Six Nations 2012: Gatland plays down Welsh Grand Slam comparisons
Wales head coach Warren Gatland believes his squad must beat the Tri-Nations giants regularly to earn the tag of a great side
Wales boss Warren Gatland refused to be drawn on comparisons between his 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam winning side and the great Welsh sides of the 1970s.
The 16-9 Six Nations defeat of France secured Wales their third Grand Slam in eight years and their second under Gatland.
But the Kiwi, who is favourite to be appointed as Lions coach next summer, says it is unfair to contrast the amateur and professional era.
And Gatland maintains that until his side learn how to beat the Tri-Nations giants on a regular basis, the tag of greats will elude them.
“It’s different time, different eras, professionalism versus the amateur era,” said Gatland.
“It’s hard. It would be interesting to see the teams of the 70s if they were playing South Africa, Australia and New Zealand every year.
“We are not at that level yet, but our big aim is to be consistent in beating the southern hemisphere sides and we have a young enough side that over the next few years hopefully we can do that.
“We have been down in games during this tournament and we have learnt how to win ugly and in the past that may not have happened.”
Encouragingly for Wales, the foundation for the clean sweep was based on a spine of young players who are likely to improve in future years – there was not a player over 30 who started at the Millennium Stadium outside the front row.
But what pleased Gatland the most was the manner in which Wales dealt with the expectation of a nation and conducted themselves on and off the pitch.
“We have accepted the tag of favourites which has not always sat well on our shoulders,” he said. “For a young side they have coped incredibly well and I think it can be good for us as a team over the next two or three years.
“These guys have been a real credit to themselves, Wales and Welsh rugby in how they have prepared themselves.
“They are excellent professionals and they make our job as coaches easy as they do more than what we expect and what is required, and when you have players doing that and looking after themselves and doing all the extras it goes a long way to making us coaches look good.”