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Well, well well....the moment we all knew was coming is about to arrive. 

We can try to be excited about France v England--but really it seems blaze'   Martin Johnson has made a few slips in his picking but eh.  White or Blue--one will win one will lose.  THen Aussies v RSA--won't be an easy win, but Habana is playing with injury and Botha is out....Look for little O'Connor to score some tries and a win for Aussies.  I"m not even gonna go into All Blacks v Argentina--again, not easy but come on.  It's next week's semifinal between the Aussies and All Blacks that's got my engine purring!

So let's face it, this IS the match of the weekend. 

Our team looks good--Jenkins, Bennett, A. Jones, Charteris, AWJones, Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau, Phillips, Priestland, Williams, Roberts, Davies, North, and Halfpenny....did I say that YES I DID!  FINALLY!  Halfpenny at 15!  This is gonna be fun.  (I just wish my fantasy team was set up to put HP in that position....whomever does it, will be pleased.)

Saturday is the culmination of two teams epic road through the Pool stages of Rugby World Cup 2011.  The Celtic region hasn't been buzzing this much since well possibly St. David's Day.  The pubs will be the land of red and green tonight in LA (tomorrow morning to many of you).  

Alot of pressure is put on the two captains...Warburton and O'Driscoll, but I think there's more to these teams than that.  There are spots of weakness on both sides....HP at 15, is it too soon?  too green there?  and Ireland..Is Best's shoulder ready for the Welsh front row?  All in all Wales look good, physically we are at 100% and as long as we keep our heads we'll see a repeat of the 6Nations match.  Ireland has alot of confidence bolstering behind them.   And we are 8 months past the 2011 Welsh defeat of the men in green.

But our biggest problem as Welsh fans is to put the burden of a win or loss on one or two key players...and that's just it, they are key players not the only players.  It is as a team that Wales will win or lose this game.  One spectacular try dive won't.  Neither will one scrum, one drive, one ruck, one lineout or one anything else.  Ireland don't play that kind of rugby.  if they slip up, it will be the only time they slip up and they bounce like basketballs back to form. 

We cannot wait for mistakes, we must attack and defend with equal measure.  Take advantage of what we can, but strike when we see a window.  That will be how we win this game.


(PS regarding my comments about Eng v France--please note, I have a bet with a non-bicycle helmet wearing English bloke.  The bet is that Wales will get at least as far as England in the RWC.  So forgive me now, but just in case the impossible happens, I may have to cheer on France.  you see that's the other reason that Wales will win--God can't allow me to cheer for France... *smiles*) 

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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!

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!!!


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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The Rugby World Cup is a long hard road, which we are right in the middle of at the moment.  I'm honestly not worried.  Alright, nobody wanted to lose to RSA, but we did and it puts us at this precise moment 4th in the pool...which won't last long.  How and why we got there are simple, South Africa worked their butts off and we were good enough to hold them to 17-16.  Could we have been better, hell yes...  So where did we lack?  Honestly, I keep telling you all, don't put James Hook at 15.  He's a fly-half  so why do it!  It's sure to happen again this weekend, with the possiblity of Stephen Jones in at that spot. 

Now I loved the work Priestland did, but I'm not sure how affective he's going to be against Samoa.  Those boys are boulders and I hope everyone's been paying attention because Samoa and Fiji are doing everything I said they would and a little bit more.   Granted Namibia is the #20 team in the field, so I guess the real test for those two teams will be RSA and Wales. 

Let's take our 1 point and run with it, multiply it by 4 more games a score 4+ tries in a couple of them.  Trust me, RSA gonna have their hands full with Fiji.  We have to remember--Fiji and Samoa both play like it's 7's rugby out there, whether it's 15 on a side or not.  They hit HARD and they do NOT back down.  We must play like they do...fearless and with heart, or we will not beat them.

So we find ourselves in a must win situation for the rest of our Pool games.  Is that undue pressure?  Nope, I for one was already planning on it, whether anyone else was or not.  Hope for the best and expect the worst.  Here's my team against Samoa on the 18th....  er rather 8:30pm on the 17th here in Los Angeles.

Adam Jones
Paul James
Gethin Jenkins  (a magic front row up to the task of Samoa)
Alun Wyn Jones

Bradley Davies
Huw Bennett
Sam Warburton
(c) (proving himself to be a god of thunder)
Andy Powell (against Samoa I want to step out there BIG, PASSION, slightly scary at times and just a dash of the unknown)
Phillips (repeat everything I said about Powelly here)
James Hook (You know it. I know it.  we all know it!)
Shane Williams  (Samoa will hurt this fearless gutsy one at #9 better here)
Jonathan Davies
Jamie Roberts (put on the mean face, it works and god help me it's a little sexy too)
George North (get him or Shane through the line to a break and they can haul ass!)
Lee Byrne  (I don't know why I just do)


Rhys Priestland
Toby Faletau
Luke Charteris

Stephen Jones (in case the boot goes)
Scott Williams
Ryan Bevington

Now let me take one moment and say two things:

1) GO USA EAGLES!  Taking on Russia in a few hours...I'm headed to the pub to watch at 1230am, then attempt to go to work in the morning...oy vey!  Todd Clever you CAN lead this team to victory tonight!

2) ROCK ON CANADA!!!  The first big upset of RWC2011 against Tonga.   I was coming out of my skin watching last night--Canada NEVER gave up!    Kept me on the edge of my seat and had me jumping up and down on the coach when it was over!  Take notice--North America CAN play rugby! 

I hope performances like USA and Canada are giving in NZ will translate into some 7's victories!

OK can follow me live on twitter during all the world cup games @dragonrider09

Much love and GO WALES!!!  WE LOVE YOU!!!

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Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland is letting rip on WalesOnline in a no-holds-barred 50 questions and answers piece. The questions are sent in by Welsh rugby fans.
If you're a Welsh rugby fan then you have to read this.


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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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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.

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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.

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