THE countdown to tomorrow's Wales v Scotland Six Nations Championship opener in Cardiff has stirred some warm decade-old memories.

While it is difficult to imagine Warren Gatland ever pausing to mull over the past, I am more than happy to.

Of course, 10 years ago Welsh rugby was in the doldrums. A 38-34 defeat against Fiji in the final pool stage match at the previous autumn's World Cup in France had seen Wales packed off home early, bereft of confidence and soon to be without a coach.

Gatland was in post comfortably ahead of the 2008 Six Nations, but it is fair to say that rugby fans were not exactly flocking to buy tickets for Wales' home fixtures.

Thus it was that, into the second half of January, I was able to buy online, through official channels, a couple of tickets to the last of those three matches, against France in March, one of which was a present for my eldest son's 12th birthday.

That, I thought, would be a nice introduction for him to the joys of watching live international rugby.

But then, to his and my growing delight, Wales started to win again.

It began of course, with that incredible victory over England at Twickenham, a first at the venue in 20 years, and achieved from 19-6 down shortly after half-time.

Any sense of dismay on my part was wiped away by watching the joy on my son's face. These are the sorts of occasions, be they experienced in front of a television or live, that never leave you, and I knew that this would be one of those for him.

But much more was to come.

Comfortable wins against Scotland and Italy came next, before a narrow victory over Ireland in Dublin secured the Triple Crown, the peerless Shane Williams - six tries in all and Player of the Tournament - ghosting through the narrowest of gaps for the winning score.

Thus, against all the pre-tournament odds, Wales would play France in Cardiff for the Grand Slam.

My son - he believed jokingly, I was not so sure - was offered £500 a ticket by a teacher at school in the week before the match.

No chance. On Saturday March 15 we braved a downpour to soak up the atmosphere in Cardiff ahead of kick-off.

There was some sort of magic at large that day. Mostly, it was concentrated in the hands of centre Gavin Henson who, despite not receiving a straight pass at the requisite height for the whole 80 minutes, was implacable, unshakeable.

Try scorers Shane and Martyn Williams, and Stephen Jones and James Hook, who kicked 19 points between them, were the scoresheet heroes. But Henson was magnificent.

In truth, I spent more time watching my son's intent face as he took in every second of the unfolding drama, a 12-year-old who already possessed far more knowledge of the game of rugby - and far more appreciation of its nuances - than I will ever have.

It was his day. What a day.

We got thoroughly soaked on the way back to the car. The colours ran on his souvenir hat. He still has it.

He and I will talk of these things and more in the coming weeks, as this tournament's drama unfolds.

Time perhaps, for more good memories to be made? Over to you Wales.