Lewis Moody: Gatland's Wales are good enough to take on the southern giants

Moody Views: The subconscious will be screaming at those Welsh players to make amends for that World Cup semi-final defeat by the French in Auckland

Wales should, and I think will, win their third Grand Slam in eight years. By any token it would be an incredible feat and one I'm sure will be appropriately celebrated on Saturday evening.

Just think that Sir Clive Woodward was coach of England for eight years and how many Grand Slams did his all-conquering team win? Yes, under Sir Clive England won the same number of World Cups as they did Grand Slams.

If you remember how dominant that team were, then it becomes immediately apparent how difficult it is to sweep the Six Nations. So if Wales do it, when they do it, all credit must be given. I certainly will be toasting their success.

Yet I'm sure Warren Gatland knows there is a bigger challenge for his team. They are at the stage now where they should be putting away Tri-Nations opposition. That's how good they are – and this squad have the potential over the next three years to make themselves genuine contenders for the World Cup in 2015.

Of course, they emerged as genuine contenders at last year's World Cup, but next time around they will surely go in with expectation on their shoulders. Let's be honest, in 2011 there weren't too many people backing them. But their coach made a big call and installed a young captain in Sam Warburton and pinned faith in other kids like George North, Toby Faletau, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland. It was a risk but it paid off, and the Kiwi is still at the pay-out counter.

That World Cup experience galvanised his team, made them believe in each other and set out, in stark terms, a common goal. I've always believed that having a singular mindset is 80 per cent of winning rugby and this Welsh side have only reinforced that view.

It will be emotional at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday – and, very probably, personal as well. To the press and public, teams will insist they aren't out for revenge and even in the team room the command will be to play with cool heads. But the subconscious will be screaming at those Welsh players to make amends for that World Cup semi-final defeat to the French. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the Warburton red card, they know they should have won that night. And that will inspire them as much as one of the best home supports in the sports world.

I back them to win, but I also expect the French, a talented team without a great deal to lose, to bounce back from their England defeat. I wouldn't be surprised if it is a nervy affair, maybe decided by a late Priestland drop goal, which will blow a hole through the roof if it's shut. Then the party will begin – and so it should. The Welsh should be as proud as they are excited about this.

To my mind their progress says so much about the young players who are charging on to the scene. You can see it with England; these lads hit the hostile grounds running. Naturally, it's all changed since the professional era came in. Yet it wasn't instant, it did take time. My experience proved that.

I left school and became a professional rugby player, but as it was new and as the older players had previously been in full-time employment, they treated it like they would have treated a normal job. The likes of Dean Richards, John Wells, Rory Underwood and Martin Johnson announced "We work nine to five" – so we did. In truth, there was little rhyme or reason. How different it is now.

Progress demanded the set-ups became sophisticated and scientific. Training is structured to ensure players produce their best on match days, not run out already knackered. The build-up is tailored to the position and the individual.

It's the same in the gym. Everybody used to do the same thing, whether you were a prop, a back-rower or a winger. Each player now has his own schedule, his own targets. They are constantly assessed and continually updated as to which areas need strengthening. The talent is identified from a young age, too. Is there any wonder the pros seem so advanced to those of us who were just thrown in as 18-year-olds?

Don't feel too much sympathy for the supposed veterans, however. Just look how well some of those Welsh guys have risen to the challenge. It was so admirable to hear a player like Ryan Jones – with two Grand Slams under his belt already – say that as an old dog he has been motivated by the young pups. That's the attitude.

Success is all about the "competition for places" element within the squad, and the older players simply have to step up a level. The Welsh old guard have, and that is why they have such a giddying mix of experience and exuberance, of the old and the new. Gatland and his coaching staff should be applauded for the job they have done, the gamble they took and the endeavour they have displayed in succeeding.

I don't believe we have seen the best of them yet but when we do, and when Wales do put it together for 80 minutes against southern-hemisphere sides, they will be a force the world over.

I'm praying that the RFU won't bomb out Lancaster

I find myself saying "make the right decision, please". And 99 per cent of me believes they will. There's just one per cent which warns me that the Rugby Football Union might still look elsewhere than Stuart Lancaster.

This is the classic case of "don't throw the baby out with the bath water". I understand Ian Ritchie, the new chief executive of the RFU, wants to overhaul the union. And I respect what he did at Wimbledon. I just pray there's a rugby man alongside, telling him "look what Stuart has done in such a short time – it's unbelievable".

It took Sir Clive three to four seasons to install the culture which ultimately was to win the World Cup. Stuart, with so many new caps and a new coaching team, has gone a long way to achieving it in months.

That victory in Paris last week was the reward for a set-up which is prepared to put everything on the line for each other. It has the talent, but more pertinently it has the camaraderie and the spirit encapsulated in a shared purpose. To shelve all this progress would be absolute madness. I'm sure the RFU will do the right thing. Almost.

Ireland at home is a massive game for this group. England have done it away, in the hostile settings of Murrayfield and Paris, but they have to do it at home. They were given something of a free pass for their first game at Twickenham against Wales; and they fared commendably. But now they will be expected to win and nothing short of that will do. Having watched this bunch of guys bind and grow I have no doubt they can shoulder the favourite's tag.

I was so chuffed to see my old Leicester pal Tom Croft have such a stormer at the Stade de France. He's performed well in the previous games without standing out. Against France he was in blinding form and the try was vintage Crofty. I've always thought he was special and will love being proven right.

Lewis Moody is a TAG Heuer ambassador. TAG Heuer are the official watch of England Rugby

In association with:



Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?