In March 2005 Wales stood on the verge of its first Grand Slam for a generation. Taking the title with a thrilling win against Ireland, the nation celebrated, thousands bathing in the spring sunshine and long-awaited rugby glory.
Seven years later, the excitement is no less, but the expectation is, perhaps, even greater. A sprinkling of the team who’ll take to the field on Saturday were there in 2005, more still were involved in 2008 when Wales last took home the Grand Slam. But this is a Wales side full of fresh, young talent, unlucky not to make the Final of the World Cup last year, and they and the country as a whole have high hopes that a Six Nations clean sweep this weekend could herald great things for the squad in the future.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the team we face on Saturday. It must be karma that Sam Warburton returns to fitness to captain Wales against France after THAT tackle which certainly ended his - and arguably Wales’ - whole World Cup campaign. Still if you ask the captain, and indeed the rest of the team, New Zealand last October when France scraped a 9-8 win against 14-man Wales, is the last thing on their mind.
Not that they’re playing down the significance of tomorrow’s match though. “The most important game of my career” is how Warburton described it. It’s certainly generating plenty of rugby fever across the country. A big screen is planned in Coopers Field in Cardiff, with over a quarter of a million people expected to head to the capital this weekend, let alone the thousands who will be watching in front rooms and pubs across the country. And, no pressure on the Wales team, but that is a lot of people to disappoint.
A choir from Llangollen is preparing to perform at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow. They will sing Bread of Heaven before Wales take on France for the Grand Slam.