Wales hero Hadleigh Parkes ready for Grand Slam tilt against Ireland
Former Southern Kings centre Hadleigh Parkes has said having the chance to complete a Grand Slam in the Six Nations is exactly the kind of high-stakes match that lay behind his controversial move to represent Wales in international rugby.
Parkes was born in New Zealand, and qualified to play for Wales under World Rugby's three-year residency rule, having joined the Scarlets region in late 2014.
Some Wales fans have questioned Parkes' path into the Test side but there was no denying the 31-year-old centre's commitment as he spilt blood in a colossal defensive effort during an 18-11 win away to Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday that kept the team on course for a Six Nations clean sweep.
Victory over Ireland in Cardiff this coming Saturday will see Wales to a third Grand Slam of coach Warren Gatland's reign in what is the New Zealander's final Six Nations in charge before he ends his 12-year reign at this year's World Cup in Japan.
It's going to be very exciting, and pretty emotional for 'Gats' in his last Six Nations. We had a tough week, but we dug deep and got the job doneWales centre, Hadleigh Parkes
"You don't get to play in these type of games every week," said Parkes, who needed several stitches in a cut above his right eye at Murrayfield.
"Some people go their whole careers without playing in a Grand Slam game.
"It's going to be very exciting, and pretty emotional for 'Gats' in his last Six Nations. We had a tough week, but we dug deep and got the job done."
Parkes will have family support on hand at Cardiff's Principality Stadium, with brother Scott set to be cheering him on in a capacity crowd of over 73,000 against the Irish.
"He flew into Edinburgh on Friday and he was on the whiskies that night, so I think he was feeling his head more than I am!" Parkes explained.
"He put a bit of pressure on. He booked this trip in August last year, and he was saying 'are you going to make the team?'. I said I didn't know, but if I didn't, then we would have a bit of a holiday.
"He is over on a 10-day lads' trip, so he is super-pumped about this next week, too," he added.
Ireland my not have given Wales too many concerns by the manner of their 26-14 win over France in Dublin.
But 2018 saw then complete a Grand Slam of their own and Ireland were also the last team to beat Wales -- 37-27 in Dublin 13 months ago -- with Gatland's side now on a national record 13-match winning streak.
"This is absolutely the sort of occasion I was hoping to be involved in when I broke into the Wales squad," said Parkes, who won the first of his 14 caps in December 2017. "Ireland played well to win the Grand Slam last year, so we know how tough it's going to be."