Hadleigh Parkes: A Grand Slam, the Prince and the government minister

Hadleigh Parkes column

In the last of his 2019 Six Nations columns, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes talks about winning the Grand Slam, meeting Prince William and talking farming with a minister of the Welsh Government.

What an amazing feeling. What an achievement. Winning a Grand Slam with Wales.

I spoke to my brother on FaceTime this week and he asked "who'd have said five years ago you'd be playing for Wales, you'd win a Grand Slam and you'd be having a beer with Prince William afterwards?"

Meeting Prince William was awesome. He was very relaxed. I was impressed that he knew my name - he seems like a lovely bloke, very relaxed and he was enjoying it.

It's very surreal, but amazing to be involved in.

The week since the game has seen a lot of celebrations, even though I'm back in training now.

In terms of celebrations I enjoy the day after more than the night out. About 15 of us players went out to Cowbridge and about 10 of the backroom staff joined us there too.

There were people out for lunch coming up and chatting to us, telling us how much it meant to them that we'd won the Grand Slam. It was a lot of fun.

I've noticed at the supermarket checkouts I get a bit more attention these days.

A few checkout ladies have come up and said how they're proud of us, and in coffee shops people are coming over to say well done.

You spend your time running around a field and getting paid for doing something you love. We're very lucky you know, but it's awesome to get people coming up to you. This really means a lot to people.

The trip to the Senedd was really interesting. I've always walked past the building and looked through the windows, but it was good to get a real look around. I enjoyed the finger food, because I was bit dusty from the day before and I had a red wine to take the edge off!

Lesley Griffiths AM, the minister for rural affairs, chatted with me at one point and said she'd been out to the North Island of New Zealand to visit a farm.

I told her I was from around that area and asked which farm. She said it was the Morrison's farm where my cousins - two of my auntie's boys - work. It's such a small world.

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Six Nations: Parkes try gives Wales crucial early lead

The try

Scoring the try so early was a brilliant way to start the match. It's not a planned move as such, but we do train it.

It was such a great a start even before the try... such a good kick-off and then a huge tackle by George to give us this great field position.

And then to get a penalty advantage from the maul, Ken Owens broke off, had a good little dart so it was just like "Chicken [Gareth Anscombe], let's do it".

Foxy [Jonathan Davies] and I were calling for it and fortunately I beat him to it.

As soon it comes into my hands, I'm like hold on to it and fall over. You don't want to get held up or have the ball ripped off you at the last minute.

I wouldn't say it's the best celebration I've ever done, but there were a few things going around in my head and I just chucked the ball in the air and jumped a bit higher!

The tackle

I'm not the most rapid player out there, but I was winding back the years to catch Jacob Stockdale.

I was in the right place at the right time and Gareth Davies probably slowed him down a little bit and got him off balance.

If I'd have waited a bit longer he might have got away, so I threw myself full tilt and took him down.

I probably enjoyed the tackle even more than the try if I'm honest. You don't always get to make those sort of tackles so I think I preferred that moment to scoring the try.

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Wales won an emphatic 25-7 victory over Ireland at the Principality Stadium on Saturday

Realisation

Our forwards did a fantastic job of keeping Ireland out and we managed to exit well.

We scored a few more points to go in 16-0 up, but in the changing room Gats [Warren Gatland] reminded us that we'd turned around the France game from 16-0 down at half-time, so there was no chance of any complacency going out for the second half.

So it must have the 45th or 46th minute when we got the penalty after half-time, Chicken kicked it and I looked at the clock and thought: "I don't think we're going to lose this - unless we really mess this up we're going to win the Grand Slam."

It was amazing to walk around the stadium and to interact with the fans.

I have to say the two home games in the championship were amazing and the crowd and the public really need to give themselves a huge pat on the back for the level of support they've given us.

It's the best atmosphere I've ever played in. It was awesome doing the lap of honour and then getting into the changing rooms was special.

The time in the changing rooms provide the memories which you're going to have for life. Just to enjoy each other's company with the players you've worked hard with, the guys you've put your body on the line with every week.

So you just sit back with them and you think this is cool… this is an amazing experience to go through with you all.

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Six Nations 2019: Wales lift trophy after completing Grand Slam

What now?

It's great key players like Ken Owens, Foxy and Rob Evans have put pen to paper and are staying within Wales at the Scarlets - it's great for the Welsh game that Josh Adams has signed for the Blues too.

I'm sure there's going to be a few more over the next few days, now there's a bit more clarity over what's going on with the regions from the WRU.

There was a lot of uncertainty there for a little while so it's good that the regions and players can sort out their contracts now.

I'm back in training. I had a session with Scarlets on Tuesday. It wasn't my best session ever, but we've got a week off next week so me and my wife are off to Dubai. I'm a bit pasty so I need to top up the tan.

Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, Rob Evans and Steff Evans and their partners are coming.

Suzy is a bit worried that it's going to turn into a lads trip. I've promised that it won't be - maybe for two or three nights, but not the whole trip.

Six Nations table
*Wales get three bonus points for winning all five of their games

The World Cup

Gats coming out at the start of the tournament and saying if we win in Paris we'll win the whole thing had a huge effect on our confidence.

It really made us believe that the tournament was there for the taking, we really could go out and win it. You listen to his confidence and you really start to build confidence yourself.

We're building nicely as a team and Gats has said what he's said about the World Cup now… Wales have always liked being the underdogs, but there's no reason why we can't have a target on our backs now.

There's a huge amount of competition within the squad and there's no idiots in the squad. There's no-one I wouldn't have a coffee with or sit down for a pint with - players, management, coaching, medical staff - it's great to be part of.

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