Six Nations 2014: Alex Cuthbert admits rivals will be gunning for Wales as the 'team to beat'
Fixture list favours Wales this year although they still face a testing trip to Twickenham to take on England on March 9
Friday 24 January 2014
Alex Cuthbert readily acknowledges popular opinion that Wales are “the team to beat” in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship.
And that considerable expectancy level will bring an acute degree of pressure to the Wales camp as they target making Six Nations history.
A hat-trick of titles is the objective for Cuthbert and company, and with their Six Nations schedule featuring three home games it is no surprise that they have been installed by the bookmakers as tournament favourites.
Wales have lost just two of their last 14 Six Nations fixtures, while last time out they crushed Grand Slam-chasing England by a record 30-3 margin when Cardiff Blues wing Cuthbert scored two tries and took his tally to nine in 19 Tests.
"We have three homes games this season. Last term, we had three away matches in a row, which is as tough as you are going to get," Gloucester-born Cuthbert said.
"This year may favour us a little bit, but we are just going to take each game as it comes.
"We know every team is going to come at us, especially after we've beaten them over the past couple of years. We are the team to beat, and a lot of the focus of the other teams will be on trying to beat us.
"The Six Nations is a big build-up before the (2015) World Cup. We have to use that to propel us forward. Whatever happens, though, we have to concentrate game by game.
"We have to use this as a benchmark for the World Cup and (for our) confidence. We need to build our strength in depth so we have 35-40 players fighting to get in the Test XV. It's what you need going into a World Cup."
Wales will go into the Six Nations against a back-drop of political unrest between the Welsh Rugby Union and professional regions, while none of those teams - Ospreys, Blues, Scarlets or Newport Gwent Dragons - were good enough to secure quarter-final places in either the Heineken Cup or Amlin Challenge Cup this season.
But 23-year-old Cuthbert added: "I don't think there is any damage to confidence because the regions haven't qualified in Europe. Everyone is looking forward to the campaign getting under way.
"Being at home is going to be a great benefit because we love playing at the Millennium Stadium. We have a good home record in the Six Nations.
"Personally I love playing there, and as a squad it will be good to be at home, to stamp our authority straight away in the first game (against Italy).
"But it won't be easy because Italy are a tough side who are improving. They have shown over the last few years that they are very stubborn and hard to break down over a long period of time.
"We have two or three players fighting for each position, which is good because you need that.
"There is competition in this squad every day, even if we are just training with weights, or generally. We have that mental edge. Hopefully, we'll get that ruthless edge as well.
"We just have to start well, hopefully better than we did last year (against Ireland). We have to put in an 80-minute performance, keep building and hopefully get better."
And as for a possible title hat-trick?
"Warren Gatland (Wales coach) has given us that target, and that is what we want as players," he said.
"We go through what it means to be in the squad and what it means to be successful within the squad. We are a really close-knit group and we are just looking forward.
"Hopefully, you never know, we will make history. But for me and the rest of the boys it's just game by game, start well and try to progress."
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