Ex-Wales back row Jonathan Thomas is hoping he will have the perfect Saturday this weekend – a Gallagher Premiership win for Worcester followed by the Welsh clinching Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam glory with victory over France in Paris.
Success for Wales would cap an extraordinary few months. Only last November they were in the doldrums, limping along with a six-match losing streak amid accusations that new coach Wayne Pivac had lost the dressing room. Now they are incredibly just 80 minutes away from sweeping the boards in the Six Nations.
Worcester boss Thomas is delighted with the transformation. He is good friends with most of the Wales coaching staff and hopes they can now seal the deal against the French at Stade de France. However, this sudden revival in Welsh fortunes isn’t something new to 38-year-old Thomas as he experienced a similar rejuvenation in results during his 67-cap career.
Wales returned from France 2007 firmly in the doghouse, eliminated in the pool stages at the World Cup by Fiji, yet six months later they were crowned Grand Slam champions following a stellar first campaign under Warren Gatland.
“There is never such a bigger margin as you think between winning and losing,” said Thomas. “That time in 2007 where we got knocked out of the World Cup by Fiji, that was certainly an unpleasant journey home. The next few weeks, I don’t think I opened the curtains for about three weeks after that.
"The same thing happened at the Scarlets"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 19, 2021
“Supporters are so passionate and rightly so because they love the team, love the game. We certainly got plenty of stick after that World Cup, but then Warren came in. He had two weeks to prepare for that first game, didn’t change a huge amount, training intensities were high, he instilled a simple game plan, got the team chemistry right, got everyone on the same page and we won the Grand Slam.
“Again, you are never far away in sport but it’s about team chemistry, team consistency and team standards really. Once you get that right, which is what Wayne has done there with his coaching team, they are on the right track and it’s great to see if you are a Welsh fan.
“The biggest thing in the Six Nations is if you can win that first game. That first game is so pivotal. I’ll flip if, if you lose that first game you know your Grand Slam is gone and you know it’s an uphill struggle from there on.
“I’m really pleased,” continued Thomas, delving further into the recently much-improved run of Wales results. “I know a lot of the coaches in that group. Stephen Jones, I played with him for many years, he is a great guy so really pleased for Steve. I don’t know Wayne Pivac personally but I know Jonathan Humphreys from the Ospreys, I played with Gethin Jenkins.
“They are a really talented group of coaches and what a new coaching team needs is time. They had a difficult act to follow with Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards, especially after they had won the Grand Slam the year before (in 2019). It’s a tough act to follow and I know they are trying to instil a slightly different type of game to the way Wales have played over the years.
“What you saw in the autumn was a team in transition, they gave youngsters an opportunity but they have gone back to the tried and tested group of players in this campaign, been a little more pragmatic than they probably tried to be in the autumn – and they have had a bit of luck which is what you need in sport as well.
“What it shows is a quality coaching team but also you have got a really good group of players there as well, the likes of Alun Wyn (Jones), (Justin) Tipuric, Jonathan Davies, George North, all those sort of guys, Dan Biggar, they have been with the squad for the last ten years and they are champion players.
“It is going to be a tough test. That was a great win by England last weekend because the French are a fabulous team at the moment. It’s going to be a really tough game for Wales,” continued Thomas, the recently appointed Worcester head coach who himself is looking for a Pivac-like upswing in Premiership results following a sticky few months in charge at the Warriors.
“I will be watching it at home because we will be back from The Rec by then. I’m hoping the kids will be in bed. Probably my oldest one will still be up trying to nag me to watch the game. He is ten so he is pretty passionate about Wales as well. It will be good and I hopefully will be watching it with a Heineken after a big win against Bath.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 19, 2021
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