Six Nations: Scrum V Classics - Ireland v Wales 1978

By Ross HarriesScrum V presenter

Ireland 16 Wales 20

The Welsh generation of the late 1970s was the most golden of all. A team bursting with world-class players, several of whom remain household names.

To the fan, this was a team at the top of their game - a side on the verge of history. Victory over Ireland in the 1978 Five Nations Championship would secure Wales their third consecutive triple crown. An unprecedented "triple-triple crown".

But beneath the surface, cracks were beginning to appear. A number of the side's talismen were contemplating their futures. For three of them, the 1978 tournament would be the last time they would don the famous red jersey.

Gareth. Gerald. Benny. Three legends who had been pulling the strings for Wales for more than a decade. But they were beginning to feel the strain. Their tanks were running on empty, and in the case of captain Phil Bennett, his passion for the game had been all but snuffed out.

But none of this internal anguish was betrayed on the pitch. The match against Ireland was a brutal affair - players who had recently bonded on the Lions tour put sentiment aside, as they smashed into each other with frightening ferocity.

It was a close and physical encounter, but one that was ultimately decided by JJ Williams' dash to the line. The try proved the difference between the sides, and Wales entered the history books.

But, as former Wales captain Phil Bennett reveals, there was no jubilation in the dressing room afterwards. Just a pile of battered, exhausted bodies and a palpable sense of sadness.

"I opened the door expecting jubilation and champagne flowing, but there wasn't a murmur," Bennett said.

Perhaps they all knew what was to come. A fortnight later, Wales secured the Grand Slam, beating France in Cardiff. But Benny, Gareth, and Gerald had all played their last game for Wales. The golden generation was breaking apart. The Arms Park faithful would have to wait nearly three decades for another Grand Slam.

On Sunday, Wales open their 2012 campaign against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Given recent history between the sides, both sets of fans are anticipating another titanic tussle. Let battle commence!

See highlights, introduced by Phil Bennett on Thursday 2 February, BBC Two Wales, 1930 GMT

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