match today and handed out 2 very harsh yellows and seemed to want to be the centre of attention.

    I really enjoy the BBC commentary including brian moores bias views and all other bias views : ), my favourite duo would be Eddie butler and brian moore ;)

  • Comment number 51.

    46. You're probably right......I think that we should have Brian Moore commentate on every game. He always seems to me the most impartial man the BBC have. Davies and Butler are an absolute disgrace when compared to the amazing benchmark that Moore sets.

  • Comment number 52.

    I rarely post here but will attempt to place a balanced view of this years tournament as a Welsh fan, in response Nic121, comment 31 re: Englands performance:

    Pleasently surprised, yes, everyone enjoys getting one over the English - its par for the course in 6 Nations - and glad to see that they are competitive as we need strong sides to improve the breed of all participating Nation Players, and I'm thankfull that we played them in the 3rd round as if we had in one of the last 2 rounds of the Championship, I believe that the outcome would have been a lot different and we MAY not have been celebrating a Grand Slam.....

  • Comment number 53.

    Wales are not a great side (yet)

    Both England and Wales are developing sides, Wales being further down the road. Whether either or both teams become great is still to be seem.

    As this is the Wales blog I will concentrate on the Welsh team.

    Over the 6N they got lucky a couple of times - so what. It is amazing how often really good teams "get lucky".

    What has really impressed me has been the mental strength of Wales. We saw it against England when Wales went down to 14 men, we saw it again against France, with 20 mins to go France picked up the pace, got a penalty were coming back into the game - and Wales went down other end got a penalty and restored order. France visibly deflated.

    I saw a big change today in the line out. The back row players became line out targets, Toby won a couple, Lydiate too. Whether this is due to return of Rees, better coaching or simply more confidence I am not sure. I still think the line out is a weakness because Wales have only 2 genuine jumpers (all major teams have 3 or even 4) but I can see the start of a change here. If both Lydiate and Toby become regular and genuine line out ball winners that will make the line out a strength not a weakness.

    It is clearly time to pension off Mike Phillips. The back line will not fire whilst he is providing service. Priestland needs to stand close to the gain line, but given the speed of service from Phillips trying that now will simply result in opposition munching on Priestland.

    Biggest issue for me is the front 5. There are simply not powerful enough. I really worry that Wales without Adam Jones could get turned over in scrum badly, and we saw today with Ireland what happens when that gets destroyed. The problem seems to be the locks. Ian Evans played an excellent game today but AWJ was anonymous for huge parts of the game.

    Sure critics will say that the Welsh back line has become predictable - and they would be right - but swap Lloyd WIlliams for Phillips and I think it will improve, and in any event look at how young and inexperienced the back line is (other than centres).

    I see no reason why 12 of the Welsh starting 15 should not be in the Lions squad

  • Comment number 54.

    Ha! Its funny how peopple have completely different views on commentators! I have always thought Jonathan Davies is the least bias of them all! Although maybe he did get a little carried away today!

    Howevere, i've always thought that Eddie Butler had switched allegiances to England with the rubbish he comes out with! And I wouldn't even like to comment on Brain 'it must be an English penalty' Moore! ;)

  • Comment number 55.

    #50 "I don't normally complain about refs but i think Rolland should get the sack he was shocking in the Italy V Scotland match today and handed out 2 very harsh yellows and seemed to want to be the centre of attention."

    Rolland usually likes to be centre of attention but this time I thought he was right on all the cards. Hamilton could only have been more offside if he joined from behind the Italian back foot!

    I have been very critical of the refs in the 6N but I thought both Craig Joubert and Nigel Owens were excellent today - consistent and unfussy

  • Comment number 56.

    Justin150 has it about right.

    Unless Wales can find replacements soon for the excellent Jenkins and Jones they will struggle to dominate. Everyone focused on the loss of Warburton in the World Cup but Jones going off was equally damaging - the English front row just put their names in the hat for the Lions tour.

    I have never seen a more dominant performance and it speaks volumes for Wales that they had near parity in the scrum. A few other English players may join their Welsh compatriots in Australia in 2013 - Morgan, Tuilagi (if he cuts out the dirty stuff), Croft (not ahead of Lydiate - can he be persuaded to play second row?), Youngs (if he gets his mojo back), Farrell, Foden and Lawes - plus Graham Rowntree.

    Finally well done Wales - the results speak for themselves.

  • Comment number 57.

