BBC BLOGS - Alastair Eykyn's blog
« Previous | Main | Next »

New Welsh crop ready to create own history

Post categories:

Alastair Eykyn | 04:10 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

Alan “Thumper” Phillips is looking rather confused.

The Wales team manager has a slightly crumpled forehead and a wry grin plays across his mouth, as he surveys the chaotic scene at their hotel in central Auckland.

The world’s press has gathered in one of the smaller conference rooms, waiting for any useful nugget of news ahead of arguably the biggest game in Wales’ history.

The World Cup semi-final against France is occupying every waking hour of his life. Men and women crane their necks over the phalanx of camera crews and journalists, searching for a view of the Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards.

“Look at that media scrum,” says Phillips, scratching his head. “It really is a completely different game now."

Wales team manager Alan Phillips

Phillips won 18 caps for Wales and went on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 1980

Phillips has become one of the integral figures within Welsh rugby. He has been the international team manager for the last nine years. In his playing days, he was a talented hooker, who was the recipient of a surprise call-up to the Welsh squad for the inaugural World Cup in 1987.

 

“I was taking my wife out for a meal in Cardiff on a Friday night, and the following day we were going on tour to Benidorm for a week," he recalled.

"We had five grand in the kitty and I was looking forward to it. Then I got a phone call, and I thought it was a wind-up. I hadn’t played for Wales for four or five years. Then all of a sudden the restaurant put me through to (coaching organiser) Ray Williams.

“Thumper, you’re on your way out here on Sunday,” he said. I retorted: “Ray, come on, I’m going to Benidorm.” And he continued: “Billy James’ knee has gone, we need you out here.”

Phillips added: "I had a family cleaning business, but that was no problem. It was a lifetime experience. Wales is a rugby country so you never had any problems getting time off for rugby. Communities looked after the players as well. They put fundraisers on, so the boys went away with a little bit of cash so they could support their families. So off I went.

“We went into the unknown in ’87. We flew economy. That’s changed! Actually it was an unfair tournament because the All Blacks were so well prepared, quite apart from having great rugby players all over the place, they were miles ahead of everybody physically. And when you look back, they won it easily. The game was amateur back then, but the New Zealanders were professional.”

Wales navigated their way through the pool stages without undue alarm. The opening 13-6 victory over Ireland was followed by a 29-16 win over Tonga, which featured a hat-trick of tries from Glen Webbe and a mass brawl which left Adrian Hadley out cold. Canada were despatched 40-9, with Jonathan Davies superb at fly half, and Ieuan Evans scoring four tries.

The quarter-final pitted Wales against England in Brisbane. Phillips remembers it as a terrible match. “The weather conditions were awful," he said. "On paper England were a better side than us, but we dragged them down to our level. It was ugly rugby at its best, but it was a win.” Tries from Gareth Roberts, Robert Jones and John Devereux saw the Welsh into the semi-final to play New Zealand.

After the win over England, the Wales squad were given two days off. In the days of amateurism, that meant one thing: beer, and lots of it. The smile returns to Phillips’ face. “We had a two day bender cut down to one," he grinned. "Bryan Robson of Manchester United was over there, and he joined us. He was playing some testimonial or something. It was the first time I came across him. A great bloke, a little man, but he could certainly put it away.

"He kept us up most of the night and into the following day. We were in great company, and it was like a special treat for us to be with him.

"When the management came down in the morning and saw the state of us, that was it – our two days off was cut down to one. And I think we had a five or six-mile run on the beach to sober everyone up, and that was that.”

The semi-final itself was a sobering experience for the Welsh. Shorn of their influential lock forward Bob Norster, they were hammered 49-6. “Losing Bob was bad, but it wouldn’t have made a difference,” insists Phillips.

“The New Zealand side were so much better than us, so much stronger, fitter. We always believed we had a chance – Welsh people are romantic, we like to dream. But I can tell you that dream was put to bed in the first 15 minutes of the match.”

The defeat left Wales with the dreaded third place play-off, against Australia in Rotorua. Apart from the stench of sulphur from the nearby steaming geysers, Phillips has a clear memory of the atmosphere there.

“It was the first time that I realised the Kiwis don’t like the Australians," he said. "Every time the Aussies got the ball, they were booed, and every time we had it, we were cheered.

"Truth be told, the Wallabies didn’t want to be there. They’d had their disappointment in losing a great semi-final to France, and they had to come all the way back from Australia to play us in Rotorua. On the other hand, we had been humiliated by the All Blacks and it was our chance to redeem ourselves.”

