September 2011 Archives


After Samoa's bruising encounter with South Africa, it's looking like Wales are through to the knock out round, as Fiji need to beat Wales by something ridiculous like a 62 point margin to knock them out. As unpredictable as Wales are of late, that's never going to happen.

South Africa have vastly improved from their somewhat shaky start against Wales. It's an interesting question as to whether the game would have still been so close had Wales been playing the reigning champions in the last round of pool matches rather than the first. Wales have had a solid performance level throughout the pool encounters, it's time to step it up in the final match before the quarter final (looking like it'll be against old foe Ireland).

Another loss!!!

By Tom Davies on Sep 30, 11 07:54 AM in

Another hard week on the road! We arrived into Rotorua on the Friday and prepared ourselves for some severe drinking, Tessa and Joe managed to score a ticket to the Ireland Russia game. Max and I were hunting for a ticket whilst Sally and Lucy didn't care. We had down time like the welsh rugby team, a day of soaking in a hot water river then navigating ourselves down a 21foot waterfall while white-water rafting. Sally and Lucy scored myself and max tickets to the Ireland game moments before kick-off, alcohol was drunk and the following mornings 5 hour drive to New Plymouth and the Welsh game went in a blur.

Two years ago back in Wales, Timmy (the kiwi who gave the shearing challenge) dropped into say hi with his parents, Jamie and Sue. They stayed for about 45 minutes ate some food had chewed the fat, before leaving Jamie said if you ever get back to New Zealand come and stay with. At this moment in time I am writing my blog from the comfort of a double bed in their house. We arrived to a welsh flag being hung for our arrival, we have been treated to meal portions fit for a banquet and drinking volumes of alcohol that would rival any rugby club.

Whilst eating dinner one night, Tim and Dan (Tim's brother) suggested we compete to see which team bought back a deer when out hunting, with the forfeit certain on the boys shoulders considering went had already returned empty handed and the girls where due to go the following morning. The girls returned triumphant and deservedly so, or so the photos would lead you believe as each girl appears to be carrying back a dead deer on their back. But the truth transpired that their help was not so invaluable in the hunt, as Jamie did shoot, gut and then carry the deer singlehandedly, but the girls did help by keeping Jamie company. The photo, like most great pictures, is slightly faked with the girls posing back at the car with a sheet on their back acting as a barrier between the dead deer and the girls clothes.

Thanks to Lucy's table manners and potty mouth, where she discussed having a colonic, I say discussed she just told the gaping mouths around the table. Tim phoned the following day to say that he had heard that the girls witnessed the kill and that the forfeit for boys was for one member of the team to have an enema. Despite the challenge not going through the correct channels, I feel it still stands and another forfeit needs to be taken on.

The stakes are higher as the score is now 3-1 to the chicks, coming into the halfway stage of the competition. Dan threw in a new challenge that each team member needs to eat a battered mars bar, with the last person to eat one losing the challenge. The boys need to step up to the mark and takes some these challenges.

After being invited to Jamie and Sue's staff party on Friday we enjoyed our last night in comfort, before I head up to Auckland to catch up with Kelv for a pre Wales game night out and the rest of the troops heading back to the Tron to get a few winks in before another huge night out. It will be sad to say goodbye to more Kiwis that have been overwhelmingly generous, but plans have already been made to meet up with both Jamie and Dan back in Wellington for the quarterfinals, regardless of who's playing.

If anyone reading this wants to throw a challenge into the hat please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. As they say in New Zealand Chur


Here there is a real belief that Samoa could spring a suprise but I'm not so sure.

Samoa do have some talented players in thier ranks. I've been very impressed with full back Paul Williams so far in the competiton, but I think the Springboks will have just a bit to much for them today.

Whatever happens lets hope for some big hits and great pics.

As always I will share some with you all as soon as I can.

It was a game of broken records for Wales, but there was nothing repetitive about their 81-7 victory over Namibia. A record score in a World Cup match. A record number of appearances for Stephen Jones. George North became the youngest player to score a try in the tournament. The feel-good factor was threefold.

It was slightly grating to hear the commentators pleading for Sam Warburton to be replaced at the halfway mark against Namibia. Having missed much of the season through injury, good game time is paramount for the sublime flanker. Lest we forget, Lawrence Dallaglio played every minute of England's 2003 World Cup campaign, and never did the thought cross Clive Woodward's mind to rest such a vital player in the pool games (which included Uruguay and Georgia, as well as South Africa and Samoa).

Warburton certainly won't suffer any burnout at this tournament; for the abovementioned reason as well as the fact that he is a consummately fit and well-conditioned athlete. He is a rugby player, let him play rugby. Injuries are a part of the game and for anybody to watch their home nation's leading players through their fingers, praying injury won't occur, is a pointless exercise.

Speaking of well-conditioned athletes, one could be forgiven for thinking that they were looking at a photoshoot at Venice Beach when WalesOnline uploaded a gallery of pictures of the Welsh team relaxing at the beach in New Zealand. They certainly put to bed any doubts that Wales are one of the best-conditioned sides in the competition. Photos of Leigh Halfpenny and Andy Powell will be adorning walls in gyms and bedrooms as we speak: inspiration for some, eye-candy for others.

The Spala Olympic Training Centre in Poland has been used for years by rugby sides including Bath and, of course, our Welsh coaching team's previous pupils at London Wasps. I don't doubt that players are allowed some downtime while there, though. I say this because I heard a comical/distressing (delete according to your moral scruples) tale about a notable back-rower who got so 'tired and emotional' on a team visit to the local Polish pub, he ended up overturning a car on his return to the hotel. In case of any confusion, I don't mean he was driving a car that flipped: through his sheer strength, he lifted up a vehicle and put it on its roof. Cryotherapy works!

Despite the cynics' disparaging 'calm down, it was only Namibia' remarks, this was one of the most enjoyable Welsh performances seen in a while - for both players and fans alike
.

David Campese recently wrote that England look like they're out on the field fulfilling a job, rather than enjoying themselves. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Wales are playing with smiles on their faces. They seemed to summon the spirit of the school playing field on a sunny afternoon. Granted, it wasn't that long ago many of them were doing just that, but the effect it had was to conjure a colossal score that is usually the preserve of the Tri-Nations sides playing the lower-tier nations.

So far, apart from the All Blacks -who played like an untouchable, unstoppable force against a somewhat embarrassingly incapable French side- this World Cup is shaking up the order of things. I feel that regardless of what happens beyond this upcoming Fiji game (bar an apocalyptic, deus ex machina-like win for the Islanders), this Welsh side will pose a much larger threat to the southern hemisphere than ever before.

