After the insomnia from their nightmarish defeat to France last weekend, the Welsh wakes up Saturday as a Six Nations champion.
While the pain of their 82nd-minute loss last Saturday night, which cruelly denied them a Grand Slam, is still smart, Wales can be comforted by the championship.
Alun Wyn Jones will meekly take the trophy at the team hotel on Saturday, while some of his teammates play for English clubs – Wales denied the fanfare and fireworks in these weirdest years.
The players couldn’t watch Friday night’s crucial game together, so as the rest of us watched from separate living rooms.
Among those who stayed up to watch Scotland beat France 27-23 was Callum Sheedy, a belated winner back for Bristol in the Premiership on Saturday.
Welsh fly-half Callum Sheedy (above) says winning a championship is ‘great’, but doesn’t take away the pain of how close they got to winning a Grand Slam
“Winning a championship is great,” he said SportsmailIt still doesn’t take away the pain of how close we’ve gotten to a Grand Slam.
‘2021 is so bizarre – who would have thought a Six Nations would be decided a week after it should have been finished?
“It’s a strange, strange feeling, but it should have been. I was wearing it, but trying not to get too emotionally invested.
The WhatsApp group had a bit of chitchat, but as much as I wanted to yell at the television, it wouldn’t score Scotland! It was out of our hands. ‘
Now it is finally in them.
Despite the loss to France, the Welsh still wakes up Saturday as a Six Nations champion
French defender Brice Dulin scored a dramatic effort in the 82nd minute to win the game against Wales
Last weekend’s defeat, when Brice Dulin broke the hearts of Wales by scoring to death in an outrageous match won 32-30 by 14 French, after Paul Willemse was sent off against 13 Welsh with Liam Williams and Taulupe Faletau sinless, left men reeling in red.
“It’s been a few mental days,” Sheedy recalled, heading for the manic finale that replaced Dan Biggar.
‘It took a few nights to get over it. I couldn’t sleep on Saturday or Sunday.
‘That is professional sport at its cruelest. We then had a few hours together. We needed each other a little that night; if we’d all gone to bed, we would have stared at the ceiling. ‘
Looking back at the end, Sheedy added, “We knew the French wanted chaos because they had to score twice. We got one last warning from referee Luke Pearce and were pretty undisciplined, which made us jump in them.
“We defended for our lives for 15 minutes, but in the end they destroyed us. We gave everything.
Full-time, a man with a clipboard said to me, “You need to test drugs.” It was the last thing I wanted to be in a room with a Frenchman I don’t know!
‘In hindsight, it took me off a bit. When I was in the locker room 20 minutes later, it was still very quiet.
Alun Wyn Jones was eventually denied the opportunity to win a fourth Grand Slam for his side
Sheedy said the locker room in Wales was the ‘toughest’ environment after their loss
‘It was the hardest dressing room I’ve ever been in. I’ve never experienced anything so heartbreaking.
“Hopefully we can use the experience as fuel so that next time we know how to win.”
Desolate Wales flew home last Sunday without the trophy they so badly wanted.
Back at the base TV chefs Sam and Shauna – from Barry’s famous Hangfire Southern Kitchen – they cooked up a huge social barbecue to fuel their ride home.
The togetherness that Wales showed was forged in their ‘Covid cafe’ in the camp with cakes and coffee, or games of pool and darts that Louis Rees-Zammit’s wing invariably won.
“All he has to do is touch something and it turns gold!” Sheedy laughed.
Rees-Zammit scored four tries this tournament, a super diving finish against Ireland that he almost repeated against France, two against Scotland including a beautiful chip-and-chase, and a quick interception in Italy. Like many Welsh, he was also involved in big decisions.
Rees-Zammit’s’ knock-on ‘against England, red cards against Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony, Scotland’s Zander Fagerson and France’s Willemse, added to Josh Adams’ score as the English turned their backs, saw critics rage over Welsh luck. But they had every victory.
However, Alun Wyn Jones will receive the Six Nations trophy at the team hotel on Saturday
Sheedy said it was “nice” to get results, as everyone had written them off
“There’s a little talk about the cards saying we can only play against 14, but we’re not going to decide that,” Sheedy replied.
‘Since everyone wrote us off in the fall saying we were useless, it was nice to get results – we did enough when needed.
Gethin Jenkins, the defense coach, was a revelation, and Wales this time scored a national record of 20 tries and loved Stephen Jones’ attack.
“ We needed that extra time to gel in the Six Nations, ” analyzed Sheedy of Wales’s turnaround since a dire 2020.
Amid the Covid chaos, the Welsh don’t know when they’ll meet again – much will with the Lions – but Sheedy’s focus is shifting to winning another trophy, this time with Premiership leaders Bristol.
“We should consider the pressure a privilege,” he said in the run-up to his 100th club game against Quins on Saturday.
‘We are just ahead of the race; there are still eight rounds to go, every game is a cup final, teams are chasing us. It’s brilliant. ‘