Wales buoyed by Usain Bolt message as defending champions target flying start

Wales are aiming for a first Six Nations win at the Aviva Stadium since 2012.

Andrew Baldock
Friday 04 February 2022 17:15
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Eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt (Mike Egerton/PA).
Eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt (Mike Egerton/PA).

Reigning champions Wales aim to blast out of the Guinness Six Nations starting blocks on Saturday – helped by a video message from Usain Bolt

The eight-time Olympic gold medallist and sprint king was part of Wales’ so-called Bobby Cup award ceremony earlier this week.

Set up by Wales’ strength and conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon, whose nickname is Bobby, it is only awarded to a player when Wales win two successive games, and its latest recipient was flanker Taine Basham.

“Every Bobby Cup presentation, he gets a celebrity to announce who the winner is, and on Monday night we had Usain Bolt,” Wales captain Dan Biggar said ahead of the Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin.

“He did a pre-recorded message for Taine and it was a bit of a thrill for the lads.

“The Bobby Cup is one of the main reasons I am still playing international rugby. It is the pinnacle of your rugby career winning the Bobby Cup.”

Serious Six Nations business begins this weekend, with Wales not rated as major title contenders by the bookmakers, despite winning it last season.

“As I have said all week, we always start as fourth or fifth favourites,” Biggar added.

“Every year, we come into the Six Nations behind the big three (France, England and Ireland), and I think Scotland are ahead of us with the bookies this week.

“It has been the same for the last 10 years. But I think people forget as well, the last 10 years we have been the most successful team in it, winning it four times and Ireland and England winning it three times.

“It is no issue for us, it is absolutely no different for us coming into the tournament as underdogs.

Dan Biggar will captain Wales in their Six Nations clash against Ireland (David Davies/PA)

“Whether we’ve won it the last year, whether we have got a full-strength team, half a team missing, whatever it is, it’s always the same.”

Wales have not claimed a Six Nations victory against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium since 2012.

And their degree of difficulty is considerably increased by injuries sidelining the likes of Biggar’s fellow British and Irish LionsAlun Wyn Jones, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi.

But after ending their Autumn Nations Series campaign with victory against Australia just over two months ago, Wales will not lack confidence.

“There is no doubt we are missing a lot of key men who have got a serious amount of caps and quality around the pitch,” said Biggar, who skippers his country for the first time.

“We have got to make sure that we have got to have a little bit about us, go on the front foot and try and take the game to Ireland.

“I want to make sure that the lads who are playing in their first Six Nations, or starting their first game or haven’t had as much experience, I want them to believe they are good enough and that we are not just rocking up tomorrow to soak up everything Ireland have got.

“These young lads have nothing to fear. They are into their first real Six Nations campaign and it’s great for us because it keeps senior boys like myself really young and hungry.

“For us to come on the right side of the result – or to certainly make it a bit easier for ourselves – we have to make sure we start well, ruffle a few feathers early doors, stop the crowd from getting onside and giving them a big start.”

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