• February 9, 2023

Six Nations 2021: Wales face France in Paris for Grand Slam in unfamiliar circumstances

Wales claimed a 22nd Triple Crown against England in February 2021

How to follow on Saturday: See live coverage and highlights on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, Connected TVs and online. Listen to BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and BBC Sounds; Text coverage on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Wales rugby fans are ready for another potential Grand Slam Saturday – but it’s going to be a day like no other.

Scotland’s hosts Italy and England travel to Dublin as the Six Nations starter for the main course in Paris. Only France and undefeated Wales can still win the tournament.

A win would win Wales’ fifth Grand Slam of the six-nation era.

But because of Covid-19, this would be the first time without fans at the game or in pubs and rugby clubs across Wales.

Whether the events on “Super Saturday” will be resolved remains to be seen, as Scotland still has to travel to Paris on March 26th, six days after the tournament is expected to end.

The original February game was canceled due to Covid-19 cases at Camp France, which may have spoiled the concept of everything being completed on the last day.

Wales draw and they are crowned champions, while there is a scenario where they could lose but still claim the title if they get a bonus point and France doesn’t. After that it could get complicated and go to the final.

What is not in doubt is that Wayne Pivac’s men can remove all uncertainty by triumphing in Paris and winning a 13th Grand Slam to hit England’s record.

A graphic reading: Saturday 20th March.  Scotland v Italy 13: 45-16: 30 BBC One & 5 Live Sports Extra.  Ireland v England 16: 45-18: 45 BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Radio Ulster.  France v Wales 19: 15-22: 25 BBC One, Radio 5 Live & Radio WalesThe times given for Scotland v Italy and France v Wales will apply to the start of BBC One coverage. The radio broadcast begins shortly before kick-off (2:15 p.m. or 8:00 p.m.).

Great plans

There was something special about the Six Nations Final in Wales. After all, Cardiff has had a lot of experience in hosting this crucial day over the past few years. Wales has won more Six Nations Grand Slams than anyone else.

The pubs were usually full and the streets full of fans celebrating the success of their rugby heroes.

Few will forget the magical sun-drenched March day in 2005 when hundreds of thousands of people crowded Cardiff.

There were followers climbing trees in front of City Hall for a look at the game on a big screen as the nation went mad to mark the end of a 27 year wait for a Grand Slam.

Not on this occasion. No gathering at the Principality Stadium, on the city streets or in rugby clubs across Wales.

No hugging random strangers in red, no singing the plethora of Welsh rugby anthems, no shoes stuck to the floor of packed pubs.

Instead, with the prospect of a fifth Grand Slam win in 16 years for this spectacular Six Nations spectacle, fans will be confined to their living rooms across the country in the sofa rather than the stadium.

It’s been 50 years since Wales last made a clean run from Cardiff when all-time greats Barry John, Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams helped the 1971 class beat France in Paris.

Since those exciting times, the Grand Slam Mardi Gras days have all been home, with six hits in the Welsh capital from 1976 to 2019.

Four of those wins came against France, with two wins against Ireland in 2005 and 2019, and they made legends of favorites like Edwards, Phil Bennett, Gethin Jenkins, Gavin Henson, Shane Williams, Martyn Williams and Alun Wyn Jones.

Today the streets in towns and villages in Wales will be largely calm as Pivac’s team will have to travel to Paris to reach the Grand Slam goal.

You’ll have to complete the feat in the intimidating Stade de France stadium, albeit without the 81,000 French spectators. The arena will only be populated by players, back room teams, stewards, and a handful of media.

The last six Grand Slam wins in Wales have been completed at home as Alun Wyn Jones looks to take his fourth six-nation win

Wales captain Jones says players will think of the country as they sing the anthems.

“You won’t lose it, there will be a slight difference in whether it’s gone,” said Jones.

“As an individual, I and the team didn’t have to be reminded of what everyone was seeing and what we were representing.”

Wayne’s world

It’s also a Grand Slam day few expected after a disappointing 2020 when Wales finished fifth in the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cups, winning just three out of ten games.

Pivac found it difficult to replace New Zealander Warren Gatland, who had overseen three Grand Slam wins and two World Cup semi-finals.

Difficult calls were made. Pivac split from his defense coach and longtime ally Byron Hayward last November, with Gethin Jenkins taking power.

He dropped George North in the fall campaign and then put it back in the crease and switched it from the wing to the center.

Six nations: We are lucky that 14 team members have won a Grand Slam – Wales boss Pivac

In that tournament, North exceeded 100 caps in Wales and is now part of the country’s most experienced team in history, led by world record holder Alun Wyn Jones.

The coach also bled young players like Kieran Hardy, Louis Rees-Zammit, Callum Sheedy and James Botham who starred in that six nations campaign.

Pivac will also admit that Wales were very lucky to label it a “Jam Slam” and question the quality of their campaign.

The first two wins against Ireland and Scotland were against 14 men, with Peter O’Mahony and Zander Fagerson sent off, while two controversial attempts were awarded against England.

The lucky argument doesn’t acknowledge the 17 tries scored in four games or a record 40 points accumulated against Eddie Jones’ 2020 champions.

The success of the Wales 2021 Six Nations to date has been built on firmer foundations with solid standards, clinical finish and outstanding discipline. And they have a remarkable record in the last Grand Slam showdowns.

The stars continued to focus on Wales as England managed to do them a favor by defeating France, leaving Pivac’s side the only team to complete the clean sweep.

Despite all the doubters and critics, a six-nation grand slam is still wildly celebrated when events develop in Paris in favor of Wales. Just maybe not in the traditional way like in previous years.

England have the most Grand Slams in the tournament's history at 13, one more than WalesEngland have the most Grand Slams in the tournament’s history at 13, one more than Wales, but Wales have won the most since the Six Nations started in 2000, with the youngest of the four coming in 2019

Jack

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