    Alright guys, good blog. Would like to ask for team of the tourny. Personal for me it was
    1. Corbs ( Showed me he could be a worldclass prop vs ireland and france, Jenkins was close and Jenkins abilityto be an extract backrower is amazing, but other prop in the world is like him)
    2. Best ( Showed a good try scoring touch and good captaincy)
    3 Jones ( World Class Prop, Wales will struggle without him, he has the ability to out scrumage anyone, but by force but jointed with good rugby head)
    4. Gray (Needed a scottish player lol, but really the blonde bomshell showed that he is a brilliant no4 with great work rate, scotlands best player by far.
    5. Botha/ Evans (Evans suprised me by not conceding to many pens, Botha has now got a huge fan now, didnt rate him but now he shows his rugby workrate in every game)
    6. Lydiate (Tight between Croft but the game vs France, showed Lydiate class and my favourite for player of the tourny)
    7. Dusautoir (Sam W was good but didnt play enough, world class Dusautoir. Didnt rate him as IRB player of the year but now i do)
    8. Ben Morgan (Great asset to england, Denton was gd but lacked the back up from other team mates. And ofcourse Parisse, have to be the unluckiest player in world, could get in every national team)
    9. Murray (Hard despite injury, no one stood out not even Phillips or Parra, niether lived up to expectation)
    10. Farrell ( Sexton played well but when two came head to head farrell showed class and hes only in his early years. Could become the best flyhalf in the world)
    11. Cuthbert (improved each game, out shown North by looking for more work in the tight games like Italy and France)
    12. Fofana (Great start to career, real gem alround centre, Tulangi was brilliand and Robert too at times but Fofana deserved it because it was his first 5 french games.
    13. J Davies (Good team player and showed his defence and attacking skills, no real competition but barrett but Davies takes it because of abilty to sniff a try)
    14. Bowe (Great wing, going to be missed by Ireland when he retires, North was good but didnt have a match winning influence apart from the Ireland game)
    15. Halfpenny (Kearney is the best fullback in europe but halfpenny take it because his kicking duties and his tackle on strettle, to come back from the WC with the miss, and still kicking show his character

    Player of the Tourny: Lydiate
    Suprise of tourny: Evans and Botha
    New star of tourny: Morgan but Denton and Hogg were close.

  • Comment number 58.

    Well done Wales, it's been so long since an English grand slam I've forgotten what to do but i suspect the next week should be spent celebrating a fantastic achievement. You're deserved winners of an interesting championship. Are you a great side? History decides that but you have the makings of a great side. Could you have lost to Ireland, yes, but you didn't deserve to, Scotland and Italy were put away with relative ease, England you might have lost but realistically on the day you were the only side that was capable enough to fashion a win out of a tight game.

    The tour to Oz is now crucial, a great side will come away with two good performances and at least a win, it can no longer be about "nearly" or "if only" no matter how Wales play you must win one even if it's in the same way you beat Ireland/England. Is there a nagging doubt opposition defaces have worked out your attack? Possibly, but you've time an talent to counter that. Great sides do that.

    Out of this 6Ns only Wales and England can take heart; France and Ireland should be concerned and Italy/Scotland are in a league of their own with apparently no way out. But enough of that for now, the celebrations only just begun, well done Wales - we English are very jealous!!

  • Comment number 59.

    Justin 150 - slightly harsh on AWJ there, admittedly a quiet game by his standards but he won the crucial turnover that led to Cuthbert's try, and that turned out to be the difference between the two sides! And the line out is functioning much better but the number of 'genuine' jumpers should not be a concern - Warburton has been our receiver at the tail for a good while, and rotating Faletau and Lydiate should prove to be effective.

    The summer tour should be a good opportunity to see what the likes of Lloyd Williams, Richie Rees, Tavis Knoyle et al. have to offer - Phillips isn't on his best form but offers lots of experience and defensively can be invaluable, and considering that we won this Grand Slam in defence and not attack, its hard to write him off that quickly.

    Admittedly Jonathan Davies has been getting a little over-excited in the commentary box/studio over the entire tournament; Brian Moore however has to trump anyone on television as the most biased, snide, almost aggressive commentator there is. How he maintains his position as an analyst is beyond me.

    Looking at all teams and some of the stand out performers in this years tournament, the Lions squad for next year is shaping up to be extremely strong ..

    Team of the Tournament :

    1 Castrogiovanni - missed a couple of games but what a difference he makes.
    2 Hartley - natural leader and at the fore to the demolition of Ireland.
    3 Jones - world-class scrummager.
    4 Evans - hugely improved player and lots of unseen work around the park.
    5 Gray - one of very few sparks in a dull Scotland side.
    6 Lydiate - absolute workhorse, terrifying workrate.
    7 Dusatoir - out of position here but irreplaceable.
    8 Parisse - never fails to find top gear and lead the way for his struggling teammates.
    9 Yachvili - gave the French the direction, poise and tempo they needed when played.
    10 Farrell - nerveless, reliable, attack needs work but what more could the English ask?
    11 North - massive, brave, fearless.
    12 Roberts - missed a match but still so crucial to Wale's (winning) game plan.
    13 Fofana - a physical presence and a strike rate few could argue with.
    14 Bowe - back in his fine try-scoring form.
    15 Halfpenny - one of the players of the tournament, and developing swiftly into a world class kicker.

