James Lawton: Merv the Swerve's legacy appears safe in the hands of Lydiate and Halfpenny

They understand what they have to do to become strong in the international game

The Welsh Grand Slammers may not have turned the valley skies into the most luxuriant crimson but who could not be warmed by the glow of their achievement, by that sense that they had been faithful to the ultimate demand made by all true professionals?

It is that you deliver the very best that you have and if Dan Lydiate and Leigh Halfpenny happened to exceed dramatically their particular quotas, each one of their team-mates had reason to leave the field with bone-deep pride.

Lydiate, who hit such remarkable heights in his resistance to the idea that the French might delve into a neglected corner of their game and produce spoiling brilliance, dedicated the victory to the fallen hero Mervyn Davies and in an age too often swamped by the easy platitude, this one was mined from a seam of the highest quality.

The brilliant flanker wasn't born when the great man put down his headband but it would be impossible to have embraced such a legacy with more spirit or accomplishment.

Lydiate not only brought the deeds of the old hero back to vivid life, he also offered a sturdy platform for the future. In such young hands, Wales surely have the means to build on all the promise first signalled by that superb but ill-fated impact on the last World Cup in New Zealand.

They may, as some of their critics suggested amid the wild celebrations, have work to do in such matters as that old and glorious spontaneity of the Welsh game. They may need to acquire a little more swagger, not for the sake of mere results but a greater sense of their own powers and possibilities.

Yet at this point these are, surely, gnat bites on a body of inspiring work. While England continued their resurrection under the impressive interim coach Stuart Lancaster – albeit on this occasion with the help of Irish opponents who seemed most intent on parodying the best values of their own game – the Welsh plainly are one Grand Slam and several years ahead.

The achievement of Warren Gatland and his coaching staff is one that may well carry the team beyond the eruptions of their two most recent triumphs in the Six Nations. It is not only to identify so cleanly their best players but also to encourage men like Lydiate and Halfpenny, the young captain Sam Warburton and fly-half Rhys Priestland to create their own ethos.

It is one that at the weekend simply carried too much all-round strength for the enigmatic but still formidable France, one that, let's not forget, came so close so recently to ambushing the All Blacks in a World Cup final.

This Welsh team may lack the extraordinary wit and reach of talent enjoyed by Merv the Swerve's team, Halfpenny may not yet be JPR or Priestland a Barry John or a Phil Bennett, but in a different age and a different game they have plainly established their ability to compete at the highest level.

This, rather than the most explosive performance – though the try of the latest behemoth, Alex Cuthbert, was not so shabby in the detonation department – was the truest justification for the Cardiff euphoria. Wales, quite simply, played to their formidable strengths. If they are chastised for a certain lack of boldness, they also have to be praised for their refusal to surrender an inch of hard-gained achievement. Priestland's long kicking gave the French a growing sense that they were walking backwards and there was always the feeling that whatever they did, Wales would have a counter according to the demands of any one situation.

Back in New Zealand, Gatland said the key to his young team's development was a professional understanding of what it would take to move into the elite of the game. The coach deflected credit for the discipline, on and off the field, which stood in such sharp contrast to the anarchy of England. He said it was largely self-motivated.

"They understand," said Gatland, "what they have to do to if they are to become strong at the top of the international game. It is something we haven't had to tell them twice." Now it appears to be stamped into their psyche.

The French, inevitably, had their moments but none of them threatened the reality of which side was more likely to win. It was one imposed by Lydiate and Halfpenny, Priestland and Toby Faletau, and not least a front row of Gethin Jenkins, Matt Rees and Adam Jones that seemed capable of ransacking any match, any saloon – an unstaunched conviction indeed shared by every member of the squad.

Lydiate said that what they did was one for the late Mervyn Davies. It was certainly that but also a marker for themselves. One that says the championship of Europe might just be a start.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state