We had to fight our way through some serious tension before seeing Wales reach the glory of the Grand Slam, but there is nota shred of doubt that they deserved this victory and the prize that goes with it.
The final flourish produceda scoreline that looked comfortable; for those present it was anything but. France looked as if they might do a bit of spoiling but they couldn't, ultimately, make a dent in the Welsh defence.
This was a game won by that Welsh defensive line. Before the tournament started, Shaun Edwards told me that the Welsh defence would take them to the title. Since he was the architect of the Welsh resistance he could be confident in his assessment.
Despite having long periods of possession yesterday the French could not make much progress. When they did get in sight of the Welsh line, late on in the second half, the red-shirted pack pushed a scrum back yards to win the ball against the head.
It was a wonderful moment, and almost as great as the try that Shane Williams scoredto edge Wales towards their victory. The wing hadn't done a hell of a lot before then but one slim chance presented itself and his kick ahead and sprint forthe line was brilliant. Onlyworld-class players can do that.
Once again there were plenty of candidates for man of the match, and Martyn Williamswas certainly one of them. I, however, would have given the accolade to Ryan Jones, the captain, who was immense. The way Gavin Henson marshalled the up-and-in defence was also classic, and even when he went into the sin-bin Wales were able to keep the stranglehold.
Furthermore, the use of Stephen Jones to control the final period was a superb tactical move by Warren Gatland.
There has been no secret about the Welsh success in this tournament. It has been plain for all to see. They have added shape, discipline and ambition to their play. There has always been talent in the Welsh squad but they have lacked the right approach. The transformation has been a tribute to the coaching skills and the mental toughening that the Gatland regime have brought. But even they must be amazed how quickly the players have reacted.
The difference in the confidence and self-belief in the Welsh ranks has been incredible. They have respected the importance of getting the basics right, and the emphasis on defensive efficiency has produced a positive result. They look comfortable without the ball because they don't panic. They just concentrate on organising themselves. Every aspect of their game has shown a big improvement. The way the forwards have been carrying the ball has been a revelation, and the way they outmuscled the Irish pack showed they have physicality to go with their adventure.
I have been particularly impressed with Wales's kickand chase. At times it has been fantastic, and one of the reasons for that is that they rarely kick for touch – once you know the kick is not going out you have a head start in racing after it.
The way Wales played with14 men against Ireland last weekend and France last night was an indication of the confidence they have. Therewas never a question of tryingto ride out the lack of a man.
Knowing what you can achieve is a tremendous advantage, and being able to ensure a victory once it is in sight is another skill Wales have perfected. They lost a Test against Australia in the last minute last year. You get the strong feeling that wouldn't happen now.
Now they face a tour to South Africa and more games against the southern superpowers inthe autumn. They are mighty tasks, but I don't think Wales will be frightened.Reuse content