Former Wales captain Sam Warburton is confident that the only roadblock to World Cup success for Wales is the All Blacks after they secured a third Grand Slam under coach Warren Gatland over the weekend.
“If somebody else beat New Zealand and knocked them out of the tournament, as a Welsh fan you would be thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is on’,” Warburton wrote for the Sunday Times.
The retired flanker is not worried about any of the northern neighbours after Gatland’s side thumped Ireland 25-7 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
“Basically New Zealand are the only team I would really worry about Wales playing. If it was anyone else at the moment I would back Wales.”
While Eddie Jones laments the mental lapses of his England side, Warburton believes the mental make-up of the whole nation has changed under Gatland.
“He has simply changed the psychology of the nation. He took over a nation of underachievers and now we expect to win the Six Nations every year. His first impact was on the players, obviously, but that has found its way all the way down to the fans.”
With the 2019 Grand Slam, Wales surpassed Ireland as the world’s number two side and ended a six-year Six Nations title-drought as England (2) and Ireland (3) shared every title since Wales last won in 2013.
“Wales have been too good over the last five or six years not to have won a title. I’m so, so happy for all the players involved. For Warren, all the coaching staff,” Warburton told BBC One following the game.
“There’s been some ups and downs over the past five or six years but after the performance today to win 25-7 against the second-ranked team in the world, Ireland, is a phenomenal effort. A phenomenal effort. I’m so pleased for everyone involved.”