Jonathan Thomas says that Wales have hit “reset” after four days off as they set about trying to make a memorable Rugby World Cup campaign into something unforgettable.
Wales’ World Cup squad returned to the training pitch on Friday with a public session watched by more than 1,000 people at Stade de Porchefontaine in Versailles.
Players and coaches were given time off to spend with their families after last weekend’s record 40-6 win against Australia that secured quarter-final status for the fourth successive World Cup campaign.
But minds have now switched to next weekend’s final Pool C appointment with Georgia – then a quarter-final against Argentina or Japan.
“Professional sport can be relentless,” Wales assistant coach Thomas said.
“Winning that Australia game was a huge moment for us in terms of qualifying, and having those days off was good to have that feel-good factor heading into time off.
“Professional sport is about being humble and hitting reset. For me, confidence comes from preparation and the work you do in the week.
“We need to hit reset, as the boys have done today. We’ve got a tough game next week, and we will be completely focused on that.
“The amazing thing I’ve seen with this squad is you have that edge in training, but as soon as they walk off the training field, there’s laughing, joking and they are taking the mick out of each other for what has just happened in the session.
“Getting that balance of a competitive edge and having really close relationships off the field is very difficult to strike.
Thomas, meanwhile, has no doubt that an ability to strike the right balance comes from the top with the example set by head coach Warren Gatland.
“I played under Gats, and I take my hat off to him,” he added.
“He is probably one of the best I have come across in terms of being able to drive the players hard. He is very open and honest with them, with a no-nonsense attitude. The expectations are really clear.
“But he has also got this nurturing, kind side to him which is all about family and if players need to go home or need help.
“It’s quite a remarkable thing to have both abilities in your character. It all starts with him, and everything flows downstream.
“It flows through the coaching staff and the players, and eventually you end up with quite a content playing group. One, because they are fit and they’ve worked hard, but they are also happy because their families are happy.”
Local schoolchildren turned out in their hundreds to watch the Wales squad put through their paces, with players signing autographs and posing for pictures afterwards.
“Our whole experience in Versailles has been awesome,” Thomas said.
“Obviously, it’s a beautiful place, first and foremost, but we are here to train and train hard. The facilities have been great.
“The people have been incredible, really, and none more so than today. We really appreciate it. It has made a massive difference to us, how welcome we’ve been made to feel since being here.”