Roberts and Paul Moriarty scored tries that day for Wales, as did Matthew Burke and Paul Grigg for the Wallabies, but the drama lay in the dying seconds of the match, as Hadley crashed over in the corner for an injury time score, to put the Welsh within a point. The nerveless Paul Thorburn knocked over the conversion from the touchline to secure a famous 22-21 victory, and a third-placed finish at the World Cup.

Phillips maintains that he has not shared his memories of that experience 24 years ago with the present crop of Welsh superstars. “It would be inappropriate to look back to that,” he said. “We don’t reminisce. Last week in Wellington I introduced some of the young boys to Ian Kirkpatrick.

"Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate weren’t being disrespectful, but they didn’t know who he was. I told them that he’d played 100 games for the All Blacks in a time when they played hardly any rugby. They went and looked him up, and came back to me later in the evening and said 'wow, he’s one of the best ever'.

“But young professionals these days aren’t that interested in history. They’re making their own history. This group here are starting to do that. They won’t understand the enormity of what they’ve done so far.

"To give you an idea, we were coming through the airport on Monday when we left Wellington, and they were given a standing ovation. And when we arrived here in Auckland, they were given a standing ovation there too.

"My eyes were welling up. I was so proud to see people respecting this group of players. But to them – well, they were just not fazed by it at all. Maybe after a week or two of being home, they’ll think 'that was a good trip, we did some good things out there'. At the moment they’re busy enjoying it all.

“It’s very special because we’ve already earned a lot of respect. When you hear some of the greats of New Zealand rugby commenting on how well we’re playing, and what we’re like off the field, it’s very satisfying.

"I don’t even think the people of Wales fully realise the respect these boys are earning. All the southern hemisphere sides are saying how good Warburton, [Jamie] Roberts, [George] North and [Mike] Phillips are. It’s fantastic.”

Thursday's BBC Radio 5 Live Rugby show will feature Gareth Thomas, Eddie Butler and Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards live from Auckland between 2100-2230 BST.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Im so very proud of our lads right now, playing without fear and the confidence from the side is beaming. Already they have done us proud, as no one expected them to make it this far. But from the first game onwards they have shown a great desire and hunger to win which I have not seen since 2008. The feeling in my chest is the same as when we started winning in 2005, full of optimism and belief. Everytime I read a newspaper or online article praising them I cant help but smile, because this bunch of fine young players and experienced heroes deserve it all. Hearing Justin Marshall on Scrum V the other night was awesome aswell, he's said time and time again that we have plenty of talent but to hear him praise us as he did just made me smile. Ive been smiling since we lost to SA and it hasnt gone away, apart from dealing with my ever pessimistic old man who worries far too much. Hopefully my smile grows after saturday and stays there after the whole competition is history.

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent blog Alaistair.

    I wonder if you could shed a bit of light on Ian Kirkpatrick's All Black stats for me. It seems that he played 39 "tests", and 74 "games", so a total of 113 "matches". What is the difference between a "test" and a "game"? In modern times a game would just be a non-capped international, like a Barbarians game, but a player would only play a handful of those in a career, certainly not almost twice as many as capped internationals!. Do you know what the distinction was in the 60s/70s?

  • Comment number 3.

    I think along with the blitz defence idea, we need to try and attack more in the first half and hopefully throw the French into dissaray! A flying start like last week against the Irish would be ideal.
    The last 10 minutes against the Irish I had to put a tea towel over the edge of the TV to cover the clock slowly counting down it was doing my head in that much! C'MON WALES! PLease try and overwhelm the French early, another a**e clincher like last week and and my nerves will be shot to bits!

  • Comment number 4.

    Great stuff...That '87 NZ was a cracking side I always thought but it seems a world away now(and SA weren't there either)..And Ian Kirkpatrick is up there with the greatest ever I reckon..

  • Comment number 5.

    8 of our starting 15 are 23 or under, unbelievable!!

    Nervous anticipation is building for saturday and I'l be taking my 2 kids to the Millenium stadium to experience what will hopefully be an electric atmosphere even though the boys are on the other side of the world.

    My wife is confident we'll win, she has an uncanny knack for picking sporting winners (she's English and has lived in Wales for the last 19 years and will be supporting us as she always does when England aren't playing) she said Liverpool would win the 2005 Champions League final when they were 3-0 down at half time and I've lost count of how many big horse race winners she's picked............... so I for one will be hoping her run continues!!

    Good luck lads, play hard, play strong and play with pride!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Odarroch: the 74 games Kirkpatrick would have been the games NZ played when they toured. For example, the 1970 tour of SA. Only 4 tests were played but there were approx 14-16 games against SA provincial teams. Same thing on the 1973-74 tour of the UK.

