TO The trademark of Wales in the 20 years before Warren Gatland’s arrival as head coach in late 2007 was that when they made it to the top they had such a severe attack of vertigo that they did not stay to gaze at the view. very long. Failure followed success and after the Grand Slam was finally wrested from them in Paris on Saturday night, another two years when they stumbled at the last hurdle came to mind.
Wales met France in Cardiff in the final 1988 Five Nations game after winning an unlikely triple crown. They had finished fourth in the previous year’s tournament, and although they finished third in the inaugural World Cup, they were crushed by New Zealand 49-6 in the semi-final and it was not imagined that they would have an impact on the championship.
A rear division with players like Jonathan Davies, Mark Ring, Bleddyn Bowen, Adrian Hadley and Ieuan Evans dazzled until they met France on a rainy day and lost by one point. There was still a first triple crown in nine years, but then came a sobering tour to New Zealand and the call for the rugby league: they won just one match in the next three Five Nations and failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup. 1991. Cup despite having the advantage of playing at home in their group.
In 1994, they went to Twickenham for the last weekend in search of the Grand Slam. It was the first year that the system of separation of teams by points difference was applied and England needed to win by 16 to take the title. They did so with just seven leaving Wales, who finished last the year before, with the trophy. It was all they had to celebrate for a while, as they only won twice in the next three championships and failed to make it past the group stage at the 1995 World Cup.
It was only after Gatland’s arrival that Wales began to maintain success as it had in the 1970s with three Grand Slams and a title over the next 11 years. They reached two World Cup semi-finals, losing both narrowly, and forged such a strong identity that when Wayne Pivac took office last year and encouraged players to take more risks, they became more vulnerable on defense and they endured their worst Six Nations campaign since the first. before the arrival of Gatland.
Wales have to wait until Friday night before they know if they can call themselves champions or runners-up, but wherever they end, the question is whether it will build on a season that started with a generous amount of fortune and ended with a draw. -All with the team considered the best in Europe and surpassing them for periods, more brave than lucky. As against France in Cardiff last year, claims for a penalty try were denied and Louis Rees-Zammit came within a splash of paint from what would surely have been a match-winning try.
“I’ve played the game long enough to know that things can change from week to week,” said Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, who has been the bridge between the Gatland and Pivac regimes. “There is always something to learn.” As long as he continues to lead the team, and has yet to sign a contract extension that ends in June, Wales is unlikely to relapse into bad habits and last year will be seen as one of transition.
Pivac has a dual selection policy: using the summer and fall windows to see the players coming in and leaving the experimentation in the Six Nations, including against Italy. Wales led by 10 points when they took off three of their thirty-somethings with 12 minutes remaining against France. Dan Biggar, Ken Owens and Jonathan Davies are all Gatland-era stalwarts, all on the track of 100 internationals, but will they be involved in the 2023 World Cup?
While some of his more experienced brothers watched from the bench, Wales lost their discipline, their players and then the game. “We did not get to cross the line,” said Pivac and if this championship is not going to be unique for Wales, it needs its veterans to stagger their retirements, not practically all go at the same time as happened in the late 1970s when the boom turned in bankrupt.
Wales have been replaced in fifth place by England, who also finished there in 2018. By the end of the following year, they appeared in a World Cup final. Pivac faced calls for his head last year, now it’s Eddie Jones’ turn. Building for the future is difficult in a world without a shadow. One lesson Wales learned in the 1980s and 1990s was that firing coaches used to backfire. Nothing succeeds like stability.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism