Six Nations 2021: Wales' 2020 pain inspiring Grand Slam charge – Pivac

By Sports Desk March 13, 2021

Wayne Pivac says Wales have used the "pain" of their results in 2020 to inspire them on to being on the brink of a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Wales thrashed Italy 48-7 on Saturday to make it four wins from four in this Six Nations campaign, and they face France next week looking to complete a clean sweep.

It represents a huge turnaround in fortunes for Wales boss Pivac, who struggled in his first year with the team after replacing Warren Gatland.

"It's chalk and cheese," Pivac told reporters when asked to compare Wales' form from last year with their recent upturn.

"We know the pain we went through in the autumn with the results. But we're seeing the players coming through from the autumn now and doing well.

"We’re pleased to be four from four and able to talk about the opportunity of a Grand Slam."

Along with Wales, France have been the standout performers so far in the tournament, and Pivac is anticipating a stern test, albeit one which may be helped by a lack of fans in Paris.

"We'll review the performance and we know we'll be in for a massive game," he added.

"We've been on the receiving end of the result both times against France. No fans neutralises it a bit.

"We've been to Paris in the autumn so that's a good thing. If you asked the side if we'd take four from four and travelling to France for the Grand Slam, I think you'd know the answer."

Wales' victory was their 16th successive win against Italy, which marks their longest such run against any opponent in Test rugby.

Pivac's side had a bonus point wrapped up by half-time, though captain Alun Wyn Jones saw room for improvement.

"We were pretty clinical, particularly in the first half. We're a tad frustrated with the second half but it's a case of job done and plenty to work on," he told SC4.

"The excitement I feel every time I pull on this red jersey is insurmountable, so I'm looking forward to getting back to it on Monday and preparing for next weekend."

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    Bernard Le Roux had to make 11 changes to his 42-man squad, with World Rugby Player of the Year Dupont, fly-half Ntamack and Bernard Le Roux among those who were unable to report for international duty.

    Galthie on Wednesday revealed the absentees due to COVID-19 are recovering well ahead of his side's opening game of the tournament against Italy at Stade de France a week on Sunday.

    The France head coach said: "We keep in touch with all the players from afar, of course.

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    Mercurial scrum-half Dupont has not played since December 11 due to a knee injury and coronavirus.

    Galthie says the playmaker could return for Toulouse in their Top 14 encounter with Racing 92 on Saturday.

    "I have spoken to him: he is doing well. He resumed training two weeks ago," said Galthie 

    "He wanted to play against Cardiff but the match did not go ahead. Then of course he tested positive for COVID. But he is fine, and is still training. Today he had a test at his club and depending on the results he will play or not for Toulouse this weekend.

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    "We are very happy to hear all those positive comments. It's very rewarding, it's rewarding for our two-year work, it's rewarding for all the commitment of the players, the virtues of the team and their dedication on the pitch."

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    Farrell has not played since another ankle injury sustained during the November Test victory over Australia at Twickenham.

    The news is a significant blow to Jones' plans, with Farrell having been earmarked to play at number 12 and act as a guide for inexperienced fly-half Marcus Smith.

    "Owen has had his operation, so he'll be out of the Six Nations," Jones said.

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    George Ford had already been recalled to the squad following injuries to Farrell and Jonny May, who has a knee problem.

    England's preparations for the clash in Glasgow were further disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test for Joe Marler, while Courtney Lawes – among the favourites to deputise for Farrell as captain – has been sitting out training because of head injury protocols.

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    England begin their campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5 before facing Italy in Rome a week later.

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