    This Welsh team deserves every accolade and standing ovation they're getting. The freedom and spirit in which they play is exactly what rugby needs. It's the kind of style that attracts the public to the sport - just like in football: Brazil 1970, Netherlands 1974 etc. The public appreciates vision.

  • Comment number 7.

    .
    Yes, WALES will win it. Written all over it, mate. I'm not Welsh, but have been a fan of theirs for donkey ears.

    As they progressed through the stages, their tempo became focussed and urgent, and now everything seems to be coming their way.

    It will be tight against France who are similar to Wales in the way they have conducted themselves, and most importantly, in the urgency they have displayed to tighten up any weak aspect there could be.

    So, I say to WALES: make your people proud, let them sing their hearts out in the your lovely country this weekend, YOU ALL DESERVE THAT !!

  • Comment number 8.

    Well done to the welsh team for making everyone proud. Their approach to this tournament has been exemplary. We just need to keep focussed, we haven't beaten a major side yet but on current form we are definately capable of it. We're the top ranked team in the NH so we must beat France to cement our place and show we deserve to be there.

  • Comment number 9.

    I was there, man. well in front of the tv set anyway- the day of my mathematics o'level exam in 1987 i got up early in the morning to watch the semi. I knew nothing of the history of new zealand wales matches so when i said to my father 'wales will win' and he replied 'they haven't a chance against the all blacks', i didnt believe him, but the dream was all over pretty quickly then in the semi-final.
    I think we will beat new zealand 55-6 in the final for revenge, all those trouncings by the all blacks have probably made me delirious though....

  • Comment number 10.

    by the way cap-stands for the old arms park(ie cardiff arms park) 05 is for 2005 and the red is for the scarlets of wales. I originally had cap78red which makes more sense because in 2005 there wasnt the arms park.

  • Comment number 11.

    As a proud North Walian, presently living in England, I am so grateful for the feel-good factor that this group of young athletes have created back home, and in the hearts of us "ex-pats". Already they have done more than enough to make us proud. now, I am praying that they will succeed in beating the French - a side I have tremendous respect for, as they, too, try to play the game the way it was always intended. I trust Wales to go out and play - and not even contemplate "winning ugly". I congratulate the boys on the way they have represented their country whilst acting as ambassadors for us. It's also really great to hear real rugby folk, of many nationalities and allegiances, recognise the talented entertainment the Welsh team have provided thusfar. I am going home at the weekend, to the north, where I am sure the atmosphere will be tremendous - win or lose, such is the nature of this fantastic game of ours. For sure, I believe the best team will win, for that's what I love most about Rugby Union - the fact that it almost always is the best who triumph on the day. Cymru am Byth!

  • Comment number 12.

    I've really enjoyed the way this Wales team has played over the course of the world cup, a mixture of expressing themselves the way Welsh teams love to do, tempered by a cooler head and (mostly) rock hard defence.

    They do deserve the praise they've received but nothing has been won yet. I just hope they don't start believing their own hype, yes they are a good team but great teams, (England leading up to their 2003 victory springs to mind) keep their heads down and carry on working hard.

  • Comment number 13.

    Alan is too much of a gentleman to say it but 1987 was a different era - the AllBlacks WERE professionals - even doing TV adverts on those 'amateur' days - Sean Fitzpatrick used to advertise Toyota trucks - while the Welsh players stayed in 3rd rate hotels and had a couple of quid a day pocket money, and, to be fair, were not as professional in their conditioning as they could have been. Alan also omits to mention that Wales were in that semi final for 20mins or so but having their 2nd row forward Huw Richards sent off for 'fighting' when he had just been laid out by a punch in front of the referee by Wayne Shelford - who wasn't even spoken to, left them in a hopeless position. NZ were always going to win that first tournament, some of the latitude they got on forward passes, obstruction, offside was terrible. It has been interesting to see they haven;t won since. Meanwhile it has taken Wales 25 yrs to finally achieve the team stability, fitness, resilience and all round skill they needed that day in 1987. In knock out rugby anything can happen but I do think they can beat France and can compete very hard with whoever wins the other final. If it is Wales v NZ in the final it won't be 49-6 this time.

  • Comment number 14.

    i was certainly given a lesson in mathematics as was the team that day:- 4+2+4+2+4+2+4+2 etc...

  • Comment number 15.

    Good luck to you Wales! Hopefully the brand of rugby you play will make England take note. Get that win on Saturday boys ;)

    An envious Englishman.

  • Comment number 16.

