Argus Sport's chief rugby writer CHRIS KIRWAN brings you his views on our national game every Thursday

THE internet means there is no hiding place for columnists; daft ideas from a Thursday morning many years ago are available at the click of a button rather than lurking in the archive of a library on microfilm.

Every journalist gets it wrong and when it is your job to question the performances of players and coaches then you have to cop the flak when you make a howler in print.

Opinions don’t always age well, so it was time to get the cutlery when Sam Warburton told BBC’s Scrum V that Wales’ Grand Slam should make some people eat their words.

The legendary flanker pointed out that plenty of folk had previously called for changes to Warren Gatland’s management team, yet that very same group had masterminded a third clean sweep in the Six Nations.

I am among those dining on humble pie as Gatland, Rob Howley, Robin McBryde, Shaun Edwards, Neil Jenkins and the rest of the backroom team reflect on a record 14-Test winning streak, climbing to number two in the World Rugby rankings and being one of the leading contenders to be lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy.

South Wales Argus: KEY FIGURE: Warren Gatland with defence coach Shaun EdwardsKEY FIGURE: Warren Gatland with defence coach Shaun Edwards

Attack coach Howley in particular has had spells where he has been the subject of some spiteful online abuse. While I never adopted that tone, in this column I did suggest that it was a time for a shake-up.

There were periods when Gatland’s coaching set-up appeared stale, especially in a challenging year after the last World Cup.

In March, 2016 I used the example of Alex Ferguson, who frequently changed his backroom team at Manchester United.

Archie Knox, Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, Jimmy Ryan, Carlos Queiroz, Walter Smith, Rene Meulensteen, Mike Phelan all operated as the Scot’s right-hand man at Old Trafford, bringing a fresh voice every now and then.

Later that year, after yet another loss to Australia as the southern hemisphere hoodoo continued, I again pondered whether it was time for a change.

“Management change may be needed for Wales to take next step,” was the headline. Insert monkey covering eyes emoji given that since then they have won all four games against the Springboks and ended the Wallabies nightmare.

It was never a case of questioning the abilities of Gatland’s deputies, it was just that it looked that it might be for the best, both for the individuals and the team, if they took on a fresh challenge.

That the head coach, plus the Welsh Rugby Union, held their nerve (and Gatland has a wonderful ability to block out noise and protect those dear to him) is to their great credit and means that optimism is high ahead of Japan.

Every side that wins silverware has a slice of luck but Wales are where they are because of fine players and a settled team with a tight bond but also the level of coaching.

They are team with tactical nous and every member of Gatland’s management team had a strong Six Nations.

Wales have been conditioned superbly throughout Gatland’s reign and they have arguably been the best defensive side in the world under Edwards.

This tournament they may not have come close to England’s try count but Howley’s attack has impressed with their vital multi-phase tries against Eddie Jones’ side and Scotland while Hadleigh Parkes’ score versus Ireland was a thing of beauty.

South Wales Argus:

Forwards guru McBryde has helped develop huge scrum depth and while the attacking lineout wasn’t the best all tournament, the defensive one was. Plenty of penalties were kicked to Wales’ corner but the line was crossed just once, and that was several phases later by Italy flanker Braam Steyn rather than from the drive.

Under Jenkins the kicking has been superb – how pleasing were two beautiful Dan Biggar clearances from his 22 after personally fielding restarts against England and Ireland? – and the chase has been strong.

Wales are well drilled and that leads to discipline, every member of the squad is thinking clearly and that reflects superbly on the management team.

Before the tournament Gatland, who has coached Connacht, Ireland, Wasps and Wales, reflected on the differences between Welsh, English and Irish players in an interview with The 1014 Rugby in his homeland.

“You look at how that reflects on society. A lot of the Welsh contribute to the armed forces in the UK because they’re doers and they are good at taking instruction and following orders,” said the New Zealander.

“That’s what I say about the Welsh players, they will run through a brick wall if you ask them. They will work their butts off. They don’t mind working hard and they don’t question or challenge stuff.”

The devil is in the detail and Gatland & Co provide that at Test level.

Former Dragons boss Bernard Jackman enjoys a strong relationship with the national boss and pointed to the brilliant simplicity that he delivers with his coaching team.

“The Irish players want to understand why, whereas Welsh players if you put a gameplan up on PowerPoint then they just follow that and don't really need to understand why,” said the former Ireland hooker.

“That's unusual but they like that simplicity and they do train very hard if you create the environment for them.

“He has built his success on that; on having unbelievable focus on fitness and they've got a defensive system from Shaun Edwards which is very simple.

“It's very aggressive but very simple, there aren't too many decisions to be made bar the guys on the outside and they just get a lot of reps making those decisions.

“Warren thinks the key to the Welsh team is fitness, simplicity and having a good team spirit with a bit of fun with a mix of characters.”

Gatland, partly because of his methods and partly because of his track record, fills his players with confidence and there is an unshakable belief that they are on the right track.

There have been some lows since he took the helm after the World Cup disaster in 2007 but the head coach has always had trust in his management team.

Gatland has been key in keeping the coaches hungry for more and one last crack at the World Cup would have been key to that after encouraging efforts in New Zealand and England.

This management team have already cemented their place in history but their toil and detail in the years since the quarter-final heartbreak against South Africa means they have every chance of adding to their legends in Japan.