Back home in Llanelli, Scarlets fans will be licking their lips in anticipation of their returning internationals, currently making a name for themselves on the other side of the world. Scott Williams has seemingly come from nowhere to score a blistering hat-trick; Jonathan Davies is proving a bastion at centre; Rhys Priestland has gone from being a back-up fullback to making the coveted number 10 spot his to lose. I doubt I need to say anything more about George North, except that every newspaper article mentioning him contains the word 'star', and rightly so.

The returning Lee Byrne and Ryan Jones showed they were still worth a damn to this Wales squad: the former through a solid, understated performance; the latter with a vigorous showing that made even those crying out for a Gareth Delve figure in the side sit up and take notice.

Was I the only one who wondered if Scott Gibbs had come out of retirement to play as a replacement prop for Wales? No, indeed it was Ryan Bevington who played like he had an illegally purchased Chinese firework coming out of his backside, such were his remarkable bursts of speed. Again, these Welsh players are hungry for opportunities, with not a single piece of deadwood in the squad.

It is with a great sense of relief that the likelihood is we'll make the quarter-finals. Gatland stated he would likely be out of a job if we didn't make it that far. If we didn't and he left, along with Shaun Edwards and company, would there be any better candidates to take over? The answer is a likely no. Their credentials are exceptional, as, most importantly, is what they have already achieved with this team. As fans, we should look forward to the journey this coaching panel will embark upon with this young side for the next four years.

When (or if, for you cynics not toeing the upbeat line) we make it to the quarter-finals of the tournament, what's to stop us going all the way to the final? Ireland? Well, they have a heavyweight back row, a sublime second-rower, two occasionally wizard-like fly-halves and a transcendent centre. What they don't have is quality from one to fifteen, which is what Wales can bring to the table. Our players know they can beat Ireland.

Fiji won't be quite the lightweights Namibia proved to be, but neither should they boast the durability of the Samoans. Who Gatland picks to face them will be the focus of much contention, especially as more hands were raised during the Namibian game than in a 1930s Nuremberg rally.

But it was only Namibia, they will say. But what a seminal performance it was.

James Hook has become the Swiss Army knife of Welsh rugby. He's versatile, reliable, he comes with a cutting edge and he drops neatly into the pocket when required. Ironically, some Swiss Army knives actually come with a hook as standard. Yet there is something unfortunate about becoming a Swiss Army knife when you were originally destined to be a Samurai Sword.

When James Hook made his international debut in 2006, he looked set to become Wales' number 1, number 10. He seemed the obvious successor to Stephen Jones, and quenched the nations thirst for a more creative outside half. Yet Hook's varied and competent skill set has seen him play in four positions in five years.

Hook has been shuffled between 10, 12, 13 and 15. And whilst his versatility is still considered a valuable weapon to Wales, it has undoubtedly blunted his career. There are few players in the world who are able to play in such a wide variety of positions at club level, let alone in the test arena, yet being the 'James of all trades' has denied him the opportunity to become the master of one.

And whilst James Hook is still undoubtedly one of Wales's greatest weapons, the young guns are beginning to pose a real threat to his position in the run-on 15.

Rhys Priestland offers a creative, yet stabilising influence at 10. His line kicking is deeper than Hook's and he is less prone to throwing the odd wild intercept pass that plagued Hook's early outings at stand-off.

Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies may not possess Hook's dazzling footwork, hypnotic dummies or dexterous passing, but their ability to crash the line and not concede a single clean line break during the first three games of the Rugby World Cup has been very impressive. Jamie Roberts in particular has been sensational and is fast becoming the darling of the New Zealand press.

Leigh Halfpenny's return to the Welsh squad has been emphatic. Hook and the 'Full Shilling' may be equals underneath the high ball, but Halfpenny's pace allows Wales to counter attack in situations where Hook's lack of top end speed forces him to kick or wait for support.

Hook is already back in training after damaging the AC joint in his shoulder against Samoa, which means that he should be fit for quarter finals (results pending of course). But whether the Swiss Army knife makes the cut is a different matter.


Is Hamilton in Scotland or New Zealand, the answer according to Holiday
Autos is it is in both countries, and that is the problem, after
staying an additional night in New Plymouth we discovered that our hire
car was booked in Hamilton Scotland and not New Zealand. A couple of
phone calls and they had refunded my money and fixed up another car
from New Plymouth.

Arrived lunchtime in the right Hamilton to glorious sunshine and a town
waiting for the weekends games.

The national paper The Herald" on it's sports page is headed "The paper
read in Heaven", very apt when you see how many people stand around and
read it. The paper are backing Scotland on Saturday but the experts are
backing England. All will be revealed soon.....

AND Dawned the Morning After

By Jim Hughes on Sep 29, 11 12:01 AM in


Arriving in New Plymouth at lunchtime was a real treat, the sun was
shining and it was actually warm. A short ride to the digs and it was
out into town, only 4 hours to kick off and some serious pre match to
enjoy.

Was I in Wales I thought as the streets, shops and drinking
establishment were all dressed up and it looked and felt like
Cardiff?

The Taranaki ground was in superb condition and with an almost full
house the game got under way. The biggest cheer of the night was from
all supporters for the try from Namibia, the rest of the game was one
sided Namibia having a tough game only 4 days ago against the Welsh
week off did not help their cause, but fair play to them they never
gave up despite the score line and at the end of the game they were
awarded their World Cup medals.

Following that they did a lap of honour and many fans stayed on and
gave them a rousing farewell (richly deserved).

Anyway back into town for a beer or two and to "The Crowded House Bar"
well it should be renamed "The Rammed pub" as it was full from end to
end as were all the bars; locals, Namibian and Welsh all partying.

Then dawned the morning after, the town was dead at 10:00 am with just
an occasional fan to be seen (probably on his way home). A quick 14k
bike ride round the coastal walkway (with a wave structure similar to
that suggested at one time for our Marine Drive) and we were ready for
a late lunch followed by an even later tea in what has now become a
ghost town. The only sight to be seen on New Plymouth High Street is a
camper van with French supporters cooking a late meal.

The caravan moves to Hamilton for the next instalment at the week end
but we are having a couple of extra days in New Plymouth (a really nice
town).

