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'We're very pleased to be four from four with an opportunity that we can now finally talk about'

By Liam Heagney

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Wayne Pivac was thrilled after Wales gave themselves a Six Nations Grand Slam match next Saturday in Paris with their 48-7, seven-try dismissal of tournament whipping boys Italy in Rome. Pivac’s charges after now four wins from four, an incredible situation given how there were calls for the New Zealander to be sacked during a six-game losing streak in 2020.

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“Chalk and cheese,” he said when asked to compare his situation now with Wales to where he was just last November, a 32-9 defeat in Ireland being the sixth loss in a row and the prompt for a deluge of criticism about his tenure since succeeding Warren Gatland.

All that doom and gloom have now given way to the potential of Grand Slam riches next weekend at the Stade de France. “We know exactly the pain we went through in the autumn. Certainly not the results we were after but you are seeing some of the players that got opportunities in the autumn playing out there now in the Six Nations, coming off the bench, some getting starts, and we are that much better for it and we have got a lot more depth.

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“We are going to have to keep building on that depth because the prize at the end of the game is working towards Rugby World Cup 2023 and this championship was always going to be a line in the sand for us. We are very pleased to be four from four with an opportunity that we can now finally talk about – to try and go all the way and win five from five and a Grand Slam.

“The good thing was that we travelled out to Paris in the warm-up Test before this autumn series,” added Pivac, sizing up the prospect of Wales seeking to clinch the Grand Slam away from home rather than in Cardiff where previous recent Grand Slams were clinched.

“We have been there, we played in a late kick-off, nine o’clock last time, so it will all be familiar territory for us which is a good thing. If you asked this side coming out of the autumn would they take four from four travelling to Paris for a potential Grand Slam, you know the answer.

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“We know we are going to be in for a massive game. The two times that we played France so far we have been on the receiving end of the result, so we know we are going to be in for a massive challenge.”

Reflecting on this weekend’s round four win over Italy, a game where the four-try bonus point was in the bag well before the interval to afford him the luxury of getting some of his team’s bigger names off the park early, Pivac said: “We scored some good tries but we are actually disappointed we left a couple out there as well.

“We talked about being ruthless and clinical and at times we were but there were a couple that we left out that we didn’t quite finish. Josh Adams, if he had his time again he would have attacked that try line a little bit differently, but certainly we created at times.

“To have four tries in the bag by half-time we were very pleased with that part of the game. To have held Italy scoreless was also very pleasing. So we achieved everything we wanted in that first half and then it allowed us the opportunity to rest some of the bigger players, guys that had been playing a lot. Really, really pleased to have gotten ourselves in that position to be able to do that.

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It’s pleasing to score tries and we like playing the brand of rugby that gives us an opportunity to score plenty of tries. You saw our intent today… it was far from perfect but certainly the intent was there. It’s part of our game, we want to keep tweaking the attack and keep getting better and better if we can.”

Asked about assistant coach Gethin Jenkins being seen at one stage looking upset with Wales, Pivac explained: “He was annoyed in the first half at 27-0 because we weren’t dominating enough tackles and we weren’t bringing enough line speed.

“Gethin had a chat at half-time around that and you saw that come out in the last ten minutes when the messages were going on thick and fast around defending that try line because at a certain point the game becomes a dress rehearsal for next week and defence at the end was paramount. We were pleased we held them out.”

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'We're very pleased to be four from four with an opportunity that we can now finally talk about'

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