    Honourable Mentions: Dan Cole, Ken Owens, Donncha Ryan, Sam Warburton (didn't play quite enough), David Denton, Alex Cuthbert, Manu Tuilagi, Jon Davies, Ben Morgan, Julien Malzieu, Jonathan Sexton ..

    Finally, Cymru Am Byth!

  • Comment number 60.

    Joubert was a disgrace just like the world cup final where he sided with the home side, one of the worst referring performances ever. Whales are ordinary and will be found out sooner rather than later

  • Comment number 61.

    Best team in Europe for sure. But i don't think Wales are good enough to beat any of the southern hemisphere teams.

  • Comment number 62.

    Team of the tournament - Wales.
    Most improved - England.
    Most disappointing - Ireland.
    Least surprising - Ireland.

  • Comment number 63.

    So another "Grand Slam" goes to Wales, and by the blogs posted here, another "If only, What ifs, and but fors" go to England.
    Ireland 2nd half scrum performance was a disgrace to international rugby, where was the cover for the front row, and most importantly the "duty of care" that should be given to all players by their coaches.
    I was dissappointed in England yesterday. So many catches from Garry Owens slipping right through so mant players hands, Dickson terrible, 12 & 13 a disgrace in attack (and not much better in crash bang only defence) - to the point that when streets in front on the scoreboard and with a scrum 15 metres out from the post with a dominant pack, Farrell had to kick for goal instead of bringing the backs into play. I thought Darcy showed up their defence, and with minimum ball also showed them how to attack as well.
    The old Chestnut of "only been together a short while" is over - England have had enough exposure as a team now, and oppositions enough evidence on how to work them out.
    Wales have prooved that they can play different types of game to win, be it running rugby (10 trys in the backs) or kicking rugby, they have found a way to win, and have a game built on a great defence, look at the least number of points and trys against them. Yes, Australia is a big test for Wales, it is also a precurrsor to the Lions tour, so Gatland who, no doubt, will be coaching on both tours maybe will be smart enough to engineer one to help the other?
    Oh, Ben Morgan maybe the best No 8 in England, but is still only the second best No 8 in Llanelli Scarlets, thats why he's off next year. Lets hope his defence improoves and that not too many coaches have worked out his one dimentional ball carrying technique.
    Next year, more of the same as this year.
    As for "Twckenhamloyal", if your so loyal to Twickenham, then please tell me, why were you not there yesterday, and instead watched it on TV? Does your pocket money fail to purchase the ticket of entry?
    As for next year? More of the same as this year! Wales champions, England "What ifs and but fors".

  • Comment number 64.

    Well done Wales! As an England fan, I think Wales are a fantastic team to watch & I regularly cheer them when playing the Southern teams. They are a strong youthful team who show so much promise & could easily stand a good chance of winning the WC. England & NZ teams took two RWC's to do so & I think last year was Wales first where they gained invaluable experience. I hope they don't peak too soon!

    That said I think they have a bit of work to do before 2015 to tighten up the 'weaker' areas. Whilst they won the slam et al, I wasn't massive convinced by their overall play, however, I think the sign of a great team is one that doesn't play a 100% & yet still gets the win. Yes, it was possible England could have beaten them (if more experienced perhaps?) but what stood Wales above (imo) was their ability to adapt & change with the game - going down to 14 men, running down the clock & not letting England score a try for instance. It's always been something I've envied about how Wales play & I think there are touches of it in the new style England squad.

    Bottom line, well done Wales! I'm looking forward to see what happens with internationals against the southerners!

  • Comment number 65.

    Agree with #57 Alan Reed

    That’s pretty close to team of the tournament. Not sure about Dussautoir at seven but you’ve got to fit him in somewhere.
    Also, and I’m sure the Welsh will disagree with this, in this fictional team I would personally play Halfpenny on the wing (with Bowe on the other wing), simply because Foden has to be in there. Ben and Leigh were the two best fullbacks this year (Kearny came close, mind) and they both need to be in there. But Foden offers a bit more creativity, in my opinion, the unpredictability you need from a 15.

    Great tournament, respect to Wales for getting the job done and adapting to the tactics of opposing teams. Wales were pretty when allowed to be and damn effective when they weren’t.