It was good to see a few players who have been injured for a long period of time finally get some game time & also nice to see Lee Byrne not looking too stressed due to previous bad performances.
It was nice to get the win, but I think that the victory has to be put into context by the quality of the opposition. The most important factor I believe for Gatland was to give some fringe players some game time as well, as well as looking at some different combination.
I was very glad to see Gethin Jenkins showing up well in the loose, and Stephen Jones controlling the game and showing once again how consistent he is with the boot. And it was also nice to see Ryan Jones back and getting his hands on the ball.
One player that stood out I'm happy to say was Jonathan Davies in the centre, he showed some nice touches and managed to straighten the attacking line on a number of occassions.
Having watched the All blacks playing the French, I've been really impressed with the way Ma Nonu always straightens, and very often resists the urge to drift, in order to create more space for the wingers, and therefore give them a better angle in which to run onto the ball and try to break the oppositions defence.
Therefore the Welsh centres (whoever gets picked against Fiji) need to keep doing this in order to create more space for George North and probably Leigh Halfpenny.
As much as Brew is enthusiastic, he tends to get a little to excited at time, when all that is needed is a cool head in order to recycle the ball if nothing is on.
I'm confident that we will beat Fiji, it could be quite a close game, but I don't think that there will be a repeat of Nantes 2007!
I don't think Gatland will tinker too much from the team that started against Samoa, obviously injuries to Hook & Lydiate & Williams, will mean some changes but it's important that we get our strongest team to start, and use the bench accordingly.

Llongyfarchiadau bechgyn.

Taranaki.jpg

A great win for Wales last night. The side seem to be building toward somthing special. We had a great time in New Plymouth yesterday and I would like to thank two people in particular.

Sadly I don't know either of their names.

First up is the guy who looked after us photographers at Stadium Taranaki.

His help and support allowed me to get the shot above. He led a small group of us photographers up to the back of one of the stands to get this shout of the pitch and mountain. I believe the man was a photographer himself, I remember him taking a couple of shots next to me. Can't thank him and his team for all of their support last night.

Also I need to thank anouther stranger.

Due to a mix up at the ground afterwards we were set to miss the media shuttle back to the car. We were looking at a very long trek back when I got talking to a man involved with running the fan buses back to the city centre. Kindly he not only got us on a fan bus but got the driver to take us on to the media centre park and ride.

Two helpful strangers who sum up the warmth and friendship we have been greeted with here in New Zealand.

Last nights pics are now online at www.asi.photoshelter.com

Heres a sneek preview.

web-001.jpg

Ok not really, but it was close...When Namibia scored their try last night, we suddenly noticed that one of the neon signs in the pub sparked and started billowing smoke!  We all rushed out and then upon hearing cheering, some of us rushed back into the toxic fumes to see what the fuss on the telly was about....the smarter of our lot standing outside on the sidewalk watching through the open door. 

Do not fear - all is well, just a bit of smoke, not even enough to do any damage to anything other than well...I think the sign might be out of commission. LOL

Several highlights from last night's game:

1) I got to stand in the pub next to Paul Child while we all sang along with the national anthem.  (You can hate me a little.)  I'm sure he occasionally thought to himself what have these girls gotten me into!

2) Got to meet four Welshmen who were on a plane headed for NZL today. Have fun guys! 

3) Gethin Jenkin's try!  That was massive fun to watch and I hope he had fun too!

4) Despite the coughing and disgusting smell, the smoky sign incident ended up being a laugh riot....everything happens for a reason!!  If karaoke hadn't kept us from the big bar, no one would have been in the other end when it happened and well...I don't want to think about what could have happened....I'd rather it just be a good story we can all tell :)  Besides it did keep us distracted from Namibia scoring LOL

 

So where does that put us....well, I think the quarters stack up like this.
I know we all think #1  are all that matters, but it's not #3 in each pool is important as they will automatically be in the 2014 RWC.  So it's important to look at them as well.

Pool A  #1 NZL #2 France (that one's already locked in) #3 could be either Canada or Tonga COME ON CANADA!!!  Did you think you'd ever see that opportunity for CANADA!

Pool B #1 yeah England (whatevs) #2 & #3 both still a toss up!  I'm not even going to try and speculate.

Pool C #1 and #2 are still a bit tweeky.  It will be Ireland or Australia.  #3 though...that's the one to watch.  Would anyone ever believe that the USA Eagles could be 3rd in their pool?!?! with Ireland, Australia and Italy?  No.  Honestly we couldn't.  But here we are.  USA could lock down a spot in RWC2014 and Italy could have to fight to get in it. 

And then there was Pool D - Sure let RSA have the #1 spot....it means in the quarters they face Australia and then likely in the Semi's the All Blacks....South Africa take that #1 spot---PLEASE!!! :)  For more on that you can read one of my previous blogs...I'm not going into it again.   But then I think Wales are gonna slide on up into 2nd place as RSA will beat Samoa next weekend and Wales will defeat Fiji.

So in the Quarters - Wales will face Ire or Aussies...(I vote Ireland LOL--we've already beaten them once....

Then that puts England v France (England will win); All Blacks v Scots/Argentina (blood bath); and Aussies v South Africa in the other three quarters.

Now if that prediction holds....It would be Wales v England and NZL v Aussies in the Semis...

And that sets up a possible Wales....v.....NZL....finale? aaaaaawwwww  ssshhhhhhh......

But that's all's prediction--back to the now!
I did not think it possible that the two North American teams could be in the position they are in tonight.  Both teams in positions to lock in their ticket for RWC2014.  It fills me with pride that in two countries that have little support for rugby we could produce teams who play well and play with such heart as to get to this point!

This is a huge achievement for Canadian and USA rugby!  Tonight we won't lock in and advancing position, we won't change the course of the path to victory for the top teams.  But we will leave a mark.  Two games.  Both chances to tell the world WE ARE HERE!  In four years, I will look back on this night and remember it as the night USA Rugby had one voice and sang loud and proud!

Good luck to the USA Eagles and to Canada!  Tonight you have our hearts!!


 

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Twelve tries, bonus point well in the bag, job done.

Though in saying that, Wales weren't exactly convincing in the first half. Early on there were countless errors creeping into the game (particularly at set piece and breakdown time). The second half was an exercise in futility for the Namibian defenders, as the Welsh seemingly ran through every training ground move out there - the majority resulting in tries.

The floodgates were thrust open in the second half and in all Wales ran in 12 tries courtesy of Scott Williams, George North, Lee Byrne, Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Aled Brew, Toby Faletau, Jonathon Davies and Lloyd Williams.

Jenkins, Stephen and Ryan Jones showed what Wales had been missing with three impressive and integral performances, with Jenkins scoring probably the best individual try of the tournament with his 49th minute epic. Ryan Jones was involved in every facet of play, and showed some impressive handling skills, particularly in the lead up to the final try. Good ol' Stevie Wonder controlled the game calmly and his top class distribution game allowed the rest of the Welsh backs to run amok. Today showed the advantages of Wales having a stoic, distributing fly-half (Jones or Priestland) rather than the all-singing, all-dancing attacking types like James Hook. Integral as he is to the team for the 'big' games, having Hook as first receiver either limits his creativity or stifles most of the attacking potency of the hugely talented backs outside him. George North on as a substitute was back to playing the way Scarlets fans are used to, breaking tackles and offloading to set the line breaks in motion. Leigh Halfpenny proved to be a catalyst for virtually all the Welsh tries, combining with Byrne for yet another score.

