France v Wales: Six Nations Grand Slam foundations laid in 2020, says Jonathan Humphreys

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
Six Nations: We're going up against one of the best teams in the world - Humphreys
Six Nations 2021: France v Wales
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 20 March Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, 5 Live, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app, S4C
Highlights: Scrum V, Sunday, BBC Two Wales, 21 March, from 19:00 GMT and later on demand

Wales forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys says foundations for their Grand Slam bid were laid in a disappointing 2020.

Wales won three out of 10 games in Wayne Pivac's first year in charge, but now travel to France just one game away from a Six Nations clean sweep.

Humphreys says Wales tried to highlight development was crucial in the autumn, but people would not accept that.

"We kept on saying all the way through the autumn what it was, but nobody wanted to listen," he said.

"We took the Autumn Nations Cup to be something else and said that. We couldn't have shouted it any louder, this is about building depth.

"The pressure is trying to do well in the tournament. Everything else that goes on outside is irrelevant really. We can't control that."

Wales also confirmed scrum-half Tomos Williams is fit again after a hamstring injury.

Wales finished fifth in the 2020 Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup competitions, but have transformed their form in the 2021 Six Nations with four victories, including a Triple Crown success.

"This tournament was always about winning," said Humphreys.

"We had belief coming into the Six Nations if we pick our best team available, we would be very competitive.

Wales coaches celebrate with the Triple Crown after victory over England
Wales coaches celebrate with the Triple Crown after victory over England

"On top of that, the people who had that experience of playing in the autumn have been invaluable for us and allowed us to create momentum."

Pivac and Humphreys are experiencing a Grand Slam week for the first time, but players and coaches in the set-up have been through the process before, including captain Alun Wyn Jones.

"It's huge, 25 of this squad who have won big in this tournament," said Humphreys.

"You are led by that, you are led by Al, who sets the tone very very well about this.

"There is nobody who has been through this more than he has. The characters are massive, they have been huge in terms of what they've brought to the group and experiences they've had.

"There's four or five characters in this group who are massive in driving the standards and the belief.

"When you have a team meeting and one of those stands up and says something you listen, based on the fact that they've been there, done it and experienced all that stuff. That's worth its weight in gold."

Clean bill of health

Humphreys has reported a clean bill of health with Cardiff Blues scrum-half Williams back in contention after damaging his hamstring in the opening victory over Ireland.

Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams
Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams has recovered from injury and will battle it out with Gareth Davies and Lloyd Williams for a starting spot against France

Ospreys lock Adam Beard is also back in contention after being rested for the 48-7 win over Italy, with Cory Hill starting in Rome.

"It's about how you want to start the game and how you want to finish it," said Humphreys.

"Both of those (Beard and Hill) have been excellent the way they've run our line-out.

"They both have certain strengths that fit. It's how you want to start the game sometimes, and how you want to finish it, and we are lucky we have that balance."

The line-out has proved one of the success stories after improving dramatically.

"In the autumn, we had four different callers, three different hookers," said Humphreys

"It was a process we wanted to go through to get to where we needed to be. Our line-out is ok, but we are still trying to get better."

France are the only other team with a chance of winning the tournament, a side Wales lost to twice in 2020.

"France are an extremely physical team, the most physical team and biggest pack we are going to play against, they are bigger than South Africa," said Humphreys.

"Collisions are going to be massive in this game. To get what we want out of this, we are going to have to be clinical, at our best and improve on anything we have done so far in this tournament."

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