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Wales rugby fans are ready for another possible Big Saturday – but it will be a day like no other.
Scotland, who host Italy and England, travel to Dublin as a starter for the Six Nations before the main course is set in Paris, where only France and unbeaten Wales remain to win the tournament.
A win would give Wales a fifth Grand Slam in the Six Nations era.
But thanks to Covid ’19, it would have been the first without the fans at the game or in the pubs and rugby clubs in Wales.
It remains to be seen whether a decision will be made on Super Saturday, as Scotland do not play until the 26th. March, six days after the scheduled end of the tournament, will travel to Paris.
The first game in February was cancelled due to the Covid 19 cases in the French camp, potentially killing the idea that things would be settled on the final day.
If Wales play draw, they are champions, whereas they could lose but still qualify for the title if they get the bonus point and France don’t. After that, things can get complicated and the final phase comes.
There is no doubt that Wayne Pivac’s men can win in Paris and finish 13th. A Grand Slam against England can remove all uncertainty.
-times for Scotland v Italy and France v Wales at the start of One’s coverage. The radio broadcast starts shortly before departure (14:15 or 20:00).
There was something special about the Six Nations final in Wales. After all, Cardiff has had plenty of experience on this crucial day in recent years: Wales have won more Six Nations Grand Slams than anyone else.
The pubs are usually packed and the streets are full of fans celebrating the achievements of their rugby heroes.
Few will forget that magical sunny day in March 2005 when hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Cardiff.
Fans climbed trees outside City Hall to catch a glimpse of the match on the big screen as the country went wild to celebrate an end to 27 years of waiting for the Grand Slam.
Not this time. The Principality Stadium, the streets of the city or the rugby clubs of Wales do not converge on the Principality Stadium.
No hugs from strangers on the red deck, no singing of multiple Welsh rugby anthems, no shoes sticking to the floor in crowded pubs.
Instead of witnessing the prospect of a fifth Grand Slam victory in 16 years, fans across the country will be confined to their living rooms for this Six Nations club show from the bench, not the stadium.
It’s been 50 years since Wales last won in Cardiff. It was then that Barry John, Gareth Edwards and JP Williams helped the class of 1971 win against France in Paris.
Since those heady days, the Carnival Grand Slam days have been held at home, with six wins in the Welsh capital from 1976 to 2019.
Four of those wins have come against France, including two against Ireland in 2005 and 2019. Legendary players such as Edwards, Phil Bennett, Gethin Jenkins, Gavin Henson, Shane Williams, Martin Williams and Alun Wyn Jones were involved.
The streets of Wales’ cities and towns will be largely silent today, and Team Pivac will have to travel to Paris to achieve their Grand Slam goal.
They would deliver this performance at the formidable Stade de France, but at the expense of 81,000 French fans. The arena will be filled only with the players, coaching staff, stewards and a handful of media.
Wales’ last six Grand Slam victories have come at home and Alun Wyn Jones is looking for his fourth Six Nations victory.
Welsh captain Jones says the players will be thinking of their country as they sing the national anthems.
You can’t get around the small difference that it’s gone, Jones said.
As an individual and as a team, I don’t need to be reminded of what everyone is against and what we stand for.
It was also a Grand Slam day few expected after a disappointing 2020, when Wales finished fifth in both the Six Nations Cup and Autumn Nations Cup, winning just three of their 10 matches.
Pivac is struggling to find a replacement for New Zealander Warren Gatland, who oversaw three Grand Slam victories and two World Championship semi-finals.
Difficult decisions have been made. Last November, Pivak said goodbye to Byron Hayward, his longtime defensive coach and ally, and Gethin Jenkins took his place.
He took down George North on a throw-in, then brought him back up the field and went from wing to center.
6 nations : We were lucky enough to see 14 teams win the Grand Slam. – Pivac, Wales’ boss.
North passed the 100 Welsh internationals mark at the tournament and is now part of the most experienced team in history, led by world record holder Alun Wyn Jones.
The coach has also taken to heart the young players, such as Kieran Hardy, Louis Rees-Zammit, Callum Sheedy and James Botham, who have played in this Six Nations campaign.
Pivac also admits that Wales has been lucky that some people are still talking about a jam slam and questioning the quality of their campaign.
The first two wins against Ireland and Scotland were scored with Peter O’Mahony and Zander Fagerson against 14 men, while two controversial tries were scored against England.
The luck argument doesn’t acknowledge the 17 tries scored in four games, or the record 40 points scored against the 2020 champions by Eddie Jones.
Wales’ success in the Six Nations in 2021 is built on a solid foundation, a strong build-up, clinical finishing and exceptional discipline. And they have a remarkable record in recent Grand Slam tournaments.
The stars remained aligned in Wales as England did them a favour by beating France, making the Pivac the only team to have a clean sheet.
Despite all the skeptics and critics: If events in Paris turn out in Wales’ favour, the Six Nations Grand Slam will still be lavishly celebrated. But maybe not in the same traditional way as a few years ago.
England have the most Grand Slams in tournament history with 13, one more than Wales, but Wales have won the most since the Six Nations began in 2000, the last of the four coming in 2019.
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