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Wales dare to dream of Six Nations history with third successive title

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 24, 2014

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Wales will create history if they win this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship.

And the reigning champions have no intention of shying away from that fact as they target a hat-trick of Six Nations titles.

The 2012 and 2013 Six Nations top dogs have embraced the possibility of capturing silverware for an unprecedented third successive campaign, rather than be daunted by it.

Having lost just two of their last 14 Six Nations matches, it is no surprise that the bookmakers have installed Sam Warburton’s team as favourites to finish top once again.

As in 2008 and 2012 when Wales achieved Grand Slams, they face testing away encounters against Ireland and England this season, while home victories over Italy, France and Scorland will be the minimum requirement.

“We’ve got an opportunity to create history. Having won the last two years there is a chance, particularly with three home games,” Wales head coach Warren Gatland said.

“The two away games are particularly tough in terms of England at Twickenham and Ireland as well, but if you look at 2008 and 2012 and winning Grand Slams, they were the fixtures then.

“It’s a tough competition to win. You need a little bit of luck, you need a bit of momentum.

“Getting Italy first-up, hopefully it is not a banana skin for us. Hopefully, we can get off to a good start and get some momentum.”

Gatland’s 32-man squad for the tournament contains no uncapped players and has a reassuringly-familiar look about it for Wales supporters, even if injuries have hit a number of players during the build-up, including Warburton (shoulder), prop Gethin Jenkins (knee), back-row forward Ryan Jones (hamstring) and centre Jonathan Davies (pectoral muscle).

But developing quality strength in depth has proved a pivotal part of Gatland’s reign, and Wales have a powerful look about them as they prepare for battle.

“One of the reasons we have picked Jonathan is we don’t think he is too far away (from full fitness),” Gatland added, reflecting on star centre Davies’ selection.

“Ryan Jones has been carrying a bit of a knock and Sam Warburton hasn’t played for a while, but those are some experienced players in the squad that hopefully are not going to be too far away.

“We feel fairly confident. Last year we only had 19 players who were able to train in the first week. That’s how many in the squad had injuries.

“We’ve kept it (squad number) pretty tight at this stage and there are a few younger players with injuries who need a little bit of rugby. Perhaps we will add one or two to the squad after the first two or three matches.

“Some of those youngsters are not far away from playing. Part of the reason we haven’t picked some of them is to take a little bit of pressure off the physios in terms of having too many bodies on the treatment table.

“One of the things we have tried to create is an environment where the players look forward to coming into the national team.

“We are blessed with some of the best facilities and the best stadium in the world, so there is no lack of motivation for the players when they come into the squad.

“We are going to have the Wales Under-20s train with us on a Tuesday. They got a huge amount of benefit from that last season, finishing second in the Six Nations and making the final of the Under-20 World Cup, and it was a benefit for our players as well.

“The big challenge for us is if you look back over the last four or five British and Irish Lions tours, or maybe even further back, the team that has won the Six Nations or Grand Slam after a Lions tour has been France.

“It is going to be tough for us. We are aware of that history as well, and so getting off to a good start against Italy is paramount.”

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