Jones hails advent of Wales' new golden age
Wales 16 France 9
Seventies revivalists beware. Adam Jones may have a haircut which reminds of the perm of 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. There is so much to see here.
The tighthead was his usual peerless self on Saturday, causing untold grief in the French scrum and 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 most of the night and some of 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 Seventies," 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 claims are made of a new golden age. But as Warren Gatland, the wily Kiwi overseeing this sporting resurrection, was keen to point out, "different time, different eras; professional versus amateur". Added Gatland: "It would be interesting to see the teams of the Seventies 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 with globalism and professionalism. Gatland knows the Six Nations is no longer enough for Wales's expectant audience. There is an obvious step his men must take. And it will start on 12 June at the Suncorp Stadium 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 we 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. In the past that would not have happened. That can only be good for us in the next few years."
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-André's dogged old campaigners failed to live with the Welsh exuberance. Dan Lydiate was an absolute beast in the tackle, making at least three game-turning spine-crunchers.
The first enforced the turnover which led to Alex Cuthbert's try, the other two repelled the French just as they seemed set to break the defence. The blindside encapsulated a Welsh display of control, competence and composure. For so long they have been the missing pieces of the jigsaw.
And so 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 the captain who yesterday was waiting to discover the severity of the shoulder injury which forced his half-time withdrawal. The anticipation for Australia has begun as they look forward to the 2015 World Cup in England and dare to believe rather than dream.
"We've got to really work hard now because this tour will be big," said Jones. "There is huge potential in this squad, but so much still to work on. Nothing seems to faze our young players. It's as if they are turning up to play for their youth team on a parks pitch – they are that good. The conditions out in Australia will be different, but maybe the hard grounds will suit our players. Well, some of us at least."
No, Jones wasn't built for the fast lane, but his presence going forward will be vital. If there is one area where Wales are lacking strength in depth it is at prop and the worry is if Jones and Jenkins are not around the potential might just remain that. The good news is that neither are planning to retire until after the World Cup. "Like everyone in Wales," said Jones. "We've been inspired by these youngsters."
So the mix looks set remain as potent as it is giddying. The Gallic hierarchy must look at the foundations put in place in Wales and then see the outrageous expediency in Saint-Andre's selection and wonder what France are working towards. That will remain a baffling question but there can be no doubt the Welsh are all singing off the same hymn sheet.
This evening, they will be honoured by the First Minster on the steps of the Senydd, the home of the Welsh Assembly and, once again Mervyn Davies, the iconic Seventies captain who passed away on Thursday, will be remembered. In so many ways, this celebration will be a fond farewell as well as to hail the arrival of the new Wales.
Scorers: Wales: Try: Cuthbert. Cons: Halfpenny. Pens: Halfpenny 3. France: Pens: Yachvili 2, Beauxis.
Wales: L Halfpenny (Blues); A Cuthbert (Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Dragons), S Warburton (Blues, capt), T Faletau (Dragons). Replacements: R Jones (Ospreys) for Warburton h-t; S Williams (Scarlets) for Davies 53-60; K Owens (Scarlets) for Rees 64, L Charteris (Dragons) for A-W Jones, 64, L Williams (Blues) for Phillips, 64.
France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); W Fofana (Clermont), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), F Fritz (Toulouse), A Palisson (Toulon); L Beauxis (Stade Francais), D Yachvili (Biarritz); J-B Poux (Toulouse), W Servat (Toulouse), D Attoub (Stade Francais), P Pape (Stade Francais), Y Maestri (Toulouse), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), J Bonnaire (Clermont), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz). Replacements: J-M Buttin (Clermont) for Poitrenaud, 35; V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne) for Poux, 44; D Szarzewski (Stade Francais) for Servat 44; F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier) for Palisson, 53; L Picamoles (Toulouse) for Bonnaire, 53; J Pierre (Clermont Auvergne) for Pape, 68; M Parra (Clermont) for Beauxis, 72.
Referee: C Joubert (South Africa).
Wales Points France
1 Tries 0
1/1 Conversions 0/0
3/5 Penalties 3/3
0/2 Drop goals 0/2
Phases of play
2/0 Scrums won/lost 1/0
14/3 Line-outs won/lost 9/1
10 Pens conceded 13
1 Mauls won 2
54 Ruck and drive 25
51 Ruck and pass 26
164 Passes completed 99
1 Line breaks 0
35 Possession kicked 32
1 Kicks to touch 10
69/7 Tackles made/missed 113/9
3 Offloads in tackle 6
9 Total errors made 16
106 In open play 53
15 In opponents' 22 15
29 At set-pieces 20
3 Turnovers won 3
France 30-12 Italy,
Scotland 6-13 England,
Ireland 21-23 Wales;
Italy 15-19 England,
Wales 27-13 Scotland;
Ireland 42-10 Italy,
England 12-19 Wales,
Scotland 17-23 France;
France 17-17 Ireland;
Wales 24-3 Italy,
Ireland 32-14 Scotland,
France 22-24 England;
Italy 13-6 Scotland,
Wales 16-9 France,
England 30-9 Ireland.
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