Edwards: No limit to Wales' potential
March 29, 2012
Former Millfield player and Wales legend Gareth Edwards poses with the school's current side at this year's Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens. © HSBC
Wales legend Gareth Edwards has endorsed the belief that the current team is the best Welsh side since the golden era of the 1970s - and they are more than capable of winning the next Rugby World Cup.
Edwards, who was the fulcrum of the Wales side that won three Grand Slams in the 1970s, was delighted to see Wales seal their third Grand Slam in eight years against France at the Millennium Stadium less than two weeks ago.
Wales showed huge composure and mental strength to secure narrow wins over Ireland, England and France as well as playing some terrific attacking rugby with young stars such as George North, Alex Cuthbert, Toby Faletau and Leigh Halfpenny at the fore. And Edwards believes there are no limits on how far Warren Gatland's team can go.
"It is hard to say when you compare different eras. But I would say there is something about this team that stands out," Edwards told ESPNscrum. "They don't seem to be flustered; they seem to be getting on with the job. They are a great bunch of lads with their feet very much on the ground and get on with the job in hand.
"The side that won the 2005 Grand Slam was based more on individual players who were capable of winning matches with a bit of individual brilliance. These guys are capable of doing that but they seem much more like a team from front to back, from 15 to 1, and indeed the strength of the squad. Whenever players took to the field as late substitutions it didn't seem to affect the team. So without question they look the best side we have produced in many a many long year."
As for comparisons with the great sides of the '70s, Edwards insists in terms of success the current team are equals. "You can compare them in what they have achieved," he said. "They have achieved what we achieved. The game is so much more physical and there's a different way of playing it now which makes it hard to compare. But as far as achievement is concerned, they have achieved it."
Edwards added: "They have proven that they can stand the pressure. We knew that they were a good side, no question, but they were young. You can't say they are inexperienced anymore because they play so many games but they certainly young in age so really it was great to see. There is so much ahead of them now. They have a particularly talented group of young players and the world is their oyster. What they can achieve is really up to them.
"In the interim it is about beating the southern hemisphere teams on a more regular basis, or for some of them beating them. Those are the real tests which you can be measured by. What does the future hold for them? They can go to the very top. The experience of expectation of the Grand Slam will stand them in good stead for whatever comes next year."
Wales are set to be without Gatland for the next year with the New Zealander ready to lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour to Australia in 2013. However, Edwards - who "can live with" the prospect of a Kiwi coaching the Lions - is confident Wales have the structures and personalities embedded to remain on course in Gatland's absence.
"There's no doubt Warren Gatland has been a great factor in this last few years. It was his second Grand Slam, which speaks for itself," Edwards said. "I'm sure he [Gatland] will not be lost completely from the Welsh set-up. What they have is a very good team of coaches in [Rob] Howley and [Shaun] Edwards and so on. I don't see any reason why it should have an adverse effect on the Welsh set up."
As a player, Edwards credits sevens with developing his game at a young age and was at the Rosslyn Park HSBC Schools Sevens this week - 46 years after winning it with Millfield in 1966.
"It was such a wonderful occasion and such a great competition," he said. "The fact that it is thriving and still as popular as it ever was really is credit to the organisers, sponsors and competitors. It played a major role my development as a player. The wonderful thing about sevens is that it allows the freedom to show your ability. It is the most exciting aspect of rugby and always gives you drama, great sport and a wonderful day out.
"I had the most wonderful experiences that I had as a school boy and indeed it still lives with me today, of playing with your mates in a major schools competition and to win it you have be better than lucky."
Gareth Edwards was a guest of HSBC at the world's largest schools sevens tournament. For more information www.rpns7.co.uk
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