Merv's legacy appears to be safe in hands of Lydiate and Halfpenny


The Welsh Grand Slammers may not have turned the valley skies into the most luxuriant crimson but who could not be warmed by the glow of their achievement, by the sense that they had been faithful to the ultimate demand made by all true professionals?

It is that you deliver the very best that you have and if Dan Lydiate and Leigh Halfpenny happened to exceed dramatically their particular quotas, each one of their team-mates had reason to leave the field with bone-deep pride.

Lydiate, who hit such remarkable heights in his resistance to the idea that the French might delve into a neglected corner of their game and produce spoiling brilliance, dedicated the victory to the fallen hero Mervyn Davies and in an age too often swamped by the easy platitude, this one was mined from a seam of the highest quality.

The brilliant flanker wasn't born when the great man put down his headband but it would be impossible to have embraced such a legacy with more spirit or accomplishment. Lydiate not only brought the deeds of the old hero back to vivid life, he also offered a sturdy platform for the future. In such young hands, Wales surely have the means to build on all the promise first signalled by that superb but ill-fated impact on the World Cup in New Zealand.

They may, as some of their critics suggested amid the wild celebrations, have work to do in such matters as that old and glorious spontaneity of the Welsh game. They may need to acquire a little more swagger, not for the sake of mere results but a greater sense of their own powers and possibilities. Yet at this point these are, surely, gnat bites on a body of inspiring work. While England continued their resurrection under the impressive interim coach Stuart Lancaster – albeit on this occasion with the help of Irish opponents who seemed most intent on parodying the best values of their own game – the Welsh plainly are one Grand Slam and several years ahead.

The achievement of Warren Gatland and his coaching staff is one that may well carry the team beyond the eruptions of their two most recent triumphs in the Six Nations. It is not only to identify so cleanly their best players but also to encourage men like Lydiate and Halfpenny, the young captain Sam Warburton and fly-half Rhys Priestland to create their own ethos.