    @cap05red

    That might have been the pet name they are given but not what cap stands for.

    Cap dyes back to the 1800's. Where Scottish FOOTBALL player wore cawls and English football player wore their school caps. It wasn't until 1886 where the football association adopted it for a player taking part in an international match and awared a historical cap.

    Anyway. Good luck to the boys. It would be rude of me to say I'm the proudest Welshman there is so I think all us welsh can share that accolade for now.

    Cymru am byth

  • Comment number 17.

    Really interesting article and it demonstrates how much the game has changed and how far we were behind Southern hemisphere professionalism back in those days. The last 20 years have been about playing catch up and as we've got better and caught up so they have also improved its been like chasing an ever moving graph with us at the bottom and improving more rapidly but everytim we got close to them so they had moved the graph on the little bit more, but finally we're pretty much there and whatever happens Saturday we've just got to keep the momentum and keep on raising our standards, becuse we've got a bright future with this current crop of players but must not become complacent.

    Bit worried about Hook getting the nod over Jones at 10. I just watched the highlights of the 2011 six nations game against france and the 2005 one for comparison, no who'd get my vote on those two performances...

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks Noah, all clear. My god they played a lot of games in those days!!

    Go on Wales, we're all behind you!

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes, good luck to Wales.
    As an Englishman that has enjoyed watching games at the Millenium Stadium (a couple of Autumn internationals in 2006), and who loved being there in the marvellous atmosphere created by the crowd in that superb stadium, and enjoying in this World Cup the enthusiastic style of attacking Welsh Rugby (the way the game should be played: Martin Johnson please note), good luck to you, in the semi and with a bit of luck in the final.

  • Comment number 20.

    I wonder if you could shed a bit of light on Ian Kirkpatrick's All Black stats for me. It seems that he played 39 "tests", and 74 "games", so a total of 113 "matches". What is the difference between a "test" and a "game"?
    --------------------

    Games were matches against non-national teams, back then when NZ toured they generally player 3 or 4 club sides before an international or two and then headed home.

  • Comment number 21.

    #13 Hammersmith Jack

    Are you kidding? The AB's were NOT professionals - Pierce and Gallagher were back on the police beat the Monday after they won the cup, Earl and Loe went straight back to working on their farms, shall I continue!! They were even billited in places instead of staying at hotels!

  • Comment number 22.

    NP Odarroch :-) The last time NZ toured in that classical sense was 1996 to SA. It was the first year of the Tri-Nations but the NZRU and SARU tacked two extra tests plus a few provincial games on the itinerary. It's a shame that touring no longer happens but understandable in the professional era.

    I read a book about the 1905-1906 AB tour to the UK, Fra and the US. All up, it was almost 9 months away. Travelled by ship. Played over 30 matches, 6 tests. Lost once, to Wales. One player, Jimmy Hunter, a 2nd five, played almost 30 of those games and i think scored around 40 tries. Talk about stamina!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm far more relaxed about Saturday as I was last weekend against Ireland. Even in the first 20 minutes I didn't think France were that great against England...they just missed so many tackles that France were able to do what they liked. Wales won't do that, and by the 50th minute France looked dead on their feet which is game over against the fitness of this Welsh team, as it was against the All Blacks in the group stages.

    I know most commentators are saying it will be tight but I have a wager on with a friend (at quite attractive odds) that we will win by at least 20 points.

  • Comment number 24.

    NZ rugby in the 1980s wasn't professional in the sense they were paid to play. The real professionalism came in the preparation and coaching - and that came mainly from Auckland. John Hart came out of the corporate business world and he applied basic man management principles to how he coached Auckland. A major shift in NZ rugby culture. The flip side to it was Canterbury, the other great team of that era, which epitomised traditional NZ rugby values. That both approaches were able to successfully combine into the 1987 WC squad had a lot to with Brian Lochore. Totally respected, no one messed with him.

  • Comment number 25.

    @22 Noah, If it's a NZ/Wales final(Please God it's not an NZ/Wales 3/4th Playoff, that doesn't bear thinking about) will we get something to put alongside the Deans try(1905) or the Haden dive(1978)..

  • Comment number 26.

    Got to say, i grew up admiring the Great Britain rugby league teams of the late 80s. So am absolutely loving seeing Shaun Edwards involved with Wales. A great player with a big heart.

  • Comment number 27.

    derycr we may get a Davies intercept and 70 m runaway under the goalposts ala 1988!

    They should scrap the 3/4 game, mate. Like Picking up the card in monopoly - "you've won 2nd prize in a beauty contest..."

