In 11 happy years, Warren Gatland has steered Wales to two Grand Slams, seven wins against England and now a record-breaking 12 Test victories in a row.
But perhaps his greatest success is on the horizon as Wales chase a third title of his reign. With three wins from three, including that memorable victory against England, the signs are good – and at the heart of that are two No.10s – different in style but as equally dangerous.
Against England on Saturday, Gareth Anscombe and Dan Biggar worked in perfect harmony to soften up and then break down an England defence that both Ireland and France struggled to lay a glove on.
Biggar, so used to the No.10 jersey since he emerged as their first-choice fly-half during the 2013 Championship, is one of the finest fly-halves in the world.
Strong in the tackle, deadly off the tee and vocal in organisation, he is as much an on-field leader as his Lions contemporaries Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell.
But Anscombe’s emergence to rival him for the shirt has created a fascinating decision for Gatland. As Saturday proved so far he has got it right.
ANSCOMBE SOFTENS THEM UP
Anscombe, a classy operator with the ability to unlock even the tightest defence, is the epitome of the new-look Wales.
‘Warrenball’ is long gone, even if the intensity and never-say-die spirit remains, and Anscombe is one of the key players in a side which looks to go wide and create space with brain rather than punch holes through brawn.
Against England, he provided plenty of variety, mixing it up between kicking long and passing short – especially in the second half when they needed to come up with a way of getting through England defence.
“It is always harder starting games and Gareth has done a good job in keeping us in games. We have always been leading or just one score behind when I have come on,” Biggar said.
Against England, Anscombe did just that. England started quickly and struck through Tom Curry’s first-half try but after the break he played a key role in keeping possession and territory.
England struggled to get it back as Anscombe controlled proceedings and that led to pressure and, ultimately, points – with Wales kicking two penalties to reduce the gap from 10-3 to 10-9.
“I’m confident he’ll thrive. The bigger the occasion the better he plays,” said Wales flanker Martyn Williams on the eve of the game.
“Dan Biggar has been brilliant. He was integral to making the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2015 and when they won the Championship in 2013.
“But he does not get the backline going in an attacking sense.”
Biggar would argue otherwise, and his introduction on Saturday would certainly back that up. It is noteworthy however that the game in Cardiff showed the two playing against type with Anscombe providing the steady hand on the tiller and Biggar then coming off the bench to inject a spark.
Anscombe departed with Wales building momentum and Biggar charged on, full of intent and attitude in the 61st minute with Wales down by just one.
The crowd, sensing England’s confidence decreasing, grew louder and Biggar took full advantage. He helped orchestrate a superb 35-phase move that resulted in Cory Hill’s game-changing try, eventually feeding the inside pass to Hill – who powered over.
And then, with England on the rack, Wales hit top gear and Biggar delivered the sucker-punch with a superb cross-field kick for Josh Adams to leap, catch and dot down.
It was the perfect one-two punch. Anscombe, cool, calm and collected, starting the match before Biggar’s thunder at the end.
“We are in a good spot,” said Biggar.
“Gareth is working the team around well in those early stages and it is great testament to him.
“It can be easier coming off the bench sometimes when you have time to see things unfold.
“When you’re watching it from the bench you do get a bit agitated as time goes on. But those moments are what I enjoy in the game, to come on and try to contribute to the team. That makes it all worthwhile.
“It would be nice to come when we’re 24-10 up or something like that! But I enjoy those situations. That’s what you are in the game for. We knew it was going to be tight, probably just a one score game.”
Next up for Wales is a trip to Edinburgh and BT Murrayfield to face a Scotland side with a point to prove.
With defeats to Ireland and France, Gregor Townsend’s men will be desperate to sign off on a high at home in this year’s Championship before they travel to Twickenham in Round Five.
But they have beaten Gatland’s Wales just once in 11 years and now have a dual threat to deal with.
“We’ve won 12 on the bounce now so we’re going into games full of confidence. Let’s see if we can get it to 14,” Biggar added.
“We’re on a great run, but we know the next two games will present very difficult challenges.
“What counts is what you do over the entire season, We’re in a great position, but aware one slip-up would probably mean we don’t win the Championship.”