Wales set sights on Grand Slam
By Mark Stevens
Warren Gatland says Ireland will be chomping at the bit to spoils his Six Nations farewell when Wales hunt a Grand Slam next Saturday.
Wales withstood a Scotland fightback to triumph 18-11 at Murrayfield and move within 80 minutes of the title and a clean sweep.
If Gatland’s men, which again included Exeter Chiefs prop Tomas Francis in his starting XV, beat Ireland in Cardiff then the head coach will sign off for the championship with a historic third Grand Slam, adding to his 2008 and 2012 efforts.
The atmosphere will be red-hot – and the New Zealander hopes it will help his team to get over the line as they did against the English in round three.
“There will be emotion. It is my last Six Nations game for Wales,” said the head coach. “It is St Patrick's Day next week and the Irish will be chomping at the bit.
“It is going to be a great occasion and you won’t be able to get a ticket anywhere. The competition is still open with England and Ireland thinking they will be in with a chance if we get knocked over.
“We want to win this Championship and the only way we can do that is by getting the Grand Slam. If we can do that I can promise you there will be some serious celebrations afterwards but we have to regroup.
“There will be no lack of motivation and if that Welsh crowd can do the same thing they did against England, that atmosphere, drive and motivation they gave the players will have a significant impact next week.
“I am excited about it and it’s a dream we can fulfil and achieve something pretty special as a group. We are 13 in a row and hopefully we can do 14 now. You break records and those are the things nobody can ever take away from you. When you have those opportunities you have to grasp them with both hands and go out there and have no regrets. I am sure the players won’t have any regrets next week.”
Gatland praised his team for digging deep in Edinburgh after a challenging week dominated by the row over the future of professional club rugby in Wales.
“This is a fantastic group of men and they are pretty tight,” said the head coach. “There is no doubt Monday and Tuesday had an impact on the players. We didn’t train very well on Tuesday and we did not defend well which is normally our main defensive day.
“We have had to back that up on Thursday and Friday and tidy some stuff up. After that early start to the week the players have kind of got on with their job. There is a lot of emotion involved with everyone and I take my hat off to them about how they have dug deep.”