Mervyn Davies: It was one of the great displays of the last 30 years

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The Independent Online

It's not often that I find myself screaming at the telly, or getting enthusiastic about rugby these days, but I could hardly keep still in my seat as I watched one of the great Welsh performances of the past three decades on Saturday.

So many Welsh teams have been forced to live in the shadow of the sides I played in during the 1970s. Finally it seems there is a group of players capable of matching, or even surpassing, the stars and successes of that golden era. All of a sudden everyone is proud to be Welsh again. No longer do players like myself have to make excuses for the shortcomings of the men in red - Gareth Thomas' side is a great team in the making.

You sense that something is building in Welsh rugby, and not before time, and a new set of heroes is emerging. For Gerald Davis, now read Shane Williams, for Phil Bennett think of Stephen Jones, and for Graham Price think Gethin Jenkins. There is a strength of character and belief in this side that was so evident in the teams that I played in. We never knew when we were beaten and we rode our luck to the end. That's exactly what Wales did in Paris at the weekend and why they emerged with such a famous victory.

What impressed me most on Saturday was the way in which they refused to give in. After that blistering French opening, I am sure I was not the only one who was expecting the normal capitulation on foreign soil. But Gareth Thomas has instilled some wonderful new virtues into his team and is fast emerging as an inspired choice as captain. All he needs to do now to rank alongside the likes of John Dawes and Phil Bennett is to steer his side to a Grand Slam triumph.

It's amazing what a few wins can do - not only for a team, but also for a nation. There has been a spring in the step of every Welsh man and woman ever since we ran both New Zealand and England so close in the 2003 World Cup. There was further progression in the autumn against South Africa and the All Blacks again, but now this side is emerging as a major force.

If they win the Grand Slam, they will have done it the hard way. Beating England at home was a psychological step and clinging on in the first half in Paris was another significant moment. But the burst of energy at the start of the second half was on a par with anything we produced in the 1970s. There's still a little bit of a way to go before the title is won, and going to Scotland can be a huge banana skin, but it looks like being a rather special day at the Millennium Stadium next month when Wales meet Ireland for what could be a Celtic showdown for the northern hemisphere's top rugby title.

Mervyn Davies won 38 caps for Wales and captained the side to the Grand Slam in 1976

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