Robin McBryde believes the future is bright for Welsh rugby as a new era dawns.
As Wales return home, having ended their World Cup campaign in Japan with a 40-17 defeat in the bronze medal match against New Zealand, forwards coach McBryde believes there should be a sense of optimism about the next four years.
It was the final game of a 12-year reign for head coach Warren Gatland, defence specialist Shaun Edwards and McBryde.
Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams, reached two World Cup semi-finals and were briefly world-ranked number one during that time.
Gatland’s fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac, assisted by the likes of Stephen Jones and Jonathan Humphreys, now takes over and will lead Wales against a Gatland-coached Barbarians team in Cardiff on November 30.
And a new generation of Welsh talent has been highlighted by wing Josh Adams and flanker Aaron Wainwright, who excelled on the world stage.
Adams broke Shane Williams’ Welsh try-scoring record for one World Cup with seven touchdowns, while Wainwright delivered sustained brilliance in the back-row.
“There is an expectancy there now,” McBryde said.
“The boys have started to live up to it, and we are no longer about one-off games or one-off results. There is a consistency to our performances.
“When we play against the best teams at the Principality Stadium everyone raises their game there to play us. That’s what everyone forgets.
“It’s not Murrayfield on a wet Saturday afternoon, it’s under the roof in the autumn and everyone brings their best team because they want to play in our stadium and rise to the occasion. That makes our job a lot harder.
“The youngsters have had great opportunities to rub shoulders with true legends of the Welsh game – Alun Wyn Jones, to name but one of them, who has been outstanding.
“They have learnt off the best players. They have got that grounding now, and there is only one way I can see them going: up.”
Asked about Adams and Wainwright, McBryde added: “They are excelling and making a name for themselves, and rightly so.
“There is raw talent there, and you are always looking to see how much growth is left in an individual. With those two in particular, you know that when you talk to them that they are grounded and want to improve their game.
“They are very diligent in the way they go about things, and that’s why I compared Aaron Wainwright – rightly or wrongly – to Sam Warburton.
“Sam was never happy with his game and was always striving to improve. Alun Wyn Jones is similar – even with his huge experience he is always striving to improve and make the difference.
“If you put those individuals in the right environment, you don’t have to do anything to them as a coach as the fire is inside them. That spark has been lit years ago, and we are only seeing the beginnings of their talent.”
Adams looks set to finish the World Cup as top try-scorer, which would be an outstanding achievement for a player who only made his Wales debut in February last year.
“It’s brilliant,” McBryde said. “It hasn’t been an easy path for him, so in many respect I respect him even more for that.
“For him to do what he’s done (Adams left Welsh rugby to play in England before sealing a deal with Cardiff Blues) and prove people wrong – fair play to him.
“I take my hat off to him because he has not had things all his own way, and in many ways that makes you a better player.”