Though the first half was scrappy it is difficult to single out players as weak links. Which is presumably causing the selectors a bit of a headache with the final Pool match against Fiji still having the potential to be a road bump on the way to the Quarters. Come on Wales, get to the knock out stages... anything could happen.

Lots of pressure on the team about to Wales starting line up to take the field against Namibia...maybe, but in these shoes....I don't think so.

I'm excited!  I'm excited to see Aled Brew, Lloyd Burns and Craig Mitchell take the field! I'm excited to see Ryan Jones back on the pitch!  I'm excited to see us score four tries and win big to get those 5 pool points and make sure Samoa know we are not giving up.

Sure we dug ourselves a slight trench, but there's easily a light at the end of the Pool D tunnel.  I say bring on Ireland in the quarter finals! *wink* 

Do I sound like I'm leading into a big "BOO YA! Bring It On! We are the future champions" speech!  You bet I am.  We deserve it.

So come on Wales!  Take the field, take the ball and take the game.  Do not underestimate your enemy--but know it is your day.   We don't have a haka, but we have Bread of Heaven!  Listening to Paul Child sing it the other night at the West Coast Eisteddfod with a backdrop of clips of Wales rugby actually brought a tear to my eye.  (The guys are never gonna let me live that down.) 

GO WALES!

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Settled into our accomadation in New Plymouth. It's a very nice spot actually, right on the coast.

Got here early this afternoon after traveling from Hamilton this morning. Didn't really do anything in Hamilton last night, it was just somwhere to stop on the way down from Auckland after the Samoa vs Fiji game.

On the evidence of that much Wales have little to fear from Fiji this time around. Samoa won the game without ever being at their best. Great atmosphere in a packed out Eden park though.

Looking forward to this evenings game. Hopefully I can share some shot's from a handsome Welsh victory with you tomorrow.

The All Blacks may have put in a fine collective display against France yesterday, but it was the achievement of an individual that really caught the eye in Auckland. Richie McCaw becoming the first All Black to reach 100 test caps is genuinely magnificent.

Receiving 100 caps for the All Blacks is like receiving 150 for another test playing nation. To put it in perspective, look at the array of Kiwi talent that has graced the game in Wales, and the miserly amount of caps that they received. Regan King was the best outside centre to have played in Wales over the past decade, yet the all Blacks saw fit to give him just one cap. Xavier Rush and Filo Tiatia dominated the gain-line in Wales, yet received 8 and 2 caps respectively. Cardiff Blue's Ben Blair was capped just 6 times, and if you believe the Kiwi press and online forums, he is still regarded as one of the worst players ever to play for the AB's. They say "it's better to have never been an All Black than to have been a bad All Black".

Yet even amongst rugby's test centurions, McCaw remains peerless. The majority of those fortunate to reach 100 caps are often regarded as fine servants to the game and their country, but McCaw is no-one's servant, he's the master (and despite recent criticism from some quarters, still is).

The unusual thing about McCaw is that despite dominating the modern game, he doesn't look like he was built for it. At 16 stone 6 lbs, he's not the biggest. At six foot one inches high, he's not the tallest - McCaw's most important attributes lie in the top six inches.

McCaw doesn't just read the game, he writes it. His ability to be in the right place at the right time leads you to believe that he has a direct line to Nostradamus.

But most of McCaw's best work occurs under the cover of darkness, in dimly lit rucks and mauls. He is often accused of cheating; of not entering through 'the gate' at the back of rucks and mauls. It's not cheating, he just plays the referee better than anyone in the game - why would you enter through 'the gate' when you've been given the keys for the side door?

McCaw is undoubtedly one of the greatest All Blacks of all time and he certainly ranks alongside Colin Meads, Michael Jones and Jonah Lomu. He may have been awarded 100 caps, won 88% of his games playing for the AB's, captained his nation 63 times, and been named the IRB's World Player of the Year a record 3 times, but lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy would surely cap it all.

Progress

By Jamie Powell on Sep 25, 11 07:03 PM in

So far I have been pleased with Wales performances in new Zealand. Nothing more can be said about south Africa, the Samoan performance was very pleasing. Hopefully hookers injury isn't anything too bad, we need him. Ok we have Stephen jones but compared to hook he seems a little one dimensional and after not playing for weeks could be a weakness.

Tomorrows game against Namibia should be a training session really, however, I am expecting some big tackles from their players! Personally I am not sure about eleven changes- I believe the best team( barring injuries) should be played, more game time results in the team gelling, however, with the few niggles in the team, perhaps a rest is called for!!

All being well it will be Ireland in the quarters, what a game that would be!

Anyway, one step at a time, time to set the alarm for an early start before work in the morning!

Come on Wales, 50 points would be a good target!

When South Africa romped to a record 87-0 World Cup win for the Boks against Namibia on Thursday, I wondered if Wales would be capable of such a convincing rout. Yes, we've put teams to the sword before, but how often have we despatched them with such mercilessness as that displayed by the Springboks. Not often, is the answer. There is much to admire in the Boks' 'give them nothing, but take from them everything' attitude.

Without patronising Namibia, they have not yet come close to the sort of performance that saw them run Ireland close in 2007. This being the World Cup, it is evident that many teams have their aces to play. Japan played theirs against France, Romania theirs against Scotland. Namibia, I fear, are out of chips.

As such, with eleven changes to the Welsh side, can we expect to nil the Welwitschias at Stadium Taranaki tomorrow morning? Past results suggest we would let the lesser rugby nation perform an heroic fightback, from which we would emerge relieved not to have lost a match that was so eminently winnable (and by a large, Springboksesque margin at that).

Our performances so far in this campaign have been pleasing, to put it lightly. I don't need to bring up the South African limbo any more than it has already been dissected. Regardless of the tight score, the Samoan performance was a masterclass in fighting fire with fire. The image of Jamie Roberts sitting Seilala Mapusua on his backside currently sits at the top of the in-form centre's highlights reel for me.

Speaking of centres, Eliota Fuiamono-Sapolu's furious post-match tweeting left a bad taste in the mouth for all involved. For a man of his standing and intellect -a qualified solicitor, no less!- to bring up the holocaust in relation to an unfair pool stage turnaround stinks to high heaven. For him to say that Samoa would have 'killed Wales' given more rest time provides even more focus for his disrespect - directly, and unfairly, onto his fellow international rugby players.