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    This has to be the most anticipated game of any sport in Welsh history. I feel physically sick already with nerves just reading the articles etc and imagining what could happen.

    I think this is the real pressure game for Wales. If we'd lost to Ireland it would have been disappointing but now the expectation has been raised to astronomic proportions. Even IF we get to the final, the pressure will to some extent be off as we won't be expected to win. This France team is so unpredictable and I think as many people have highlighted we need another explosive start. If we go behind early we'll really see the mental strength of the Welsh put to the test.

    I think we will do it and I think Wales will have the whole world behind them but by God is it gonna be a nervy affair!

    If we do get past France, call me mental but I think I'd rather face NZ than Oz. The pressure on them would be much greater and Wales could just go out and play.

    This squad of players have been absolutely fantastic ambassadors for Wales and for them not to make it to the final after the way they have played and conducted themselves would be absolutley heart breaking. Either way they've made an already very proud nation even prouder.

    So good luck boys give it all you've got!!

  • Comment number 30.

    The last time Aust won at Eden Park was 1986 against an AB side divided by the Cavaliers tour to SA. Completely different scenario now but one constant remains - Aust's vaunted self belief. Their team looks very relaxed.

  • Comment number 31.

    Really interesting article, thanks. As a disappointed Englishman I, like thousands of others, have been looking for good reason to ignore the usual rivalries and support the Welsh team (who deserve to be where they are). Happily, I discovered my grandfather was born in Monmouth - so I'm off to buy a shirt and a giant daffodil! Good luck lads!

  • Comment number 32.

    Good on yer boyos' ..... It is great to see the Welsh squad doing so well and also making so many friends with their off field conduct. A far cry indeed from the schoolboy overgrown ego's of some of the England camp who seemed to think they were in Benidorm !! ,,, Now go and despatch the frenchies and I know you'll give it a right good go in the final ..... Good Luck :-) ( from an englishman)

  • Comment number 33.

    Wales still need a Southern Hemisphere scalp. They edged Samoa due to a Samoan disallowed try for a double movement and some dodgy fixture scheduling. Ireland was a great performance, but they have never, ever reached a semi-final themselves, so the writing was on the wall. Can this Welsh team beat Australia or New Zealand? We shall see next week. Until then, the jury is still out but it won't stop the mass hysteria. Wales are World Cup winners at 7s, so miracles do happen in rugby. The draw has worked out perfect. In fact, three of the four teams left have already lost at least once. Wales have had to play one of the SH giants and lost that one. Maybe lady luck is smiling.

    Hook is starting so we have a chance. Has Priestland made a single break yet? We had 1 try against South Africa and 1 try against Samoa. Hopefully, we can break down the French, but they are just as likely to implode anyway. If France turn up with their 'A' game, they will win. If they turn up with their 'B' game, we will win. That is what makes it fascinating. We have to start fast and watch them implode.

  • Comment number 34.

    As a kiwi who has lived in the UK for some time and has many Welsh friends, I am delighted to see them doing so well - a true rugby country, similar in many ways to NZ. I would love to see them both in the final, I think that would be a hell of a game - if it happens I'll be tempted to dig out my ABs shirt and head to the Millenium Stadium to enjoy the singing...

    By the way Hammersmithjack - Huw Richards was rightly sent off in the 1987 semi final, he threw a flurry of punches at, I think, Gary Whetton, before Shelford put a stop to it with one punch. He was knocked out cold as I recall and when he came round it was to see the ref pointing the way off for him. Wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference to the result if he had stayed on...

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 17 Got to agree. Just think Jones would be more suited against the French. If you get past them I would have Hook against either NZ or us but just have a feeling that Jones would be a better option this week.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Just want to wish Wales the very best of luck against France.

    Speaking as an England supporter, can we have Shaun Edwards back please. If you must have an English defence coach you can have Mike Ford. o)

  • Comment number 38.

    jackcowper....What do you think about the increasing use of Belly Putters in Golf?

  • Comment number 39.

    Good luck Gats - make the lads of the Valley proud - the Waikato Valley - that is ! Ha

    Wales should be too consistent and insistent for France.

  • Comment number 40.

    Bilo

    I have always looked on golf as a way of spoiling a perfectly good walk in the countryside. I don't know what a belly putter is, but i have no objections.

    Good luck again to Wales. My Grandad was Welsh, so I'll be cheering you along come what may.

  • Comment number 41.

    I live in Cambodia and the ex-pat crew are a mixed one, got Aussie, Kiwi and French mates. There really is only 1 team that can beat the All Blacks and thats the Aussies, they are the only team they fear.

