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
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own