This is the opportunity for Tavis Knoyle to display his wares to the world. Many have glibly projected that he is a clone of Mike Phillips - if true, would that be such a bad thing? If one of Bayonne's biggest acquisitions plays out of his skin for sixty minutes or so -a threat on almost every level of the game- imagine the sinking feeling the opposition would endure when his fully energised clone replaces him and wreaks havoc anew.

As it is, he has been given the starting berth at nine, with the exciting Lloyd Williams on the bench. There is a sense that these two will give the Welsh backs an extra gear; a gear especially in need late on in the game, given that Wales are still learning to shut out the opposition completely.

Many of the new faces in the Welsh side are genuine contenders, but face an onerous task in proving they are worthy of starting ahead of the incumbents. Stephen Jones will be in the unusual position of trying to oust his regional understudy, Rhys Priestland, while also celebrating becoming Wales' most capped player with 101 appearances.

If Scott Williams puts in the type of performance we've been promised he is capable of, then rugby fans (many of whom wouldn't recognise him if he walked past them in the street) will have another individual to throw into the endless midfield debate.

It seems like an eternity since Leigh Halfpenny was last seen surging up the wing for Wales, readjusting his scrumcap in mid-flight, in that endearing manner of his. His hunger for the ball was audible upon his entrance into the arena against Samoa, and provided a turning point for the game. Equally, Aled Brew will be looking to play the wrecking ball to Halfpenny's foil in this game. If 'One-Two', as my friends call him -referring to an imagined countdown the winger takes before sending his opponent flying, as in 'One, Two, Aled Brew!'- can bring his regional form to the international table, he may prove devastating in attack and defence.

Lee Byrne, like Halfpenny, has been allowed to rediscover his form in the Welsh jersey - form that so eluded him last season in regional and international rugby. Modern rugby being the fickle game it is, he is only one good performance away from being Wales' first choice fullback once more, though. Heaven knows it's a position that needs competition for places.

Second chances seemingly being the watchword of Wales' World Cup drive, Ryan Jones starts at blindside flanker. To avoid becoming the archetypal forward who comes on with twenty minutes to go in order to 'steady the ship' -a phrase beloved of a plethora of pub-going pundits- he must prove that he still has the go-forward needed to play in the back row. I don't doubt Jones's class, but I still scratch my head as to where his straight, damaging lines of running went post-2005.

The way the Namibian pack has been manhandled at scrum time by an overall unremarkable opposing eight in their last three fixtures means happy days for Wales' new front row. It will be disappointing, to say the least, if we don't gain a substantial amount of points from this aspect of the game. Craig Mitchell doesn't want to 'do a Dwayne' and become a forgotten man of Welsh rugby by moving to an English club, so it is a given that he will be anxious to scrummage with all the intensity of Mariusz Pudzianowski rushing to get his last stamp at Nando's on a busy Friday night.

Gethin Jenkins will seek to justify his initial presence as 'extra luggage' on the tour, given his injury problem. Us Welsh fans, of course, know what he is capable of, so the decision to bring him to New Zealand was a no-brainer. He may come to save our bacon at a later date, but tomorrow will be his chance to blow away the cobwebs of inaction once and for all.

Pooler Lloyd Burns will do what his famous predecessors at the Gwent club never got the opportunity to do, and represent his nation at the World Cup. His physicality will count for a lot against the injured pride of the Namibian pack, led by the much-feted flanker Saracens Jacques Burger.

As it is, the pressure put on Burger not only by an expectant Namibian nation, but also the world's media, must be incredible. Their leading light, he is expected to perform game-winning feats of derring-do, despite the relatively limited ability of the team around him. Despite this, or because of it, he still remains a danger.

A win margin of less than 50 points against Namibia would be below par given the talent of this squad. The southern Africans should be tired and dispirited after their recent efforts, which isn't to say they will roll over and die. Nonetheless, this should be Wales' easiest fixture of the pool and, with the added impetus of fresh players, one that should herald a highly convincing victory.


Before I even begin to take a look at our line up against Namibia, I'm just gonna address the gigantic rumor I got hit with at last nights opening ceremony for the first West Coast Eisteddfod (first in like 50+ years)--that the Springboks might throw their match against Samoa in order both knock out Wales from the tournament and to face an easier path to the final game.  This is competely laughable.

First, this "game plan" isn't appearing all over the South African papers as it was told to me.  It was a sports blog writers opinion that got picked up and circulated.  Now since that won't put it to rest (I know my friends and if it didn't for them it won't for anyone) I'll go on.

Second, this theory assumes too much....it assumes that today Samoa will beat Fiji with a bonus point.  While it is possible, it is highly improbable. 

Third, it assumes that RSA throw their match to Samoa and possibly have to do it with Samoa getting four tries on them yet Samoa only winning by 7 points--has the math and the what if's gotten to ridiculous yet?

Fourth, this theory puts South Africa in second place in Pool D.  Do the reigning world champs WANT to come out second in their pool to Samoa?  I think the team would revolt.

Lastly, and I think here's where people get stuck....Pool C is gonna be tricky.  Australia can only get a max of 5 more points locking them in at 15.  Italy can get another 9 and Ireland can get another 10.   You see how maths get tricky....  Do all your maths again today.  New Zealand just beat France, they have locked first place in Pool A. They are playing QF#4 against either Argentina or Scotland.....meaning the All Blacks are playing Semi#2.  If you follow all your what if's and unsure math--South Africa cannot avoid McCaw and Company.

And besides all of the above an intentional loss to Samoa by South Africa would look and feel like an intentional loss by South Africa--so just stop with the rumor train. 

The road to the world cup final is a winding road between brutal battlefields.  Self defeating, it's all decided anyway there's nothing we can do negative attitude is bollacks!  Wales have two games left in this pool....there's work to be done!  COME ON WALES!  We have your back!

 

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Ireland At Work

By Jon North on Sep 24, 11 01:11 AM in



Had a look at Ireland in training this morning in Rotarua ahead of their match tomorrow with Russia.

Could well see them again in Wellington for a quarter final match against Wales.

I won't be at the Ireland game tomorrow, heading back to Auckland to shoot the Fiji vs Samoa match at Eden Park.

Will share some pics with you from that one when I get chance.

In the mean time here are Ireland at work...

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Down but not out,

By Tom Davies on Sep 23, 11 09:29 PM in

We arrived off the ferry into Wellington, and struggled to find a motor park then reluctantly booked into the backpackers for the first night. It seemed that we would paying out $70 per person per night to sleep in a car park with no bogs until another friend came to our aid. I phoned a friend an asked if we could sleep outside her house in Wellington. It turned out that she had just moved out of her accommodation but was house sitting, within a few hours we were sitting in pimp style accommodation again like a cat landing gracefully on our feet.