    Really looking forward to next year.
    Hermmy.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hats off the any team that wins a Grand Slam. As for world beaters are you having a laugh? Last time Wales won against a Southern Hemisphere side was back in 2009 and have lost 11 in a row to them. Start by winning a game Australia and then get back to us. Come this time next year England will still be ranked higher by the IRB list because they win more games. England played 5 won 4 at the World Cup and we rightly criticised for their awful campaign. Wales played 7 won 4 and were really pleased with winning just over 50% of their games and beating on top class side. Expectations. How many games will Wales win between now and the start of the next 6 nations? Maybe 1 if they play a Pacific Island team in the autumn.

  • Comment number 67.

    Davies and Butler biased!!!! It's strange that nobody mentions how biased Inverdale is during his pre, mid and post match commentary. Blinkered as always. Well done Wales on your win, truly deserved.

  • Comment number 68.

    #59 AWJ has not had a stand out game for a long time. He won a crucial turnover but that is not good enough. When AWJ first game on the international stage he looked world class and the Welsh equivalent of POC. Now he should be 3rd or 4th choice for Wales as both Evans and Chateris has shown good form - and I have never been a fan of Chateris.

    Using Warburton as a line out jumper, other than as the occasional surprise is just wrong, he is an openside and should be charging away from lineout. It is Lydiate who should be a line out threat and yesterday was the first time Wales used him, even if just a little bit, in that role. I have been very critical of Lydiate in the past not developing that part of his game, I will be watching the summer tour with interest to see if this development continues.

    Nice team of the tournament. You could argue about a couple of positions but that is it.

  • Comment number 69.

    The negative little comments will always creep in by those who are thoroughly bitter, and frankly, sad little people, ie merrymoles comments dragging up the WC and our poor record against SH teams. We in Wales really couldn't give a hoot about that after ANOTHER Grand Slam! The performance against France topped the lot with a superb try and world class defending, completely shutting out the marauding French. The fact we conceded TWO tries all tournament speaks volumes. The potential of this young squad is special, and the futures is very bright I believe. CYMRU AM BYTH!

  • Comment number 70.

    Fully deserved Grand Slam, their performances did deteriorate as the tournament went on but maybe a young team showing nerves? Would be understandable. Don't understand the rants of 63 Roy Jones above. Even when their team wins, some people just have to go off topic to have a pop at England, bit sad really. Anyway, back to Wales. Anyone else wonder about Mike Phillips? We all know about his physical attributes but is his distribution still a bit slow? An extra flanker can be useful but a quicker service would unleash the back line a bit quicker and more often maybe? Lydiate the player of the tournament, by a country mile. The next hurdle for Wales is found in the Southern Hemisphere. Their teams aren't much better than Wales but one thing they have lacked in the past is self-belief but hopefully the new breed can overcome that. Once again, congrats on the Grand Slam.

  • Comment number 71.

    For Ireland it is still another step no-where. They still have not beaten England, France or Ireland without BOD. Without O'Connell they lose that determination in the forwards. D'arcy was poor. England played some wonderful rugby at times and will only get better, as, like Wales they have a good young core to the squad who want to win trophies. The future does look good for both teams but think Ireland and France are now in for a rough time.

  • Comment number 72.

    Sorry Steve @69, but whilst winning the Grand Slam is brilliant it is not enough. let's not stifle our ambitions: ie to be one of the best teams in the world for a protracted period and THE best in just under 4 years at RWC 2016. Let's not aim for second or third place.

    I also disagree with merrymole "Start by winning a game Australia and then get back to us." 1 game is not enough - we have to beat SH teams regularly rather than occasionally.

    This GS is a damn good start and builds upon a fairly decent RWC. It is not the end game but the next step in a building process.

    Couple of points regarding other posts - Let's hope we can find a replacement for Adam Jones because his loss was more responsible for RWC loss to France than Sam Warburton's.
    Wales' line out woes diminished massively when Alun Wyn Jones came back - people shouldn't underestimate that contribution even if he didn't shine overly in yesterday's game.
    England have progressed immensely over the course of the tournie that even a one-eyed aardvark would have to be impressed. If Lancaster doesn't get the job full time now, he will never get it! Looking really good for England from here on in.

    Best to ignore Twickenhamloyal who repeatedly shows his love for England (which is fine) is only surpassed by his dislike for anyone who loves another team. This year the butt of his ire has fallen on Wales but it has also been whoever else dares to prefer any team over England in the past.
    To thefallenreds - you will be moderated if you are excessively immoderate. Think about it.

    Too early to talk about Lions players but fun to start to consider candidates.

  • Comment number 73.