    The Aussis are like us, young players and I think we would have a chance against them. Yes we have to beat the French first and they do worry me like they worry EVERY New Zealander of course........but there's something missing from this French side......have they been hiding their best? (I really dont think so) if we play the rugby we played against the boks and that defence against Ireland they surely will fold.....GOD I HOPE SO.

    The Welshboys went through HELL in Poland at that training camp and they deserve to be where they are due to the dedication they have showed. (Sam Warburton said he has not had a drink since the end of the 6 nations!!! Is this a Welsh captain talking, for 30 years you'd know where to find them after a game for sure!!) England for example didn't, where they let Martin Johnson down which is a shame as it's a lack of respect, but this is where we may have turned a corner not just with results but with a mentality of young talented boys NOT DRINKING AND HAVE STARTED THINKIN! i'm so proud of them i'm filling up just writing this. Give our country something to smile about again. Please.

  • Comment number 42.

    Actually,I think most of the rugby loving welsh public are aware of the respect the Welsh team are gaining over in NZ,as it's been plastered all over the TV and radio ! I for one have never been prouder of a Welsh teams conduct,on and off the field,and it makes a refreshing change being able to say that .And I don't mind admitting,that if we manage to beat the French on Sat,I will be crying like a big girl ! God knows what will happen if we actually manage to win the whole thing....running down the street naked maybe.

  • Comment number 43.

    Englishman here living in Cardiff...

    Despite wanting the Celtic teams to always fail (especially Scotland), I see what rugby means to Wales and it's very inspiring. So patriotic and proud of your nation, whereas England seem to think it's a lads holiday whatever sporting tournament they compete in! (I think in rugby though it's more the management and hierarchy rather than the players!). Having lived here for 4 years I can understand what rugby means to the Welsh people and I sincerely hope they go all the way (now that England are out anyway :)). I have no doubts that Wales will beat France and then it's all-or-nothing in the final against NZ/Aus.

    I remember being 13 when England won the rugby World Cup in 2003 and nobody seemed to care, which is in stark contrast to Wales as I know this country would absolutely erupt into oblivion if they were to win it. My only qualm thus far is the media here are going nuts when Wales haven't won anything yet. I'm trying to be balanced here; Wales have played some very exciting, pretty, and free-flowing rugby. Having said that, they haven't claimed a major SH scalp yet. They were within touching distance of beating SA (who I don't think particularly played well, but obviously did enough to win), and beat a Samoan side who only had a few days turnaround and Fiji side who had nothing to play for. As far as Ireland go, Wales play them regularly in the Six Nations so they know how to play against them and the players know each other well.

    I think Wales have some quite good players (especially Warburton and Hook) who are still young and will only get better.

    Do Wales have the mental strength to edge out tight games? The game against SA suggests no, but have they learned and adapted to this en-route to the semi-finals? Hopefully.

    England have some absolutely outstanding players (with a pool of 450,000 or so!) so once the management are changed, or get their act together, England will be the dominant force in world rugby again as they once were in 2003.

    A NZ/Wales final would be a win for NZ either way. ;)

    My predictions? As long as Wales maintain their exciting, free-flowing rugby then I predict them to beat France by 9 points (unless France decide to turn up of course), and then to lose in the final to New Zealand (hope I am wrong though!).

    Cymru am byth!

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm cautiously optimistic that we can make the finals (and possibly go all the way). I've been incredibly proud of how we've played and behaved on and off the field. The French are notoriusly unpredictable but I've yet to see them produce a good performance this tournament, so I really do fancy our chances of beating them. If Wales win and Nathan Cleverly wins saturday night in Liverpool, I predict a very sore head on sunday. C'mon boys

  • Comment number 45.

    I would just like to say after reading all the blogs during the last few days its been fantastic to see some great comments and support from the rest of the home nations supporters, especially the old enemy England.

    Come on boys keep doing us proud.

  • Comment number 46.

    Its nice to See a lot of English fans on here wishing us all the best. I had a friend of mine saying he cant believe he's been forced into supporting the Welsh, I know there are many in Celtic lands that would never support England, but when you live a long long way away from home, you always support Northern Hem regardless and we've been on your side the last 2 times especially against Aus in Aus (as we are both jumping up and down with when we take ashes wickets!!) and the cheating dirty boks of 2007 and the subsequent Lions Tour where they should have been sent off most of them!.

    So thanks and you know what (this is biased) it's easy to support a team who are playing the game the way the game should be played, no fear and although in this professional era cant see the Weslh team play the kind of open rugby we did in the 70's they are doing us proud of giving it their best in the this form of the game, if we win it will live long in the memory for us all. A country of 3 million people, it would be the equivalent of Uruguay winning the Football World Cup in this era which is very different to '30 and '50, but look at them now! So you never know!