Tension built up in Wellington, it was on everyone's lips, and anticipation was at fever pitch, as Sunday was the day which will be forever imbedded in our minds. Joseph Rees decided to accept his fate, lie on his back, open his mouth and have a meal and drink together in the form of a beerkat. It has been almost a fortnight since the incident, and I can't still shake that image of Joe patiently waiting for his mouth to fill full of beer before swallowing his beer. I won't dwell on the game, as all well that ends well and it looks like Wales might get a nice option of an Ireland quarter final. But the night proved too much for most of us, as after the game our group struggled to meet up. With Tessa selflessly escorted Max, who was peppering the street with his sick all the way back to our plush accommodation, Joe and myself went AWOL and getting back in the early hours, and Sally and Lucy partying with Kelv until the sun actually came up.

Whilst in Wellington, we hooked up with another kiwi friend Tim who, laid down a brand new challenge. 'As both Wales and New Zealand come from sheep loving (not in the good way) nations, the challenge is to shear or doc a sheep/lamb'. Tim challenge was back up with a suitable forfeit which will be revealed at a later date. Big mo also kept coming up with new ones, with the challenge to wear, or for double points, to stealing a rugby top from every nation in the world cup. Andre Smit also challenged the teams to get on the pitch but preferable to streak, this is a married man, so we have to question his motives. Andre is South African so I can only assume that he wants us deported from New Zealand, challenge accepted like all others.

After Wellington had taken its toll on our bodies and the money from our pockets, we headed inland to chill out on a farm and get some down time. Whilst there I asked the farmer if it was possible to shear a sheep, he told me that not until December but we could doc some sheep next week. With the next challenge in the bag we headed up to Hamilton, where Max, Joe and I would make a guest appearance on scrum V, doing a reservoir dogs impression.

Our first night in the tron (Hamilton) we stayed at a club and went into the bar, the girls started to chat to old men. As the night wore on the girls remained glued to the old men, like the other boys I didn't think these old men would cause us problems, how wrong could I have been. The following morning, the girls got up early and went shopping, heading into town with a water butt on the roof and in the wrong direction. Later on that evening as the boys prepared to enjoy the wallaby slaying, the girls damped the mood. It seems that the old boys from the previous night were sheep shearers, and a bit of cleavage and flirtatious laughing, the girls sheared a sheep first thing that morning.
With victory over Samoa a tough fought game, our world cup dream is still alive, that night myself Max and Joe had a chat. The boys have now regathered our thoughts and regained composure to attempt to turn the deficit around and take on some of these challenges head on.

Girls 2 boys 1.

Playing rugby for Wales has always come with pressures. Every aspect of your performance on and off the field is under constant scrutiny. The great Barry John compared it to living in a goldfish bowl. But the Welsh goldfish bowl is a far cry from the environment that the All Blacks find themselves in - their bowl has a few sharks thrown in for good measure.

The sharks come in the form of the New Zealand media and All Blacks supporters, whose constant nibbling at their team and their performances is unfathomable - a 41-10 opening victory over Tonga would surely have satisfied every other team in the tournament.

Listening to New Zealand's premier sports radio channel over the past few weeks has provided a real insight into the importance of rugby in New Zealand. Over a 24 hour period the station broadcasts approximately 2 minutes of netball, 20 minutes of Rugby League, and 8 minutes of cricket, with the remaining 23 ½ hours being dedicated to the All Blacks and the World Cup. But whilst the Radio Sport presenters are almost gushing towards the other participating nations (particularly Wales, who they rate very highly this year) they are hyper-critical of the All Blacks and their coaching staff. It's no wonder Zac Guilford has turned to booze over the last few weeks.

Unlike their rugby, the constant criticism of the AB's is difficult to watch. They are the most successful team in Rugby Union history, with an overall win ratio of 75%. They are consistently ranked No.1 in the IRB rankings, and have a talent pool so deep it's amazing that Graham Henry and his selectors haven't drowned - how many international teams could have omitted Sitiveni Sivivatu and Hosea Gear from their RWC squads?

And whilst I appreciate that the Kiwis haven't won the Webb Ellis trophy since 1987, it's not as if they have been short of success in the Tri Nations. Yet portions of the Kiwi public and media continue to berate their team and question every move that Graham Henry makes, to the extent that he was recently voted the 6th most hated man in New Zealand - No.1 was Quade Cooper, the Kiwi born Australian outside half.

If you think that a goldfish bowl full of sharks sounds like an unpleasant place to be, this week they're about to throw in a few frogs too. Having derailed their 2007 World Cup, the Kiwis are particularly phobic about frogs.

At least you know what to expect from a shark; it's going to circle for a while and then tear a chunk out of you. But frogs are different, they're unpredictable, and you can't tell what they are going to do from one minute to the next. And so it has proved. Who could have predicted that Marc Lievremont (who appears to be as mad as a box of frogs) would pick Morgan Para to play at outside half against the All Blacks?

But that's where the New Zealand goldfish bowl metaphor ends, because if the All Blacks fail to win this World Cup on home soil, it will linger in the memory for far longer than 5 seconds.

Samoa

By Jim Hughes on Sep 20, 11 09:17 PM in


Well another day another match. Arriving in Hamilton on saturday
lunchtime we were met by our hosts for the weekend (Welsh supporter
hosting arranged by Trudi Gataland) we were treated to a tour of this
rugby mad town. It apperas that Wales is closed as it seems most are
over hear creating a great atomosphere.

On saturday evening we were off the a party at a locla pub that had
been arranged by all the host families and what a suprise, I was
presented with a birthday cake to mark my 60th on the Sunday and a
rebdition of Happy Birthday in Welsh for the whole crowd, there was
even a tear from that knarled old Welshman.

anyway Sunday dawned in pouring rain and with the game due to kick of
at 3:30 there was time for a nice lunch and a walk to the ground, it
was a great atmosphere as the supporters of both sides mingled well all
in good spirits, The Samonas in particular in a carnival mood.

The game as you will nowdoubt know was a hard fought win for Wales,
neither side played their best but it was a very physical encounter.
The bonus point that Wales did not get may yet prove cruciall when it
comes to quarter final qualifiaction. After the game the Samoans were
still happy and in carnival mood.

No we are off to Queenstown for a few day break (to settle the
nerves).

