NEW ZEALAND-BORN Hadleigh Parkes is delighted to be heading to the World Cup with Wales behind only the All Blacks in the global rankings.

Parkes set his adopted nation on the way to a 25-7 victory over Ireland with a try after just 69 seconds at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

A 14th successive win sealed a 12th Grand Slam for Wales, lifting Warren Gatland’s men to second in the world rankings and raising expectations further ahead of the World Cup in Japan, which begins in September.

“It’s nice to have a bit of expectation on you,” said Parkes.

“But there’s a lot of rugby to be played in the next six or seven months.

“It’s going to be an exciting time for the guys who are involved and hopefully we can just keep going well and getting better and better one step at a time.

“Hopefully it will be good year for the Welsh people.”

Whatever happens in the autumn, it’s already been a good year for Wales. And it’s been a great campaign for Parkes, who only won his first cap in December 2017 after moving to the Scarlets in 2014.

“I’ve always said this was never the plan, it just happened,” said the 31-year-old centre.

“I’m very grateful and very humbled by the opportunity I’ve been given here by the manager and the people at the Scarlets.

“It’s been an amazing four-and-a-half years so far. You have to pinch yourself.

“It was amazing out there. You dream about these moments.

“The English test was amazing and this was another step up again.

“We could hear the singing going on throughout the game. I’m not too good with the words but it’s amazing and hopefully we’ve made a lot of people happy.”

Parkes felt Ireland’s decision to play with the roof open ultimately benefitted Wales.

“It would have been more of a spectacle and I think the fans would have enjoyed it a bit more if the roof had been shut,” he said.

“But for the home fans, a win is a win and they’ll be happy with that anyway.

“It was probably to their detriment that they left the roof open because we just kept building the score and if you keep ticking it over it’s hard for the team that’s losing looking up at the scoreboard.

“Gareth kicked extremely well and I think the forward pack were outstanding the way they defended the mauls and the scrums.

“Our forwards really stepped up and did outstandingly well.”

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Apart from his early try, Parkes also made a crucial tackle to deny Jacob Stockdale a quick response.

But he was quick to praise captain Alun Wyn Jones (above) after the match.

“He has to be one of the greatest [second-row forwards],” said the Scarlets star. “I think that’s pretty simple.

“When you consider what he’s done for Wales and the Ospreys for a number of years, he has to go down as one of the greatest.

“He’s a very humble man but he’s the leader. He’s the one you look to and he’s the one who just steps up week in and week out every game and he puts in an 80-minute performance every time.

“He’s enjoying his footy, he probably wishes he was 21 again. And he’s running around like he is 21 again.

“He’s very special and he’s key to this team.”

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