    Congratulations Cymru, fantastic achievement to win another Grand Slam so soon after the others, we are obviously doing something right! I'm not having this luck malarchy in a couple of games as some of you have said we have clearly been the best team and the table does not lie. The difference has been this year in the ability to change our game when we have needed to in order to win test matches, and to take our chances when they are presented, that's not luck at all.

    Looking forward to a good future in the six nations if England continue to improve as they have done during the tournament. I get the feeling now that the whole mood is shifting in the way that Wales are now the team that everyone wants to beat which is great for us as it is great testament to the entire set up that we have and long may it continue.

    Cymru am byth!!

  • Comment number 74.

    59. At 01:30 18th Mar 2012, ProtectThisHouse wrote:
    "Admittedly Jonathan Davies has been getting a little over-excited in the commentary box/studio over the entire tournament; Brian Moore however has to trump anyone on television as the most biased, snide, almost aggressive commentator there is. How he maintains his position as an analyst is beyond me.

    Brian Moore is certainly the most aggressive commentator, and it is clear he wants England to win, but he still manages to be objective. If England lose he is always quick to acknowledge that the other team deserved their win, and is as scathing about decisions that incorrectly go England's way as for decisions that go against England. He also offers real insight into what is going on - particularly at scrum time.

    Davies on the other hand offers the ability to chear on Wales, and to shout "Numbers", or sometimes "Numbers left/right" every time there is a ruck.

  • Comment number 75.

    Congratulations boys on the Grand Slam!

    Just a quick point....many friends of mine who are English supporters have commented that this is a young England side and that was why they lost to Wales. If you actually add up the ages of the starting 15 for the teams of the Wales-England game:

    Wales - 372 years
    England - 373 years!

    Interesting! I know the English side is far less experienced in terms of caps compared with Wales and so you could say have much more potential to develop, but it's exciting we both have such young teams. Surely the future's bright for both sides?!

  • Comment number 76.

    @#69 - 3 tries actually (Best, Bowe and Laidlaw) but still equals the 6N record. 58 points conceded comfortably beats the previous record - set by Wales in 2008. And if we're in the mood to look back at the RWC they weren't bad then - IIRC only the ABs and Bokke had a better defensive record there. RFU must be kicking themselves for letting Shaun Edwards slip through their fingers.

    But defences everywhere are getting stronger. What won this for Wales was a historically very un-Welsh patience, ruthlessness and adaptability. Sure, they disposed of the two weaker sides easily but had to dig very deep against Ireland, England and France. The 2005 and 2008 sides may have had more attacking flair but I doubt would have ground out all 3 of those wins. Ball retention in the final quarter yesterday was hugely impressive against a French side that had belatedly decided to turn up; and as for Lydiate - I can't remember many better performances by a flanker, Welsh or otherwise.

    But then there's the 30% which Gatland said was missing after the Ireland game. It's still there: wonky lineout, poor discipline, one-dimensional attacking lines. Particularly the last... OK, the threequarters always stand a chance of breaking a first-up tackle, but rely perhaps too much on that rather than speed, elusiveness and creating space. They miss Shane Williams, of course, as any team would. But without that dimension they allow defences to rush up quickly without fear of being stepped or beaten for pace; Halfpenny is the one who could change that but doesn't come into the line enough for me. And while I've always been a fan of Phillips his service is now looking like part of the problem. But having a GS-winning side with room for improvement is no bad thing; their 05 and 08 predecessors were with hindsight as good as they were going to get. Onwards and upwards? Quite possibly.

    Must give some credit to England though. After Sco v Eng I said that if those teams won more than 3 games between them I'd eat my hat. Looks like hat is on the menu; and no way would I have expected Eng alone to be responsible for that. Huge improvement, driven for me by the selections of Morgan and Farrell, and the re-emergence of Croft. Not convinced by the centre pairing or either of the 9s, though; Robshaw is a decent leader but not an international-class openside; and Ashton looks like a passenger and a lazy one at that. (Not getting much ball on the wing? Why not come looking for it?). And if they'd lost to Scotland and/or Italy, which they easily could have, things would look very different. A work in progress, but good progress all the same.

    Elsewhere - France and Ireland under-performed, perhaps due to more dubious selections by France and too many of the Irish side playing on reputation alone (and a pack that lacks both pace and power). Italy added a bit of doggedness in defence but still offer little or nothing with ball in hand. Scotland showed a few flashes of brilliance in a couple of losing causes but were poor against Ireland and disgracefully bad against Italy. The players are mostly there; the leadership, on and off the field, obviously isn't.

  • Comment number 77.