    Cymru am Byth!

  • Comment number 47.

    The Welsh should be ashamed of there selves after what they did on that night out, i am from Neffyn and think its disgraceful, come on you French, hope Shabal as a good game!

  • Comment number 48.

    Congrats to Wales. They've come back from disappointing result agaisnt South Africa and a disappointing performance agaisnt Samoa to go through to the semis and potentially further. A good performance against Ireland really has set up an exciting game against a French team they can be confident of beating.

    One of the things that has now been pointed out by Warren Gatland though is this nonsense surronding the different drinking and socialising attitudes between the England and Wales teams. Turns out Welsh playes are going out drinking and are out doing 'dangerous' sports (picture of Jamie Roberts on a quad bike for example). However whilst the media decided to slam England players for the same behavious they painted Wales whiter than white and their home media got behind the team. It's a shame the English press couldn't have done the shame rather than seemingly continuously doing their best to disrupt the English preperations.

  • Comment number 49.

    JayJay88L I have to say I dont know what part of England you were in when they won that World Cup but a hell of a lot of the country was at Stand Still - they were on the new years honours list and the Ashes victory in '05 was a caop of that. Hell of a big rugby country England is 2nd only to football unlike Wales of course. But none the less the Guiness Premiership is a big thing over there mate

  • Comment number 50.

    Peter Allis was right when he said it would be an Australia vs France final, wish i would have listened to him now.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    I imagine it was JJones, but perhaps I was too young to appreciate rugby then. It's always been football this, football that. We did get the the day off school to watch it I remember that much, but after the result people (at least in my school) seemed to not be too interested. If I was a bit older back then (legal to drink perhaps!) then I probably would've noticed it a lot more.

    I'm not bitter England went out the way they did because I firmly believe they got what they deserved, but I also don't think France have played well enough to warrant a semi-final England spot (although of course one of those teams had to be there!).

    Come on Wales!!

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Sumo82, what do you think of Belly Putters in the modern game?

  • Comment number 56.

    I think there a disgrace, i bet Warren Gatland uses one

  • Comment number 57.

    I think what Ernie Els as said about Belly putters this week is bob, they are a cheats way out but if you can get away with it why not use them!

    What do you guys think about the Hot Dog throwing incident?? As this knocked Tiger back a few more steps do you think?

  • Comment number 58.

    Tiger was shook up by the Hot Dog Incident and he missed a few putts just afterwards.
    There are way too many Pro's now using Belly Putters, its ridiculous

  • Comment number 59.

    Ive heard Ladbrokes are giving odds of 8/1 that Tiger Woods will be using a belly putter by the end of next year and odds of 10/1 on a broom handle putter, what do you think of the broom handle?

    I think we have Bernard langer to blame for all of this!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Tiger didn't derderve that, especially on his comeback, the americans were outraged as well...... it was a perfectly good hot dog!

  • Comment number 61.

    The Full Chin Putters a re a disgrace. I was at the Open Championship with my Dad a few years ago and Vijah Singh was using one and we overheard Ian-Baker-Finch say:- " That is the stupidest golf club i've ever seen in my life"
    John Hawksworth on SKY last week said he thinks Belly Putters should be banned and players are cheats who use them

  • Comment number 62.

    a semi-final spot*

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    Wales should beat France - I'm English, and can't argue that our rabble deserved to be dumped out, but I still think we made France look good, this French side isn't as strong as their '07 side, indeed far from it.

    Wales have got to take this chance - they deserve a final. Winning that will be near impossible, whoever they play (and I don't think NZ will mess this one up this time), but what a great occasion Wales v NZ would be. Plus, Wales have the youth to build on this and fancy their chances for a (almost!) home world cup in 2015...

  • Comment number 66.

    Dave Ellis Blueprint to beat the Welsh.

    1. Smash Jamie Roberts when the ball goes near him so he does not get near the gain line (just like SA against Lomu in 1995 World Cup Final).
    2. Get parity with the Welsh pack and in particular target the young 'inexperienced' back row. Wind them up, get under their skin, skullduggery, anything to disrupt their game.
    3. Win set pieces and kick for dominant field position.
    4. Attack the Welsh defence from the blind side of the scrum. A big soft spot for the Welsh as SA showed in their try in the first match.
    5. Lethal french backs to kick drop goals and field goals whenever they get a chance.
    6. Dominate the game straight from the kick off, score early points and put constant pressure on the Welsh.

