NORTH Wales rugby figures predict Saturday will be a Grand occasion in Cardiff.
Warren Gatland’s exciting Wales team are aiming to emulate the legendary Welsh side of the 1970s by claiming a third Grand Slam in the space of seven years.
Victory in the final RBS Six Nations match of the season against Philippe Saint-Andre’s France on Saturday will see Wales match their achievements of 2005 and 2008.
Grand Slam fever is sweeping the nation and Ruthin scrum half Rhys Hughes believes that Wales have got enough in the locker to secure the Grand Slam, but he admits it will be a tough encounter.
“The only worry is that France turn up and throw the ball around, which is possibly them at their best,” he said.
“With the bitter taste of the World Cup defeat, present confidence and a full Millennium Stadium, I see us beating the French.
“My only concern is at fly half.
“Rhys Priestland seems to have lost his World Cup form and is making too many wrong decisions.
“I think he'll start, but Gatland may make a change if he's having a shocker.”
Bala chairman Tony Parry is anticipating a close encounter on Saturday, but he doesn’t think this Welsh team is gaining the plaudits it deserves.
“You know, it’s a pity as I was looking at The Sun yesterday.
“They had 10 lines about Wales and a full page about England.
“If they (England) were winning the Grand Slam, it would be all over Sky Sports.”
Parry added: “I’m looking forward to this Saturday now and it’s going to be another tough game.
“I expect them (France) to come out with all guns blazing.
“They will be disappointed in the way they played against England.”
Parry believes that Wales’ controversial World Cup defeat to France back in the autumn may also act as a spur for their Grand Slam aspirations.
“I think it will be in Gatland’s warm-up speech,” he added.
“But he won’t put it out in front of the media.
“We know they play to a plan and they have got to remember what their jobs are on the field.
“It’s going to be close.
“I think we can win this one and I think it will be 20-13 this time.
“One bonus is that France have got one less day to prepare, but they’re professional rugby players.
“Both sides will be going for it and we will see what game plan Gatland’s come up with.”
Former Dinbych and Denbighshire / Flintshire Bulls coach Tegid Phillips, who will be at the game, thinks a top-notch display is just as important as securing the Grand Slam.
“I’m expecting the best,” admitted Phillips, who is predicting a 26-14 victory for Wales.
“But, from a puritan’s perspective, I’m looking for a really good performance. Obviously, to get a Grand Slam will be brilliant, but to show the world we’re by far the best team here in Europe, that will be an achievement.
“It will be important for us to make the southern hemisphere teams sit up and take notice.
“It could be said our best performance was in the first game of the season against Ireland.
“We had some very good patches against Scotland, and to a lesser extent against England and Italy.
“But I think we have deserved to win all of the games.”
Ruthin Rugby Club coach Jim Salisbury said: “Obviously, the confidence is flowing through the squad.
“It’s just nice to get players back like Luke Charteris and Matthew Rees. France are a bit of a wounded animal and they haven’t been playing that great.
“With France not having to play for anything, it might be dangerous.
“It’s going to be very, very close.”
Salisbury doesn’t think the Welsh Cup semi-final loss at the hands of the French will be a factor and he added: “The Welsh team are very professional and they take each game as it comes.
“I think the Six Nations championship is in the bag and it’s just a case of going for the Grand Slam.
“I’m confident, because they are all in form.
“We don’t know what French team will turn up.”
Salisbury is predicting that Wales will claim the Grand Slam on the back of an 18-9 victory.
“Whether they will be all kicks, or there will be a try in it for Wales, I don’t know. I think discipline will be a major factor and hopefully we can finish the game with all 15 players.”