6 Nations Grand Slam Confirms Young Welsh Rugby Team Has Bright Future
Wales crowned a perfect Six Nations by winning their final match against France which gave them their third Grand Slam in eight years and the tag of being the best side in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Grand Slam win came during the same week as the death of the 1976 Welsh Grand Slam winning captain Mervyn Davies and there would have been no prouder supporter at the Millennium Stadium than the great No. 8.
In overall terms, it was a richly deserved reward, for although "riding their luck" in their two away games against Ireland and England, any Six Nations team that wins in both Dublin and at Twickenham, thoroughly deserves the title of champions.
What should frighten the other five nations in the competition is that Wales is a team with plenty of youth in its ranks. Nine of the 15 players who started Saturday's final game against France were under 25, putting the side in a strong position to progress all the way to the 2015 World Cup together.
The Grand Slam will also serve any British Lions aspirations ahead of next year's tour to Australia where several Welsh players will undoubtedly be involved and will more than likely be led by their head coach Warren Gatland, who is the front-runner to get the British Lions' head coach job.
England finished runners-up to the Welsh with four wins from five games including victories over France in Paris and an emphatic 30-9 win over a disappointing Ireland at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day. Their performances, which improved with each game, were surely to be enough to land interim head coach Stuart Lancaster, together with his coaching staff, the job on a permanent basis.
Similar to Wales, Lancaster called upon a number of a number of younger players, but by the same token has honoured a number of those selected by his predecessor Martin Johnson, such as Manu Tuilagi, Ben Foden and Chris Ashton to name but three.
England in fact looked a very highly efficient team all-around against Ireland. Their pack were massively dominant, and the backs showed enough flair that should continue to bring them tries.
In fly-half Owen Farrell, they have a player with top-class ability who is being likened to Johnny Wilkinson, and in centre Brad Barritt a tough, no nonsense player that very few attackers can get past; all factors that provide England fans reasons to be optimistic about the future of their team.
Ireland and France both had to settle for just five points from their three games, which certainly in Ireland’s case, is not good enough considering the strength of the country's domestic teams in European competition, particularly Leinster and Munster.
They have been without skipper Brian O’Driscoll and for the most part, second row and stand-in skipper Paul O’Connell, but their absences showed their lack of depth, particularly in the front five and in midfield, and it is difficult to see how they can redress the gulf between them and Wales before the 2013 Six Nations.
France's coach Philippe Saint-Andre ended the campaign in a disappointed mood. The defeat at home by England where his side conceded three converted tries was a particularly disappointing performance.
If their is one positive for the French, it was the emergence of a talent in centre, Wesley Fofana, scorer of four tries during the competition, but for those who have been long established in the team, it was a poor effort on the whole and one that they must improve upon quickly.
Scotland won the "wooden spoon" after five defeats, with the final two losses against Ireland then away in Italy particularly hurtful. Before that, they had played with great purpose coming close against England, putting up a good show against Wales in defeat and a good effort against France.
In second row, Ritchie Gray and flanker David Denton are two players who are capable of making the Lions tour and full back Stuart Hogg looks like a decent player of the future, but them apart, head coach Andy Robinson, should he stay in charge, has an awful lot to do to turn the situation around.
Under the guidance of head coach Jacques Brunel, Italy improved in 2012 from last year, but Brunel, like Robinson at Scotland, has a lot to do to make the Italians competitive against the quartet that has dominated the Six Nations in recent years.
They did beat Scotland again this year, but it was a foregone conclusion that the two would be fighting out the "wooden spoon," and it just so happened to go to Scotland this year and in all likelihood, it will return to Italy in 2013 whilst the job of winning the title in 12 months' time firmly remains in the hands of Wales, who look like a team firmly heading in the right direction.
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