While the agony of their 82nd minute loss last Saturday night, which cruelly denied them a Grand Slam, still smarts, Wales can be consoled by the championship.
Alun Wyn Jones will meekly lift the trophy at the team hotel on Saturday while some of his team-mates play for English clubs – Wales denied the fanfare and fireworks in this weirdest of years.
The players were unable watch Friday night’s crucial game together, so like the rest of us looked on from separate living rooms.
One of those staying up to see Scotland beat France 27-23 was fly-half Callum Sheedy, back for Bristol in the Premiership on Saturday a belated victor.
Welsh fly-half Callum Sheedy (above) says winning a Championship is ‘great’ but doesn’t take away the pain of how close they came to a winning a Grand Slam
‘Winning a Championship is great,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘It still doesn’t take away the pain of how close we’ve come to a Grand Slam.
‘2021 is so bizarre – who would have thought a Six Nations would get decided a week after it’s supposed to be finished?
‘It’s weird, strange feeling, but was meant to be. I had it on, but tried to not get too emotionally invested.
‘The WhatsApp group had a bit of banter on it, but no matter how much I wanted to scream at the telly it wasn’t going to make Scotland score! It was out of our hands.’
Now, at last, it is in them.
Despite losing to France, the Welsh will still wake up on Saturday as Six Nations champions
France full-back Brice Dulin scored a dramatic 82nd-minute try to win the game against Wales
Last weekend’s defeat, when Brice Dulin broke Welsh hearts by scoring at the death in a crazy game won 32-30 by 14 Frenchmen, after Paul Willemse was sent-off, against 13 Welsh with Liam Williams and Taulupe Faletau sin-binned, left men in red reeling.
‘It’s been a mental few days,’ recalled Sheedy, on for the manic finale having replaced Dan Biggar.
‘It took a few nights to get over. I couldn’t sleep on Saturday or Sunday.
‘That’s professional sport at its cruellest. We had a few hours together after. We kind of needed each other that night; if we all went to bed we would have stared at the ceiling.’
Reflecting on the end Sheedy added: ‘We knew the French wanted chaos as they needed to score twice. We were on a final warning from referee Luke Pearce and were pretty ill-disciplined, giving them ins.
‘We defended for our lives for 15 minutes, but they finally broke us down. We gave everything.
‘At full-time a guy with a clip-board said to me “you’ve got drug testing”. It was the last thing I wanted, to be sat in a room with a French guy I don’t know!
‘In hindsight it took my mind slightly off. When I sat in the changing room 20 minutes later it was still really quiet.
Alun Wyn Jones was ultimately denied the chance to win a fourth Grand Slam for his side
Sheedy said the Welsh changing room was the ‘toughest’ environment after their loss
‘It was the toughest changing room I’ve ever been in. I’ve never experienced something as gut-wrenching as that.
‘Hopefully we can use the experience as fuel, so next time we know how to win.’
Disconsolate Wales flew home last Sunday without the trophy they so desired.
Back at base TV Chefs Sam and Shauna – from Barry’s famous Hangfire Southern Kitchen – cooked them an enormous socially-distanced BBQ to fuel their drives home.
The togetherness Wales showed was forged in their in-camp ‘Covid cafe’ over cakes and coffees, or games of pool and darts that wing Louis Rees-Zammit invariably won.
‘All he has to do is touch something and it turns to gold!’ laughed Sheedy.
Rees-Zammit scored four tries this tournament, a super diving finish against Ireland which he almost repeated against France, two against Scotland including a wonderful chip-and-chase, and a speedy intercept in Italy. Like many Welsh he was involved in big decisions too.
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 scoring when English back were turned, saw critics rage at Welsh luck. But they earned every victory.
However, Alun Wyn Jones will lift the Six Nations trophy at the team hotel on Saturday
Sheedy said it has been ‘nice’ to get results as everyone had been writing them off
‘There’s a bit of banter about the cards saying we can only play against 14, but we don’t decide those,’ replied Sheedy.
‘Considering everyone was writing us off in the autumn, saying we were useless it was nice to get results – we did enough when we needed to.
Gethin Jenkins, the defence coach, has been a revelation, and Wales scored a national record of 20 tries this time, loving Stephen Jones’ attack.
‘We needed that extra time to gel in the Six Nations,’ analysed Sheedy of Wales’ turnaround since a dire 2020.
Amid Covid chaos the Welsh do not know when they will meet again – lots will with the Lions – but Sheedy’s focus moves to winning another trophy, this time with Premiership leaders Bristol.
‘We’ve got to take the pressure as a privilege,’ he said ahead of his 100th club game against Quins on Saturday.
‘We’re just ahead of the race; there’s still eight rounds to go, every game is a Cup Final, teams are going to chase us. It’s brilliant.’