ALEX Cuthbert hopes that the Wales team can unite a divided rugby nation by enjoying more RBS Six Nations success in 2014.
The game in Wales is riven by the ongoing dispute between the Welsh Rugby Union and the four professional regions over the best way forward in terms of competition structures, revenues and retaining the best talent.
But the national side has enjoyed a memorable run and, since reaching the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, Wales have won back-to-back Six Nations titles. A repeat in 2014 would make them the first side to win three outright titles in a row.
Cardiff winger Cuthbert, who scored a brace of tries in the 30-3 victory over England which secured the 2013 triumph, hopes he and his team-mates can bring Welsh rugby together. He said: “If we win the championship, I guess everyone will forget everything else. Our prime target is to win the Six Nations again but our concentration for now is just on the Italy game. A lot of people will just forget about what is going on with the regions and just get on with supporting us through the Championship. That’s what we want.
“It affects everyone but everyone is just looking forward to getting together. It is a good environment and we just need to show that we don’t need to worry about things on the outside. We need only worry about things that we can control. What we can control is how well we play, so that is our aim over the next few weeks. Whatever happens after the Six Nations we will have to work on then.”
Wales’ recent success has marked them out as the strongest side in the northern hemisphere. With the next World Cup 18 months away their rivals will be looking to end their recent dominance.
Cuthbert added: “I guess we are the team that everyone wants to beat. Everyone wants to stop us from winning it again.
“Every game is going to be like a World Cup final and every team is going to want to beat us and beat us up. They will try to put us off our stride because, when we get into our stride, we are a hard team to stop. But you enjoy being shot at because you want to be the best. So we look forward to teams coming down here and trying to beat us. We relish going there too and trying to beat these sides when they are at their best.”
The Welsh build-up has not been as smooth as head coach Warren Gatland would have liked, with No 8 Ryan Jones ruled out by a hamstring injury. Gatland also has injury concerns over Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Gethin Jenkins and Richard Hibbard. Lock Ian Evans may also miss part or all of the Six Nations depending on the outcome of a disciplinary hearing tomorrow. The Ospreys second-row was sent off by referee Romain Poite for allegedly stamping on Leinster counterpart Mike McCarthy in Friday’s Heineken Cup clash.