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Wales celebrates Grand Slam glory

The Wales rugby team have won their second RBS 6 Nations title and Grand Slam of Warren Gatland's coaching reign as they conquered Europe five months after reaching the World Cup semi-finals.

By sweeping this season's Six Nations honours board, Wales also avenged their agonising World Cup loss to France in Auckland last October.

France could not contain a tide of irresistible Welsh fervour, passion and emotion at the Millennium Stadium, an atmosphere that proved a fitting tribute to the late, great Mervyn Davies, Wales's 1976 Grand Slam captain, who died on Thursday.

Les Bleus suffered only a second Six Nations defeat in Cardiff as Wales only occasionally showed signs of nerves or tension that could easily have gripped a team containing seven players aged 24 and under.

Davies would have applauded some of the rugby Wales produced, a wonderfully refreshing approach that reaped a stunning solo try for wing Alex Cuthbert after 21 minutes, while full-back Leigh Halfpenny took his Six Nations points tally this season to 66 with three penalties and a conversion.

France huffed and puffed in an attempt to spoil the party, and they had their moments, but penalties by half-backs Dimitri Yachvili (two) and Lionel Beauxis were not quite enough as Halfpenny's 76th-minute strike settled it.

A third Grand Slam in eight seasons matches the achievement of Wales' 1970s golden era teams and guaranteed folklore status for Gatland's thrillingly-talented generation.

However the ambitious New Zealander, a red-hot favourite to be installed as British and Irish Lions coach next month for the 2013 Australia tour, will set bigger targets.

Wales have a three-Test trip to Australia ahead this summer, then face a November appointment with world champions New Zealand in Cardiff, and it is against heavyweight southern hemisphere opposition that Gatland knows his squad will ultimately be judged.

They have taken Europe by storm, though, and the upward curve continues under Gatland, one which he hopes will take them all the way to World Cup 2015 in England as major contenders.


From Belfast Telegraph