Champions – Wales
What does it mean?
This weekend Wales secured their 2nd Grand Slam under Warren Gatland’s tenure with a tense 16-9 victory over France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. While some rugby commentators have argued that the current slam was not as impressive as their efforts in 2008, I for one have to disagree. The 2005 and 2008 campaigns saw Wales sneak up on their opposition with some at times scintillating rugby, but their success seemed to hinge on their squad being in great form at the time and this proved true as they were never able to defend their titles with much authority. This year though Wales came into competition with everyone beating their drum. After their glorious performance in the 2011 World Cup, they were considered favourites along with World Cup finalists France. On this occasion Wales delivered and they delivered under the weight of expectation; a true champion’s trait.
Wales have proven that they can deal with the big boys of Europe. Their young stars have improved since the World cup and are evolving into leaders at International level. Their young back row of Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau are a match for any side in world rugby. Throw in the youthful exuberance of Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Rhys Priestland and Sam Cuthbert and one can see that they are creating a powerful, potent mix with a long term future in International Rugby. The next logical step is to see Wales bump one of the Southern hemisphere giants. They travel to Australia in the summer to embark on a 3 match tour. If they can pull a result or 2 out of the bag away from home, NZ and South Africa will be looking over their shoulders.
Warren Gatland’s Lions Conundrum
Everything seems rosy for Wales at the moment, but there is a problem looming over the horizon for their rugby administrators. With no outstanding coach from the Home Nations, it looks a dead certainty that New Zealander Warren Gatland will be offered the role of Head Coach for the Lions tour of Australia in 2013. If he chooses to accept the position, it will surely affect his performance with Wales. I’m sure a lot of rugby fans remember how the tide turned against Graham Henry, once known as the ‘Great Redeemer’ in Wales when things started to go wrong. How will Gatland cope with the dual responsibilities? Or would the reigns be handed over to Shawn Edwards for a season? Time will tell.
Six Nations Team of the Tournament
Gethin Jenkins, Rory Best, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, David Denton, Mike Phillips, Owen Farrell, George North, Wesley Fofana, Jonathan Davies, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney
Unlucky absentees include Sergio Parisse, Adam Cuthbert, Joann Maestri and Tom Croft who all missed the cut narrowly.
Form Lions Team for 2013
There will be a lot of competition for places and one can be sure that when the time comes, intangibles such as club combinations etc will come into play when making the ultimate team selections. However, based on the form shown by Home nations players in this year’s RBS Six Nations here is my Lions team to take on Australia down under. Injured players such as Brian O’Driscoll have not been taken into account.
Gethin Jenkins, Rory Best, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Richie Gray, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, David Denton, Mike Phillips, Owen Farrell, George North, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney
Unlucky players include Rhys Priestland, Jonathan Sexton, Ben Youngs, Toby Faletau, Adam Cuthbert, Manu Tuilagi, Tom Croft, Ben Morgan and Adam Jones. All could push their way into the team depending on form. Newcomers such as Stuart Hogg of Scotland also have a chance.