    I thought harry was in the army or something,every time i see him he`s on a jolly!
    caribbean last week chatting to beauty queens, twickers this, how do i sign up?

  • Comment number 78.

    Finding talent has never been a problem for Wales. Fitness and continuity have been. They've definitely ticked the first box but the second is what needs to be addressed now. After 2005 and 2008, they sat back on their laurels when they should have pushed on. Internal politics proved a distraction after 2005 with the unsavoury exit of Mike Ruddock, after 2008 they just lost their way.

    Teams have worked Wales out but working out how a team are going to play and stopping them are two different things entirely, vis England in 2003.

    To be fair, this bunch of young players seem less inclined to go the way of Phillips, Henson, Powell et al and start believing their own press, so Wales may be at the start of a golden period. The sceptre at the feast may be the parlous state of the provincial finances and the prospect of all that young talent going abroad and the subsequent breakdown in coaching control and availability.

    As a genuine lover of good rugby (whoever plays it) I hope they can resolve these issues and I shall be watching their summer and autumn games with interest.

    Finally, I think Phillips has reached his sell by date and it's time to properly blood the young Williams boy. Priestland would be a better player with faster service. And they need to find a way to get Scott Williams on the park....best centre in Wales by far!

  • Comment number 79.

    steggsy if anyone appears bitter it would appear to be you. Wales are deserving champions they have been the best team by far and had a poor game against England but still had enough to win. Your ranting appears to be the sign of a man who is a little bit envious. England have done well against teams who haven't really turned up and you probably deserved to lose to Scotland and Italy so if anyone should keep their expectations in check its England your far far from the finished article.

  • Comment number 80.

    Firstly you dont go to London and Dublin and Win by luck, to win 5/5 with a side as young as wales' should be regarded as a tremendous achievement.

    Not taking anything away from England though, they deserve all the plaudits (of course) for beating a tired, leaderless, fatigued Ireland side, the poorest performance i have witnesed from an irish side.

    Never the less, you can only beat whats put in front of you i suppose!

    Wales are the best team in Europe (well we knew that 6months ago) but the austrailia tour and the autumn internationals are key if this welsh side are to develop and challange for bigger riches in 2015

    Oh, the same goes for England, wouldnt want to leave them out ov the party now would we

  • Comment number 81.

    Wales nearly lost twice in the championship so plenty to work on as they clearly are the best. The close calls will help make them stronger. One thing about Ireland, twelve of them played quite well it was just the scrum- Cole and Corbisero were fantastic. Ireland won the only scrum after Stevens came on, Ireland could have won with one injury.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hey Steggsy, we feel your pain.

  • Comment number 83.

    What a great Six Nations this year. Lots of very close games.

    Well done to Wales. A grand slam is a great achievement especially when the teams are so close at the moment and the results are going down to fine margins.

    Just look at Scotland, they could have beaten France, Wales and England but managed to end up with the wooden spoon.

    Wales could have lost to Ireland, Scotland and England but got the grand slam.

    England could have lost to Italy, Scotland and France but won all of them.

    The only disappointment was the very inconsistent refereeing. Random yellow cards, no cards when there should have been one or had been one for the same offence earlier in the game, penalties that were not infringements, a penalty try against Ireland for infringing on the line twice yet Wales were penalised four times in a similar position against England and did not concede a penalty try.

  • Comment number 84.

    The summer tours are going to be extremely interesting. Not taking anything away from Wales (I'm jealous for the Grand Slam) but its what happens from now that matters. If the northern hemi-sphere sides fail to win a game and then scratch one or two wins in the autumn internationals then we might as well forget about the Lions. Hopefully Wales and England can both push on from here and win games this summer. I fear for Ireland though in New Zealand. Could be cricket scores, especially if anything happens to Mike Ross.

    England win the 6 nations on points next year from Wales. No slam.

  • Comment number 85.

    Best team - Wales (5 out of 5, incredible in defence, powerful in attack)
    Most improved team - Wales (didn't win the 6n's last year)
    Biggest disappointment - Ireland
    Least surprising - France (confused tactics and selection, underlines how exceptionally lucky they were last autumn)
    Best player - Lydiate
    Player for the future - tough one! Farrell, Cuthbert, Denton, North....given how he got better and better as the tournament went on and scored the decisive GS winning try i'll say Cuthbert.....(but given Warburtons fragility with injury, keep an eye on Tipuric).
    Try of the tournament - J. Davies 2nd vs Ireland (pace, power, subtlety all in one move and all from 1st phase)

  • Comment number 86.

