Can Wales Make History?
Defending champions Wales have a chance to do what no side has ever done by winning the Six Nations for the third time in a row in 2014.
The sport in the principality may be in the midst of a bitter civil war between the Welsh Rugby Union and the four professional regions over the future of the club game and the likes of star full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who this week signed for Toulon, joining a player exodus to France.
But those worries, as well as the ongoing row over the future of the club game’s European Cup and the ability of the northern hemisphere’s finest to compete against the southern ‘big three’, are far from the forefront of Wales coach Warren Gatland’s mind
“We’ve got an opportunity to create history,” he said.
“Having won the last two years there is a chance, particularly with three home games,” added the New Zealander, who guided the British and Irish Lions to a series win in Australia last year.
“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.”
Injuries though remain a concern with captain Sam Warburton (shoulder) and under-rated centre Jonathan Davies (pectoral muscle) both struggling for fitness.
But it’s a familiar situation for Gatland whose side, as well as trying to go for a treble that proved beyond even the reach of the brilliant Wales team of the 1970s, will also be trying to upset the pattern of France winning the Six Nations that follows a Lions tour.
“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,” said Gatland.
“We are aware of that history as well.”