New Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is refusing to let his side think about defending their Guinness Six Nations title – he wants them to go out there and just win it.
Pivac, who took over hotseat from Warren Gatland after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, heads into his new role with the weight of the country’s expectation on his shoulders with Wales the reigning Grand Slam champions after they seized their first title since 2013 in style last year with a dominant 25-7 win over Ireland in Cardiff.
Wales fixtures for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations
Round 1: Wales v Italy, 14:15, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, live on BBC and S4C
Round 2: Ireland v Wales, 14:15, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, live on ITV and S4C
Round 3: Wales v France, 16:45, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, live on BBC and S4C
Round 4: England v Wales, 16:45, Twickenham Stadium, live on ITV and S4C
Round 5: Wales v Scotland, 14:15, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, live on BBC and S4C
But Wales, who had Pivac and captain Alun Wyn Jones present at Tobacco Dock in east London on Wednesday for the official launch of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, have only retained their title once in the three opportunities they’ve had since Five Nations became Six a full 20 years ago – a stat which reiterates the difficulty of the feat.
And so when Pivac sees his players take to the field at Principality Stadium to face Italy next Saturday, he is urging them to put memories of 2019 behind them and focus on winning anew.
“We don’t see ourselves as defending the Six Nations,” he said. “We’ve got to go out there and win it.
“People say we’re coming in to defend the trophy, but we have a new management group and a set of new players.
“Yes, there are some players who have won, but we’re no different from any other side. We want to go out there and try and be like any other team and try to win it this year.
“For any team to win this competition you have to play well. We’re quietly confident we have a good group of players together.”
The 2020 Guinness Six Nations will be Pivac’s first campaign, following Gatland’s 12-year reign – the most successful in Welsh history.
Some new faces at our #GuinnessSixNations Launch today!
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 22, 2020
But having led Scarlets to a league title in 2017, Pivac is no stranger to the meaning of rugby in Wales and is determined to put on an impressive international show.
“Five years in Wales has been fantastic to understand the culture and what rugby means to the nation,” added Pivac.
“It’s very similar to New Zealand where it’s the number one sport. We understand the role we play within the community.
“It can change the vibe of the nation overnight. With a good result, productivity goes through the roof.
“It was evident at Scarlets and obviously, everything goes up tenfold from a national point of view. We want to put on a strong performance in front of our own fans.”
If anyone knows the impact of a Wales win, it’s captain Jones.
The lock, a mainstay of the Wales national side since 2006 and a member of the team that completed the Grand Slam in 2008, will continue to wear the captain’s armband in the new Pivac era – an honour and a feeling which he claims never gets old.
“History tells us it’s a tough one in terms of winning a competition and backing it up. There is a challenge with us,” said Jones.
“Obviously sponsors have come and gone and you see players who have gone through the jerseys but the competitiveness grows year on year and as a spectacle it grows too. It’s no different this year.
“You get Christmas and there’s only one thing better than Christmas and that’s the Six Nations.”