Rugby World Cup Pedigree
With few exceptions, World Cups have proved to be traumatic times for Wales. Pacific teams in particular. For one of the so-called major nations in test rugby, Wales’s record of failing to qualify for the knock out stages on three occasions (1991, 1995 and 2007) makes for grim reading. What makes for even grimmer reading is that with the exception of the inaugural competition, Wales have rarely been anything but unconvincing.
Best Rugby World Cup moment
In the first tournament in 1987, Wales defeated England 16-3 in a quarter final played in Brisbane. Despite it being an awful game in terms of quality of play, a win over the English in the knock out stages is something Welsh dreams are made of.
Biggest Rugby World Cup win: Wales 72 – 18 Japan. Cardiff. 20th September 2007
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: New Zealand 49 – 6 Wales. Brisbane, Australia. 14th June 1987
Key player: Sam Warburton
22-year-old Warburton has had a massive influence on Wales since taking over the Welsh openside mantle from Martyn Williams at the end of the 2010 autumn internationals. Not only has the Cardiff Blues player proved to be the destructive flanker the team has been crying out for, but as a talismanic figure to fill the void left by injury to first choice captain Matthew Rees.
Wales’s most recent success has been in defence, with Warburton and fellow flanker Dan Lydiate either slowing or turning over ball at an impressive rate. Wales’s Achilles heel recently has been an inability to retain possession after only a handful of phases, a repeat will once again see all the pressure on Warburton.
One to watch: Toby Faletau
Admittedly not at his best during the August warm-up games, the 20-year-old is a player of enormous potential. The Tongan born number eight has all the attributes to provide the solution to Wales’s long running problem at Number Eight. A lack of ball carrying options has also been a major issue, but afro-wearing Faletau has demonstrated for regional side the Newport Gwent Dragons, that he can prove a serious handful for the opposition at the gain line. It will be a big ask in such a physical group though.
Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
11th Sept 09:30 BST: vs South Africa in Wellington
18th Sept 04:30 BST: vs Samoa in Hamilton
26th Sept 07:30 BST: vs Namibia in New Plymouth
2nd Oct 06:00 BST: vs Fiji in Hamilton
With the exception of Namibia, all of Wales’s Pool D games could be labelled as key clashes. In the opening match they face South Africa, a country with a phenomenal pedigree when it comes to beating Wales, meaning the first of two matches against one of their Pacific nemeses will essentially settle whether they still have a chance of going through to the knock out stages.
Odds: 2/9 to reach the quarter finals and 80-1 to win the World Cup
Wales Coach, Warren Gatland, says:
“We’ve got to be excited about going to New Zealand. We’ve got to be going there with a lot of confidence. I know the guys are really keen and motivated to do well out there and we’ll give it our best shot. It’s the pinnacle of anyone’s rugby career, as a player or coach, to be involved in a World Cup.”
Wales Captain, Sam Warburton, says:
“Getting out of the group is a minimum. If we didn’t get out of the group it would be a massive disappointment and then I guess it depends on the draw and how it goes on the day from there. To make the knock-out stages would be great and hopefully we can get to the semis and depending on the opposition, who knows?”
History tells us that Wales tend to produce their best results when expectations are at the end of the spectrum. Most people have written off their chances of a largely inexperienced squad progressing from such a demanding pool. But Wales have shown, that irrespective of some rather large flaws in their performances this year, that they have developed a knack for winning ugly. I’m predicting that Wales will make it out of their pool by the narrowest of margins, but a probable quarter final tie with Australia will prove to be one step too far.
By Paul French