British & Irish Lions hopeful Stephen Jones believes Wales’ nailbiting victory over world champions England provided the springboard for Six Nations success.
Six weeks after Gavin Henson’s late, long-range penalty sent England crashing at the Millennium Stadium, Wales will go for championship, Triple Crown and Grand Slam glory when they tackle Ireland on Saturday.
Fly-half Jones, whose outstanding form has played him into Lions contention, has been through the tough times with Wales – such as a 2003 Six Nations whitewash – and is now playing the best rugby of a 47-cap international career.
And the 27-year-old believes beating England gave Wales lift-off for what will be their first Grand Slam campaign since 1978 if they defeat fellow title contenders Ireland.
"It began, really, at the last World Cup, when we started picking our performances up with gradual improvement," he said.
"But it came to a point where we hadn’t got a victory over a major team, although we had a good chance to beat the All Blacks last autumn, but we didn’t take it.
"We were slowly improving, and then getting that big scalp of England’s in the first Six Nations game was important for us. The confidence was there then, and things have really snowballed since.
"If you look at our squad now, compared with the squad in 2003, a large percentage of personnel is the same. It’s still a young squad, and there is a lot of rugby left in it.
"What’s great is the youngsters who are coming in are coming into a squad that has winning ways, which is very important."