independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Welsh Slam heroes turn focus to world domination

Wales 16
France 9

Seventies revivalists beware. Adam Jones may have a haircut which reminds one of the perm from that era, but he has had enough of that decade being thrown in his team's face. Like the majority in Wales, he wants this hat-trick of Grand Slams to draw a line. Move on, is the message.

The tight-head was his usual peerless self on Saturday, causing untold grief in the French scrum and generally prowling around like a nonchalant tiger waiting to pounce. When it came time to celebrate, Jones, Ryan Jones and Gethin Jenkins were the toast of a party which inevitably lasted into the morning. The trio had emulated Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Gareth Edwards in winning three Grand Slams. Membership of that exclusive club comes with its rights.

"This means we can now put two fingers up to the pundits from the '70s," said Jones, who was 24 when he first tasted the glory in 2005. "Some of them have given us a lot of crap in the past. We don't have to listen from now on. In fact, only JPR, Gerald and Gareth can slag me off any more. Because they're the only ones who have three Grand Slams -- just like me."

Of course, the comparisons will continue as the claims are made of a new golden age. But as Warren Gatland was keen to point out, "different times, different eras -- professional versus amateur." Added Gatland: "It would be interesting to see the teams of the '70s if they were playing South Africa, Australia and New Zealand every year."

Gatland was not being snide. He was simply noting how the benchmark of success has changed. Gatland knows the Six Nations is no longer enough for Wales' expectant audience. There is an obvious step his men must take. And it starts in June in Brisbane where Wales face Australia in the first of two Tests.

"Our big aim is to be consistent in beating the southern hemisphere sides and we have a young enough side that over the next few years can do that," said Gatland. "They have coped incredibly well. We have accepted the tag of favourites, which has not always sat well on our shoulders. We have been down in games, but have learnt how to win ugly."

There is beauty in rank ugliness; this joyous occasion proved that. France turned up to stop Wales playing -- a rich compliment -- and with the help of the pre-match downpour succeeded in that regard. But Philippe Saint-Andre's dogged old campaigners failed to live with the Welsh exuberance. Alex Cuthbert's first-half try was the springboard in a Welsh display of control, competence and composure. But the status of northern hemisphere kings will be laid bare in three months' time. This will be a summer tour of genuine importance and the only fear is the possible absence of captain Sam Warburton, who yesterday was waiting to discover the severity of the shoulder injury which forced his withdrawal. (© Independent News Service)

Wales -- L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies (S Williams 60), J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips (K Owens 63); G Jenkins, M Rees (L Charteris 67), A Jones; AW Jones (L Williams 63), I Evans; D Lydiate, S Warburton (R Jones 40), T Faletau.

France -- C Poitrenaud (JM Buttin 35); W Fofana, A Rougerie, F Fritz, A Palisson (F Trinh-Duc 53); L Beauxis (M Parra 71), D Yachvili; J Poux (V Debaty 44), W Servat (D Szarzewski 44), D Attoub; P Pape (J Pierre 67), Y Maestri; T Dusautoir, J Bonnaire (L Picamoles 59), I Harinordoquy.

Ref -- C Joubert (South Africa).

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