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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Wales on verge of new era
Jonathan Davies
By Jonathan Davies
BBC Sport in Paris

What Gareth Thomas has achieved is outstanding and to my mind he is the most underrated international player in the world.

He has scored 34 tries in 77 games to break Ieuan Evans' national record and is only just beginning to get the sort of praise he deserves.

Even aside from his try against Italy, he had a great all-round game.

Gareth Thomas scores a try against Italy in the Six Nations
Thomas is Wales' leading try-scorer and at 29 still has time to extend his record further
Both defensively and in attack he has everything you could wish for in a full-back.

People are talking about how good a Six Nations he has had but, to be honest, he has not put a foot wrong for Wales in the last two years.

If there is a flaw in his game, it is his kicking. That may see him slightly exposed if truly tested but that time has yet to come.

All in all, Wales had a bright end to the Six Nations and thoroughly deserved their generous winning margin over Italy.

Iestyn Harris played really well although Steve Hansen bizarrely took him off once again after 60 minutes.

Hansen has made some odd calls in the tournament, most of all his decision not to pick a tight-head prop.

As a team Wales are not quite there but they are heading in the right direction
Obviously, Saturday was Hansen's last game in charge and his record, in terms of statistics, has not been great.

There have been more defeats than wins and I know he will be disappointed not to have picked up a big scalp during his tenure.

That said, Wales have played some breathtaking rugby at times under him, at both the World Cup and in the Six Nations.

He leaves a Welsh side playing with far greater confidence and, under him, individual players have come on in leaps and bounds.

As a team, though, Wales are not quite there but they are heading in the right direction with new coach Mike Ruddock.

A testament of a side is how good they are in the set pieces. Once that is perfected, everything else slots into place far more easily.

And for someone who prides himself so much on that, Hansen must have been disappointed by the performances in that respect.

Against France, the Welsh line-out went to pieces. Had they actually managed to sort that out, I think they would have won the game.

And then against England their scrum was all over the place. Again had that been right, a different side might well have been celebrating at Twickenham a week ago.

All in all, though, Wales have moved forward under Hansen's tutelage.

Ruddock needs to bring in a couple of new faces - a tight-head for starters - and then fine tune the set pieces.

He is a great appointment and I know he will tackle the above in no time.

As a Welsh fan I am confident the future's looking bright.



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