    So changing the subject slightly, what about the lions XV for next year? This isn't purely based on 6 nations form.. I'll go:

    Test team: Jenkins, Best, Jones, O'Connell, Gray, Lydiate, Warburton, Denton, Phillips, Priestland, North, Roberts, Tuilagi, Bowe, Halfpenny

    Midweek team: Sheridan (if fit), Rees, Murray, Charteris, Ryan, O'Brien, Robshaw, Falatau, Blair, Farrell, Cuthbert, Davies, O'Driscoll (if fit), Ashton, Kearney

    Backups from 3rd XV of: Healy, Ford, Cole, Wyn Jones, Lawes, Croft, Wallace (if fit), Heaslip, Cusiter, Sexton, Evans, Hook, D'Arcy, Earls, Foden

    Some tough calls in certain positions - Ian Evans deserves a shout in second row and I'd probably take Ryan Jones for utility/leadership/based on 6 nations form off bench.. Worrying positions are half backs if Phillips isn't fit and/or if Priestland has more Twickenham moments..

  • Comment number 87.

    After these 6 nations this is my lions team:
    1 - Jones
    2 - Best
    3 - Jenkins
    4 - Gray
    5 - Oconnell
    6 - Croft/lydiate (probably Lydiate because he has been more consistent & his work unit with Warburton is immense..)
    7 - Warburton
    8 - Morgan
    9 - No one has stood out
    10 - Farrell
    11 - Bowe
    12 - Roberts
    13 - Davies
    14 - North
    15 - Kearney

  • Comment number 88.

    #86... BOD would make my test team..

  • Comment number 89.

    86.At 10:11 18th Mar 2012, Taffholmes wrote:
    So changing the subject slightly, what about the lions XV for next year? This isn't purely based on 6 nations form.. I'll go:

    Test team: Jenkins, Best, Jones, O'Connell, Gray, Lydiate, Warburton, Denton, Phillips, Priestland, North, Roberts, Tuilagi, Bowe, Halfpenny

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Lawes for O'Connell
    Morgan for Denton (assuming Morgan keeps improving)
    Sexton for Priestland (Farrell would even be ahead in my opinion)
    Kearney for Halfpenny

    Warburton clear Captain

  • Comment number 90.

    I'm a proud (and happy) Englishman. Wales worthy champions. No arguments.

  • Comment number 91.

    I am a Welsh supporter, who have played the game, hopefully my comments are not biased.
    First of all Wales deservedly won the grand slam. A Englishman Shaun Edwards, provided Wales with the best defense and that is where they won it.
    Wales are looking predictable in their attacks, but having said that they get over the try line and then it is up to the opposition to cross theirs.
    England are very close to Wales in terms of performance and the way they play and both teams will be vying for the six nations championship in the next couple of years.
    In Ben Morgan they have a great acquisition, but we will have to see how they get on when the pressure is on, Wales yesterday handled it well and did the job, it won't say in the history books that they should have beaten France more easily or France didn't have a good side.
    As for the comments on Johnathan Davies, too me he did not come across as biased he even pointed out things that Wales should have been penalised for.
    One more thing on England, if the RFU want a successful England then they must employ Stuart Lancaster, if they go back to the old boys club where its more important what school you come from rather on how good you are.
    Stuart Lancaster appears to be totally focused on the rugby and not on old boys club!!!
    Well done Wales you proved that you were the best team in the six nations in 2012, do it again next year to show how good you really are.

  • Comment number 92.

    Thanks for all your comments. Keep them coming. Just to answer a few...

    Re no 53) Justin150, agree with most of your views on Wales. Clearly on the strength of their last two performances, England will be a threat in the coming years, although I would question whether they have as many (potentially or genuine) world-class players as Wales. You make a good point about Wales' mental strength - they were reduced to 14 men at crucial times in away games against Ireland and England. Their maturity and game management in those situations was top class and decisive in the overall outcome.

    Agree re the line-out. Faletau and Lydiate were excellent in that regard v France; Suspect once Charteris is restored to starting line-up, things will improve again. Bear in mind that Bradley Davies was the go-to front jumper before his yellow card against Ireland and subsequent ban. With AWJ (not anonymous incidentally, he won the crucial turnover in lead-up to Cuthbert try), and the magnificent Ian Evans, Wales now have four good second-row options. Also - Ken Owens provided tremendous energy at a crucial time. Could well replace Rees as first-choice hooker before long?

    Agree also that with Adam Jones, Wales are a different proposition. In my view, the most important player in the whole side. Take him out and like a lot of the major teams (eg NZ without Carter, SA without Matfield, Italy without Parisse etc), there is a big hole.

  • Comment number 93.

