(Main) Two of Mike Ruddock's praised heroes, Tom Shanklin and Rhys Williams, flank proud Wales and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs with the Six Nations trophy (Thumb) Mike Ruddock celebrates a job well done
With Sir Clive Woodward starting to make the final changes to his forty-four man squad for the summer tour to New Zealand, Ruddock says all his players deserve to go to after arguably the most successful two months in Welsh rugby history. "You'll see ten plus Welsh players go on the Lions tour," Ruddock predicted. "Actually, ten is an absolute minimum, and I'd like to think a lot more than that will make it." Two years ago, Wales were holding the RBS Six Nations wooden spoon, now they have to build a new trophy cabinet. Ruddock and his men secured the Grand Slam for the first time since 1978, the Championship trophy for the first time since 1994 and the Triple Crown for the first time since 1988. Ruddock revealed that a pre-Championship newspaper report that said no Welsh player would make the Lions Test team was used to inspire his men. "We pinned that up on the wall, I think it helped the guys to focus!" he continued. "This is just the beginning, though. We ambushed a few teams this year because we had been written off as no-hopers, but they'll be ready for us next time. Everyone wants to beat us now - and that's a challenge this team has to adapt to. "We want to get this team peaking for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, that's the one everyone wants to win. There will be a lot of work going into the team before then." Ruddock said he was excited about Wales's Autumn International itinerary, with the prospect of playing all three Tri-Nations sides one week after the other.
"That's going to be a real test for us," he said. "There's a great team spirit here and hopefully a lot of the guys will be coming back from the Lions tour with so much more experience and knowledge."
Among the Welsh certainties for the Lions tour is loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins, who capped a superb RBS Six Nations with a match-breaking try against Ireland on Saturday. Wales's new prop idol says his early days as a youth footballer came in handy as he scored the crucial first half try.
Jenkins charged down Ronan O'Gara's clearing kick and toed the ball ahead before diving on it as the Millennium Stadium erupted.
"I got a lucky bounce," said Jenkins, who once played youth football against Wales and West Brom star Robert Earnshaw, who chimed in with a hat trick against Charlton on Saturday.
"I'd been watching O'Gara and guessed he was going to kick, and I just timed it right. The ball started getting away from me and I could feel someone breathing down my neck, but I managed to get there in time."
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.