Hadleigh Parkes is ready to embrace the expectation that will surround Wales’ World Cup campaign after their Six Nations triple triumph.
Wales will head to Japan in September as Six Nations champions, and Triple Crown and Grand Slam winners.
They were World Cup semi-finalists eight years ago, and Wales are already being backed in some quarters to replicate that achievement at least.
The last team to win a Six Nations Grand Slam in World Cup year were England in 2003 – and they ended up being crowned world champions.
“It’s nice to have a bit of expectation on you,” said Wales centre Parkes, whose second-minute try sent his team on the way to this title-clinching victory over Ireland in Cardiff.
“There is a lot of rugby still to be played. It’s going to be an exciting time for those involved. Hopefully it will be a good year for the Welsh people.”
Integral to Wales’s World Cup hopes will be captain Alun Wyn Jones, who looks set to be named Six Nations player of the tournament later this week following an inspired contribution.
Despite hurting his knee early in the Ireland encounter, Jones picked himself up and led from the front as Wales ended a seven-year wait for Grand Slam glory.
Parkes added: “He has to be one of the greats. What he does for the Ospreys, what he has done for Wales for years, he has to go down as one of the greats.
“He is the leader, he is the one you look to, he’s the one who steps up week-in, week-out. Every game he puts in a performance. He is a very nice man as well, that must be said, a very humble man. But what a leader, what a captain. What a bloke.
“He is all about this team. He’s really enjoying his footy. I think he probably wishes he was 21 again – he is running around like he is 21 again.”
New Zealand-born Parkes only qualified for Wales on residency grounds 15 months ago, but he has established himself as a pivotal member of the team alongside Jonathan Davies in midfield. “I am very grateful and humbled by the opportunity that I’ve been given by the managing team here,” he said.