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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Jamie Powell

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I’m Jamie Powell, a Welsh rugby exile living in east Sussex. My parents are from Ebbw Vale so growing up there was only one team for me to support! I watch all the Wales games and also try and watch as many club games as possible. I have also started to go to London Welsh games.

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Exiled Wirraller and Ospreylian trapped in the capital; by day I sort out the lives of others but by weekend I report on all things rugby for the womenfolk of this fair hemisphere.

When I’m not aiding and abetting the hot flushes of the femmes of terraces around the land, I help report on the RaboDirect Pro12 for some of the more serious websites, so I’ll be here to bring you the lighter side of goings on.

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My name is Jonathan North and as head photographer for Welsh photographic agency ASI I get to see a lot of Welsh rugby from up close. Through my work I enjoy rugby at all levels from the local club game right through to the national side.

In my blog I try and share my experiences from pitchside and the opinions that form there. As well as that I also include my latest photographic work to accompany my tales from the touchline.

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I live in Birmingham, raised in Swansea, I’ve just turned 32. I live with my wife, I’m a Welsh rugby fan as well as a huge Swans and Ospreys fan. Myself and a group of friends go away to Edinburgh/Ireland every year for the away fixture in the Six nations.

I get more excited about the Six Nations than I do about Christmas. It’s going to be a very difficult campaign with expectation very high due to us making the semi-finals of the World Cup. We have very difficult away fixtures in Dublin & Twickenham. I manage to follow most regional games on the internet so I’m able to see who’s in form etc. I shall be in Dublin in February for the fixture. I’m looking forward to seeing the Welsh players back at their regions, hopefully they will maintain their high standards.

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I'm a student from North Wales – where, believe it or not, we know as much about rugby as do those in the south! I am a former captain of the Gogledd Cymru Girls U18 Team as well as being a qualified coach and referee.

I fancy I could give Gatland a run for his money and I'm almost always convinced I'm right and the ref's wrong – something I have in common with most of Wales I think, particularly after recent events...

 

As a lock and Number 8 I am an ardent supporter of the pack. Not one to shy away from confrontation on the field, the same goes for my reporting. Currently located in London, living with the enemy, so to speak... I have to make my opinion heard down here. So, let me hear you... Come on Cymru!

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American with Welsh heritage and a deep love of Welsh rugby in her blood.  So much so I blog from Los Angeles where International games are on at 6am!

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My name is Sebastian Barrett. I'm from Cardiff. Like most Welshmen, I view rugby as the be all and end all.

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34 years old, but I look 44. I work in advertising and if rugby OCD is a legitimate syndrome, then I have it.

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