Gatland sets sights on World Cup trophy at Grand Slam celebrations
Wales’s rugby heroes were warmly greeted by hundreds of fans in Cardiff Bay to mark another Six Nations win, and a record-breaking third grand slam for coach Warren Gatland.
The team were given a hero’s welcome by First Minister Mark Drakeford and a huge crowd of fans outside the Senedd after their 25-7 victory against Ireland on Saturday, a fitting end to Wales’s historic campaign.
For the first time in seven years Wales secured the grand slam after winning all of their six nations games, rounding it off with an unexpectedly comfortable win over Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.
This will mark Wales’s last six nations tournament under Gatland, as he will step down as Wales coach after the World Cup this autumn in Japan but said his side could bring the trophy home.
During his 12- year tenure with Wales, Gatland has picked up four Six Nations titles, three of those being accompanied with grand slam and triple crown trophies – more than any other manager in six nations history.
In 2011 he also took Wales to the world cup semi-finals, but the Kiwi will want to go one step further this time around in September, and is quietly confident that his side- who are on a fourteen winning streak- can bring the trophy back to Cardiff.
Speaking at the closing of the event, Gatland said: “I promise you the guys will give 100 per cent at the World Cup and if we play as well as we have done over the past 12 months then we can bring the trophy home. We’ve got a very special group of players at the moment.”
“There was no way to go but up when I arrived. I’ve loved every minute here, you people have been so friendly and welcoming. Thank you very much.”
Wales find themselves in a group alongside Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay and will kick off their World Cup campaign on the 23rd September.
During the presentation both the Grand Slam and Six Nations trophies were on display while captain Alun Wyn Jones and centre Jonathan Davies both gave speeches.
When asked about the upcoming World Cup Alun Wyn Jones said: “We have to make sure we enjoy this win.
“However, we must hit the ground-running when we return to the regions and whoever returns to the next camp has to work hard again and focus.”
The atmosphere down at the bay was an optimistic and excited one, with a Welsh choir and the hundreds of fans sang matchday classics, from Cwm Rhondda to Delilah and a spectacular rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
Fans at the celebrations were optimistic about the side’s chances in the upcoming World Cup and were looking forward to the challenge.
Some fans expressed their confidence in a World Cup win to finish what would surely be a perfect year of rugby for Gatland and Wales.
One man said: “This successful campaign puts us in an excellent position, and we’ve got a good chance at winning it. However New Zealand will take some beating.”
Another said: “This is our chance, we are the second-best team in the world. We can do it this time around.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford congratulated the champions, telling the team: “We are enormously grateful.
“It was suggested in the newspapers over the weekend that the captain ought to be the next First Minister of Wales. When his time comes, I will be there to support him.”
Club rugby will now resume, as the squad break up and return to their respective clubs, with games taking place this weekend. Wales will next be in action in their pre-World Cup friendlies against Ireland and England in August.
-By Joe Strong (@JoeStrong00)