Wales to call on Grand Slam winners' experience ahead of France showdown

 

Wales will tap into the experience of their previous Grand Slam winners this week as they prepare for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown against France.

Victory for Wales would give them a third Six Nations title and Grand Slam in eight seasons, and a second of coach Warren Gatland's four-year reign.

Three members of the current match-day squad - forwards Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones and Ryan Jones - were involved when Wales swept the board in 2005 and 2008, and their input will be important over the next few days.

"We have three players who have been there and done it twice, and others who have been involved in one and were part of the (2011) World Cup campaign," Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde said.

"They know the secret, if there is one, about what made those campaigns successful.

"That can only be good, and we will be looking to the experienced players to share some of that knowledge. Those messages are stronger coming from players than coaches."

Wales' so-called 'golden era' netted three Grand Slams in the 1970s, a time when players like Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Phil Bennett reigned supreme.

But McBryde added: "Comparisons will inevitably happen, but the game is completely different.

"There is not half the room on the field now, defences are well organised and it is a more power-based game and the referee has a big influence on the contact area with his interpretations.

"The game has changed, but there are also skills as relevant today as they were in the 1970s."

McBryde, meanwhile, has claimed it is "looking favourable" that Wales captain Sam Warburton will be fit to lead his country against France.

Warburton was due to undergo what McBryde described as a "rigorous fitness test" yesterday after missing the 24-3 victory over Italy last Saturday because of a knee injury.

Wales' World Cup skipper has played in just one-and-a-half games of this season's Six Nations, with his knee problem following thigh muscle trouble that forced him off at half-time against opening opponents Ireland.

McBryde reported a clean bill of health among the players after the Italy success, with Warburton for Justin Tipuric likely to be the only change when Gatland announces his team on Thursday, assuming the inspirational Cardiff Blues flanker proves his fitness.

"The confidence is there, but we know we have under-performed in the last couple of games and need to step things up," McBryde said.

"No-one knows which France will turn up, as is the case historically. They are hard to analyse.

"They will want to prove they are not as bad as some in France make out, and they will want to finish on a high. It will be a test for us."

PA

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