    Re: no 57) Aled Reed. Far be it from me to tell you what to post about, but just to say, a full 'Team of the Tournament' blog will be heading your way on Monday. For what it's worth, here's mine: Halfpenny, Bowe, J Davies, Fofana, Nortg, Farrell, Phillips; Jenkins, Best, Jones, Gray, Evans, Lydiate, Rennie, Faletau (just edges out Denton).

    Re: No 58) Kendall8ball Not sure it needs to be anytime soon. According to my calculations, Gethin and Adam are both only 31, which in prop terms, means they are in their prime. Barring serious injury, they should both be around for a few more years yet, at least until the next RWC.

    Re: No 59) ProtectThishouse - Just for the record, Roberts didn't miss a match. Wales had the same starting backline for every match. He did go off at half-time at Twickenham though, if that's what you're referring to.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    @86

    Bit of a Celtic slant to your two teams there.....

    Why no English forwards in your test XV? Did you watch the English front row in action yesterday?

    I would take Cole in place of Jones. In Australia on hard grounds, Jones (great scrummager that he is) will be too slow and those SH refs will ping him for going off his feet at the breakdown every time.

    And Phillips at scrum-half? Seriously? With service that slow Pocock will rip Priestland a new one every game. Give the poor kid a chance, give him Mike Blair at least!

  • Comment number 96.

    Well done Wales. A deserved Grand Slam. As others have said in previous posts the other teams closed (or sought to close) down their attacking game but they still won their matches. I actually thought Wales' best game was v Ireland when they managed to hold on till the last minutes to get a win - that is the hallmark of a great team.

    Of course Wales have their weaknesses but they have some genuine talent - any side that can afford to ignore James Hook and Lee Byrne (and I know people will say these two are shadows of their former selves etc.) must be onto a good thing.

    And finally I didn't think it was a red card in the World Cup SF - yellow at most.

  • Comment number 97.

    I reckon the 6 Nations of 2013 will have a 'slighty' greater impact on selection than this years.

    That being said there is a great crop of young players to choose from and some fantastic old heads that are sure to be around..

    The only selection I would comment on is somewhere here Ben Foden was suggested in front of Kearney and Halfpenny ??????

    Anyway I think we should just stick with the plaudits for Wales for the time being

    Glad to see there is less neadless sledging going on today (although there are far less posts) those responsible have obviously having humble pie for Sunday lunch !

  • Comment number 98.

    Just to follow BleuBlancRouge's idea of accolades. I agree with his (Fofana was very impressive) but want to add a category:

    Most Disruptive Official: Alain Rolland.

    I think that Italy and Scotland lost the will to live during Rolland's grand narratives.

  • Comment number 99.

    I don't think Ryan Jones will be too happy calling his 18 month old son his daughter!

  • Comment number 100.

    Returning to the essence of this blog i.e. what this Welsh team can achieve:

    There is no doubt that they are a young, talented side. However, what they have shown in this 6N campaign is a mental resilience which was lacking at times during the world cup and also as recently as Shane William's send-off match against Australia. During this tournament winning has become a habit and Welsh players now look like they expect to win. I feel this is largely down to strength in depth: when a team has to rely on individual players' brilliance to win games it is very difficult to stick to a particular game plan, especially when those individuals fail to perform. The need to chance tactics mid-game makes it very hard to remain focussed and mentally strong. The current Welsh side does play a fairly predictable game - BUT it is one which clearly works and does not rely on pieces of creative brilliance from individual players: if world-class players like Jamie Roberts, Warburton et al have to leave the field there is no longer a sense of impending doom as the players on the bench are more than capable of replacing them and sticking to the game plan.

    All the games Wales have played in during the Grand Slam have been fairly close - and in the near future it would be difficult to imagine them being heavily beaten by any opposition. As regards the Southern Hemisphere - the Welsh have run Australia and South Africa close over the last few years but have faltered largely as a result of mental "weakness". Wales will go to Australia now with a new-found confidence and on paper they must surely be favourites to win the series - if they don't win it will be because they did not play to their potential, not because Australia are fundamentally a better team. New Zealand were always a more difficult opponent - but if we consider that they were totally outplayed in the World Cup Final by the same French team that lost to Wales yesterday, the gap between the two sides is clearly not that big.

    As for England: the team has improved dramatically, but whereas Wales seemed to approach the 6N as a league based competition, England are playing like a cup side. This is not a criticism: they are on a roll and are playing for each other and for Stuart Lancaster. They remind me a bit of Tottenham under Harry Rednap: the consistancy just isn't quite there yet - for it to be achieved England needs more strength and depth in key positions and to have a more expansive game plan. At times against Ireland it really seemed to be a reversion to classic "up yer jumper" rugby (for which an appaling Irish performance must take most responsability).

 

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