Gareth Anscombe says that Warren Gatland has “got to go down as Wales’ best coach” ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland.
Victory for fly-half Anscombe and company would secure Wales the Six Nations title and a third Grand Slam of New Zealander Gatland’s reign.
No coach in history has masterminded three Five or Six Nations clean sweeps, but Gatland is now 80 minutes away from potentially achieving that.
It is also his final Six Nations game as Wales boss – he steps down after the World Cup in Japan later this year – and Anscombe has no doubt how highly he rates.
“He has got to go down as Wales’ best coach,” said Anscombe, whose parents will travel from New Zealand to watch Saturday’s Cardiff encounter.
“It is hard to go past his record and what he has accomplished – the fact that we are going for another Grand Slam that would be his third.
“He has just got the ability to get the best out of everyone, and as a player, one thing he does do is give you a belief to win.
“He really does leave no doubt in your mind that the team will get the job done. That’s what he did in the lead-up to the England game (Wales won 21-13).
“He has an exceptional ability to get the boys up for what we are doing. I am sure he will know the buttons to push this week.
“He has been with Wales a long time, and he will probably be a little bit emotional as it will be the last time in the stadium with this on the line. He deserves to go out with this.
“But likewise, everyone deserves it with the work we have put in and the commitment we have shown. We all deserve to get this, but it won’t come easy and Ireland won’t put this on a plate for us.”
When Wales last won the Grand Slam seven years ago, Anscombe and his national team colleague, centre Hadleigh Parkes, were preparing to make their Super Rugby debuts for the Auckland-based Blues against the Bulls in South Africa.
But both players are now an integral part of the Wales set-up, performing key roles during an unbeaten Six Nations campaign and a 13-match winning run.
“It’s crazy how much my rugby landscape has changed over the past four to six years,” Anscombe added.
“I am in a hugely-privileged position and I am enjoying my time here and being part of this group.
“For us to be where we are at, with 13 wins in a row, it’s nice maybe to be able to look back one day and say you were part of that.
“For us to get the Grand Slam, it would be something that no-one could take away from you. It would be right up there in terms of accomplishments.
“You can see this week how much it means to the public, and everyone is desperate to finish the job.
“We know as players that we might not get this chance again. So you hate to look back with regret.
“It is going to take a huge effort from us. It is going take our best performance of the Six Nations, too. We want to finish on a high with our best performance.”