Dear me, that was a nervy game. There were a few times during the game when I thought it was going to be a case of here we go again! But the most important fact is that we achieved the W!
It was a very bruising encounter and the players clearly looked nervous throughout the game, as they knew if they lost then they'd be going home in a fortnight.
We did make it difficult for ourselves at times, by giving away penalties & therfore the Samoans were able to go through the phases and put us under a lot of pressure.
The forwards did enough in the end to win the game, without really dominating in any areas. The loss to Lydiate early on was a blow, as it's clear to see when a player goes off how important he was in the first place, as we struggled at the breakdown as Powell is more of a ball carrier (who spills the ball & gives away penalties). And it meant that Warburton had to do a lot more work at the breakdown to make up for this.
I have to say that one player who has suprised me is Charteris, who all of a sudden looks switched on and twice the player that he's been over the last few seasons, he's proving to be a major asset at the lineout.
With regards to the backs, yet again Jamie Roberts has a very good game, but Jonathan Davies was very quiet. Of course, it was never going to be the type of game where the backs throw the ball around, but I feel he should step up occassionally and take the work load away from Roberts.
As I've said previously I believe Hook is wasted at fullback, lets hope his injury will not keep out of the rest of the competition.
A big well done also to Halfpenny who made an impact when he came on....even though I was shouting at the tv when he was trying to adjust his headguard, whilst sprinting away from the defender! 'just run, run!'
Lets hope now that Ryan gets back to full fitness for the final group game, as we might need him if Lydiate stays injured.
But well done boys!
I refuse to talk about the quarter finals until we've beaten Fiji!
Ymlaen!

To be at sixes and sevens is seen as a negative statement, but when it relates to Wales' player ratings for the clash against Samoa, it's no bad thing. The pressure and negative associations of playing Samoa in the World Cup meant that Sunday's fixture was always going to be one for the rugby purist. There would be no headline grabbing individual performances, no 'nine out of tens,' the circumstances simply wouldn't allow it.

And that is exactly how it transpired for Wales. Paul James and Adam Jones scrummaged well at times, but didn't dominate. The lineout functioned with an 81% success rate, losing two from nine on our own throw. The pack as a whole put in a satisfactory performance at the rucks, winning 90% of their ball and surprisingly turned over less ball than they did against South Africa. Preistland, despite missing another drop goal and one reasonably simple line clearance, once again delivered a composed performance under extreme pressure. Phillips straightened when we were going forward, and took the flack whilst we were retreating. Davies defended the 12/13 channel admirably. Shane showed glimpses without dazzling, whist Halfpenny brought some much needed 'gas' at fullback. Like I said, it was 'six and seven out of ten' stuff.

There were however three players who put in performances that weren't at sixes and sevens. The first two are Jamie Roberts and George North. In a game where Wales had limited opportunities to impress, both made the hard yards look effortless - along with Warburton, their ability to maintain form and fitness is integral to Wales' passage through this tournament.

The third player to buck the player ratings trend was Andy Powell, but for the wrong reasons. Powell replaced Lydiate after just 10 minutes and despite the difference in age between the two, the gulf in class is even greater. Powell may have the physique of a blindside flanker, but he has none of the work ethic. Despite an impressive tackle count of 20 in 70 minutes of play, his lack of impact at the breakdown is noticeable - the injuries to Ryan Jones and Lydiate must be a real concern to Warren Gatland.

So there it is. Wales may have been at sixes and sevens, but sometimes that's just what's required to make the last eight.


Granted, I watched the game slightly bleary eyed after the first night of Freshers at University. But I don't think I'm mistaken in saying that Wales came very close to losing their second game on the bounce against Samoa.

Samoa are a massively talented outfit. Their physicality is literally second to none and they are a pretty entertaining side to watch. When it's not your team opposing them, of course.

Wales' vastly improved fitness proved once again to be the key. There were some pretty crucial errors, particularly with regards to the breakdown that no doubt Gatland and McBryde will be looking to rectify before the next game against Wales (Monday 26th - 7.30). The loss of Lydiate was noticable in defence, particularly at ruck time, and there will be a lot of anxious people waiting to also hear news on James Hook's shoulder injury which forced him to retire from the field at half time.

But the bottom line is the win. It was hard fought, and we owed it to a try from Shane Williams (wonder how many times that has happened...). We all knew Samoa were one of the toughest asks in basically the toughest pool in the tournament. In other news, Wales should be thankful really that South Africa saved their form for the week after playing Wales. Wales outplayed the Boks in virtually every area of the field, but I have to wonder if they would have done so if they had played them in the mood they were in versus Fiji.

The next game is Namibia. I'm not going to be arrogant and assume Wales will win, but I'm not going to be irritatingly humble and say it's going to be a very difficult game. Namibia can put some impressive phases together, and Wales should be wary of their tendancy to drop goals; though realistically theire defence should merely provide cannon fodder for (hopefully) some successful Welsh backline moves, the likes of which have been missing in the opening two games.

One win out of two is a decent enough record. What we need is four out of five.

Two out of Wales four pool matches are now behind us and though our nerves, or mine at least, are in tatters and we're only third in pool behind South Africa and Samoa, there's a lot to take heart from.

Today's test against Samoa was as brutal and demanding as the one where our boys pushed the Springboks almost to the limit but this time not only did they keep their cool, but they pushed forward, edging a win through perseverance despite ending the first half behind.

This wasn't the incredible yet ultimately fruitless performance we saw last week, this was a little rougher around the edges but thanks to old twinkletoes Shane Williams, it was Wales that got the all important 1 in the win column on the table.That said, in comparison to the other nations playing today, we didn't give away nearly as many penalties and unlike past performances, we did take any and all of the opportunities we found against what at times seemed like a swarm of blue shirts.

Samoa are an intense and physical side that, along with South Africa are one of the most demanding sides to beat so though we far from ran rings around them, any win against them can be classed as a major achievement.

In terms of individual performances, Shane Williams once again saved the day as Jonathan Davies fumbled with the ball on the wing, Sam Warburton led from all over the pitch and Alun Wyn Jones put in a preternatural amount of graft. It was fantastic to see Gethin Jenkins not only back but coming straight into action as if he was never away. My only complaint would be Andy Powell, who regained his crown as the knock-on king just when we were needing composure.

Captain Sam Warburton said in his post match talk that though there's still a lot of hard work to do if Wales are to make it out of the pool, that stands us in better staid in the next rounds compared to those who have cruised through weaker pools. This, along with the tenacity of the side out there proves that if any Welsh side has had the right attitude about a World cup it is this one.

This is a side on the way up, so any niggles from today's outing can and should be forgiven as they find their way, onwards and upwards.

I hope!



Well played Wales. A excellent show of character when it looked like Samoa were set to ruin the party again.

Wales' fitness once more proved excellent as we ground out the most vital of wins. We take two very important things from this. Firstly, we now have 5 crucial points in the race to escape pool D. Just as important as this however is the psychological good this will do the Welsh side. Coming through tough matches like this builds character in a team and Wales will improve from here.

