The Resurrection Men
Wales' Grand Slam 2008
by Paul Rees
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Wales were written off as no-hopers at the start of the 2008 Six Nations. They had failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals the previous October and had reacted by appointing their 13th coach in 19 years, New Zealander Warren Gatland.
On the opening weekend, success appeared unlikely when they trailed World Cup finalists England at Twickenham by ten points at half-time. Their second-half comeback, to earn their first victory at the ground for 20 years, set them on their way, and there was no looking back. In a blistering campaign, they set a new Six Nations record by conceding just two tries in their five matches.
The Resurrection Men looks back over the glorious 2008 tournament but also examines the reasons why the foundations laid by Gatland look more secure than those established by Mike Ruddock before his controversial departure from the role less than a year after the side's last Grand Slam triumph in 2005.
Wales imploded after Ruddock left, winning only one match in each of the 2006 and 2007 campaigns. His successor Gareth Jenkins asked to be judged on the team's performance in the World Cup. And he was, sacked hours after the defeat to Fiji which meant that, for the third time in five tournaments, Wales failed to make the knock-out stage.
Little more than a week later, Welsh Rugby Union officials boarded a plane to New Zealand to meet Gatland and other candidates for head coach. Just two minutes into the meeting, they were ready to offer him the job. He promised them that if Wales won at Twickenham on the opening weekend, the slam would be on. They did and it was.
- Mainstream Publishing, April 2011
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