WALES were presented with the Six Nations trophy today in a celebration that took place behind closed doors after they were crowned champions for the second time in three years.
Denied a Grand Slam in agonising fashion when France beat them at the death last week, Wayne Pivac’s men were still crowned the northern hemisphere’s finest team.
Wales finished four points clear of Les Bleus following their defeat to Scotland in another epic encounter in Paris last night.
This season’s Six Nations has been heralded as the finest in the competition’s 21-year history, featuring several memorable, controversial and nail-biting classics.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones lifted the trophy at Wales’ training HQ at the Vale Resort’s National Centre of Excellence.
Head coach Pivac admitted Wales had been on an “emotional rollercoaster” before being crowned Europe’s best international side.
He also recounted a “sickening feeling” of seeing his side’s Grand Slam hopes being ended by France in the dying seconds of that pulsating Paris encounter.
It meant Les Bleus had a chance of denying Wales the title yesterday, but Wales’ sixth Six Nations championship success was confirmed after Scotland defied the odds and beat France.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster the last seven days,” Pivac said.
“We put in by far our best performance against the French, and I thought we had done enough midway through the second-half to have won that game, but it wasn’t to be.
“To lose it in the last play of the game was devastating. The boys really wanted that Grand Slam, so we had the lows of not achieving that.
“Then we didn’t know if it was good enough to win the championship. Waiting (almost) seven days for that match and then having to go through that match with so many moments that kept us on our toes.
“The last week, it probably took me until Wednesday or Thursday to really want to come out of the house, purely from the point of view that it was a sickening feeling for the players who had worked so hard.
“We desperately wanted that Grand Slam for so many reasons for the hard the work that went in, the style of rugby we played, and to win that way would have been fantastic, but we really wanted to do it for the people of Wales.
“They have had to put up with a lot in the last 12 months and we’ve all had to live through this thing (coronavirus pandemic). It was really hard to take, I have got to say, but the sun does come up in the morning, as people say.”
Wales are now just one behind England in terms of overall Six Nations title triumphs and their latest success came after a poor 2020 when they won just three Test matches – beating Italy, twice, and Georgia.
It was Pivac’s first year at the helm since succeeding Warren Gatland, and Six Nations silverware underlines how impressively things have been turned around.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team. We are very much a team,” Pivac added.
“The (Welsh Rugby Union) board have been very supportive. We laid out a plan to the (2023) Rugby World Cup at the start of this tenure, and we’ve stuck to that, and I have been regularly updating my board.
“I know the rugby public hurt when we don’t win a Test match, just like how we hurt. That is expected, it goes with the territory. But moments like this make up for the bad times.
“We are not the finished product. We will keep on improving and fine-tuning. We are measuring up quite nicely but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.
“Everybody knows their rugby history in Wales. Young rugby players grow up dreaming about pulling the jersey on, and when they do, it means so much to them.
“We understand that we are just custodians for the jersey for a period of time, so we want to do the best by it and make a nation proud.
“It’s a privileged position to be in, where you represent a country where your sport is the number one sport.
“It is not lost on this group of players. I was privileged to be in and around them in this competition. Hopefully, we can have many more tournaments like it.”