Only a few hours now until Wales takes on Samoa!  But first, what about that Ireland victory over Australia!  WOOO!!! HOOO!!!!  That's what I'm talking about.  That right there is some sexy rugby.  The Rugby World Cup up to this point has had some great highs and yes some mediocre blah, but last night, we all got a wake up call to what rugby can be.  At times it was technical, other times it was looser than custard, but it was fully entertaining.  I cannot wait for more from RWC 2011

Last night's game set up a perfect scenario for Wales.  As long as we hold ourselves together and come in 2nd in Pool D, we will play Ireland (who will surely come in first in Pool C) in a Quarter Final matchup.   And lets remember this Wales team has already beaten this Irish team. At their core, these Welsh squads are not that far removed from 6Nations 2011 squads.  Do not doubt we can do it again!   

Now Warren Gatland and I disagree on a few things (namely James Hook at 15 and not starting Andy Powell); but I believe in the team that's taking the field today.  I believe every single one of those players has their eyes open and will NOT underestimate their counterparts from Samoa.    Samoa is big and Samoa is fast.  But we aren't without our advantages in George North, Sam Warburton and off the bench Gethin Jenkins

I want to remind my fellow bloggers and my fellow Welsh fans, no one game rests on the shoulders of one player.   To put that kind of pressure on one person will only find you disappointed with the outcome.

Here are my predictions....there will be quick first blood, and probably in the form of a penalty kick by Hook.   Next, probably a try by Samoa, but come one, we know they'll get one in there.  Then, you'll see one by Wales, hopefully two before the half.  Do I get a prize if I get this right?  LOL Cause I know if I'm wrong, I'm going to get the honor of laughter at my expense if I'm wrong! 

Also, I've gotten alot of trash talk on Twitter about my bonus point strategy.  Pay attention, in order to come in second in our Pool, we not only have to be behind South Africa in points, we have to be ahead of Fiji and Samoa....bonus points matter.....

Lastly, would somebody watch what these boys say to the press....nothing major has happened as a result of anything a WRU player has said, but saying "we'll play ugly if we have to"  has the potential to look very bad.  Wales is bad ass out there on the pitch, but we aren't bullies or arrogent pr&#!$.  So don't start trash talking in a manner that makes us look like we are.

Now....there's a short skirt, a pair of high heel boots and a Wales jersey that I need to change into so I can get to the pub...Good Luck boys!  Los Angeles is with you!!!

xoxo

PS have I mentioned the massive awesome win of USA Eagles over Russia?  HA HA!  I have now!  GO EAGLES!  We'll put rugby on the US Sports industry map!!!

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Trip so far,

By Jim Hughes on Sep 16, 11 10:31 PM in

The scenery is just spectacular, with high snow-capped mountains, deep valley and lakes everywhere. However none of that prepares you for the magnificent Lake Tekapo, it actually took your breath away, a light blue colour, caused by plants in the lake.
After a light lunch it was off again calling in at the observatory at Mt. John, although no star gazing as it was mid-afternoon the 360 views all around were wonderful with Mt. Cook in the distance in all its glory.
Back on the road we had 250 kms to Dunedin arriving there in torrential rain at 7pm (a long but great day). Hitting Dunedin the following morning we had a walking tour of the city, lunch in an Irish bar and a tour of the local brewery (not many rugby supporters around, I am told that they were in Queenstown on a break with the team). After that we headed back to our apartment and a meal and an early night.
We are now on our flight from Dunedin via Wellington to Hamilton; the mood is subdued after waking this morning to hear the sad news that 4 South Wales miners have been killed.
I think the mood in Hamilton will be similar and our thought goes out to the families and friends of these boys with a rugby game being put into perspective.
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I'm really looking forward to Sunday mornings game now, I will be recording it, then waking up at a respectable time to watch it!
I was unfortunate enough to be in the stadium in Nantes in 2007 when we lost to the Fijians in the final group game, and I have to say that was the lowest point I can remember being a Welsh rugby fan.........however!
I believe that on the evidence of Sundays game that we are now a team with a good mixture of youth and experience and if we stick to the correct game plan then I believe we should beat the Samoans by around 10 points. I'm sure that Gatland and his coaching team will have been praising the team for their efforts this week, and making sure they produce more of the same on Sunday (and telling them to take the opportunities!).
Having watched a few of the games now, it's clear to see that at this stage of the tournament it's all about winning the games - no matter how ugly the win is!
I also feel that Gatland will make lots of changes for the Namibia game so it's up to the players to give their all on Sunday knowing that some of them will have a week off before the final group game.
I'll be watching the aussies closely tommorow as well, as if we finish 2nd in the group, then they are likely to be our 1/4 final opponents.

Cymru am byth!

The boys did very well against SA, it was great to see Jamie Roberts looking like a man possessed as he was for the Lions in SA. But yet again we should have won, but didn't quite have the cutting edge to seal the victory, that is the most frustrating thing.
SA only had a coulple of try scoring opportunities and managed to take them both, which is why they are the current world champions.
I think that special praise hoas to go to the Welsh pack who did an outstanding job on the saffas, we had them reeling at many points during the game, and at times they did not know what had hit them.
It was interesting as the SA subs had a major impact on the game, and as soon as they came on I thought that they might turn the game around in their favour.
The only change I would make for the Samoa game is bringing James Hook to fly half.

How much can you bench?

By Paul Williams on Sep 16, 11 11:43 AM in

The amount that you can bench has become vital in the modern game. But I'm not talking about the kg's that you can press in the gym, or as the Kiwis call it 'throwing tin'. I'm talking about the weight of experience and quality that you can lift from the substitute's bench.

As this World Cup has proved, most teams can select a fifteen that is able to compete at test level for at least 50 - 60 minutes - just look at the performances of Romania and Georgia against Scotland, or Japan against France. But it's a team's ability to call on impact players in the last quarter that really sets the top nations part.

Take last weekend's clash with South Africa for example. The South African bench resembled the type you would expect to find in a 14th century cathedral: strong, solid, weathered, the sort that wouldn't buckle under pressure (and didn't). In contrast, the depleted Welsh bench looked a little flimsy, like the white plastic patio chairs you'd expect to find at a neighbour's BBQ.

It is perhaps surprising then that Wales have opted not to include Stephen Jones on the bench for Sunday's clash with Samoa. Jones's selection would have afforded Gatland a reliable goal kicking option against a team which concedes its fair share of penalties. It would also have provided an additional 100 caps of experience should they be needed during the last 20 minutes - a period in which the Samoans tired against Namibia.

Gethin Jenkins' inclusion in Sunday's 22 is an enormous boost for Wales. When (not if) Gethin returns to international rugby on Sunday, Wales will not only be injecting one of the world's best loose heads in the game, but the work rate, mobility, and ball skills of a back row forward.

Wales will need their bench on Sunday, and it will need to be strong - after all, it's supporting the hopes of a nation.

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