    Lets not forget the French have the potential to be a very dangerous team and they may have yet another surprise in their locker. I hope not.

    Looking forward to the match and hope this blueprint does not work. Come on the Reds!

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    Anybody who throws a sausage at another human being should be locked up.

  • Comment number 69.

    i wasn't that interested in the welsh bid at the start of the tournament, but i do like leeks and dafodils, so i thought i might aswell support them from now o.

  • Comment number 70.

    I mean how did he get a rubber sausage through securtity thats what i want to know?

  • Comment number 71.

    security didnt do a proper frisk search did they, i bet don247 would of searched him properly

  • Comment number 72.

    Spaced Invader - Who do you want to win the World Cup?
    And what are your views on Adam Scott's full length chin putter?

  • Comment number 73.

    every one should use a full length chin putter

    @sumo82... c'mon the boyo's

  • Comment number 74.

    I think everyone should use the full length chin putter.

    @sumo82... c'mon the wales

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think if Wales can keep a stranglehold on Shabal they should reach the final, but if they dont it could get messy!!

  • Comment number 77.

    Will you guys give it a rest already? No one is creating any history. If it wasn't for Ireland's fluky win over Australia all the British teams would have been home by now.

  • Comment number 78.

    @Waldovski what do you think of Wales's chances of stopping France and the formidable Shabal?

    And do you think Tiger Woods would benefit a belly putter?

  • Comment number 79.

    Congratulations to Wales for their progress so far and good luck for the weekend. Their QF against Ireland turned out to be more one-sided than I had expected, with Ireland perhaps already having 'played their tournament'. In France they go in against the leading team of the Six Nations era and one with a fine World Cup pedigree, having failed only once to reach the SF (1991).

    The fact that the SF line-up for this World Cup is the same as for that for the inaugural tournament had also not escaped my notice, and that was also held in New Zealand (and Australia). In 1987, apart from the France/Australia SF, the games were one-sided in nature, but of course this time we have the hemisphere split, and many games among the leading contenders have been tight.

    England's QF departure was 'disappointing', and their attempt to hatch a third Houdini act against a France team with a point to prove was unsuccessful. Had Stirling Mortlock of Australia kicked just one of the three penalties that he missed in 2007, England would have departed that tournament at the QF stage. The QFs this year saw the departure not just of England, but also the reigning champions South Africa and three of the four pool winners. The three SF teams carry forward a combined four losses into this round (which isn't necessarily that relevant come kick-off time, but it is still remarkable!).

    New Zealand in this tournament have had the air of a team yet to fully get out of second gear, and it is remarkable that they have won only one World Cup. They have been eliminated in previous tournaments twice by Australia, twice by France, and once by South Africa in their debut tournament at home. New Zealand's record in Southern Hemisphere tournaments is significantly better than those held in the Northern Hemisphere, and they have been hard to defeat on home soil. Although Australia lead New Zealand 2-0 in World Cup clashes, the All Blacks have won the last thirteen games against Australia at home in a sequence stretching back to August 2001.

    My expectation is of a France/New Zealand final and hopefully a few more good games of rugby...

  • Comment number 80.

    waldovski - What are you on about??
    South Africa's win over Wales was lucky and the Irish deserved to beat the Aussie's, the british teams have played a big part in this world cup (all positive bar England) with the bad weather hitting the games now the northern hemisphere sides will shake up the winners of the other semi.

  • Comment number 81.

    New Zealand are renowned for bottling and choking when the expectation is on them, they are the rugby equivalent of Lee Westwood in golf majors, always fall at the last hurdle because they've not got the stones to do it.

  • Comment number 82.

    There's an old french saying : "don't sell the bear fur before having killed it ".

  • Comment number 83.

    Quick question for fellow supporters of rugby to answer. What has NZ done so far in this competition for them to deserve their pre determined place in the final. I think it's very unwise to discount Australia in the way the media and fans have. It was only weeks ago when they had no answer to Australia. If cooper has a good game (so far he has yet to pay to his ability) Australia will win this game.

    After Ireland beat australia I bet a Wales v Australia final.

    Pocock was injured against Ireland and has been immense since. Can't honestly say the same for mccaw during this tournament. In fact on form and not lifetime achievement I would put all the other three 7's before him.


    For your info my bet was 66/1. Certainly is not that now.

  • Comment number 84.

    #21 Banazzi - sorry I was wrong - it wasnt Sean Fitzpatrick - it was Andy Dalton the pre-1987 tournament All Black skipper - http://af.reuters.com/article/gabonNews/idAFL6E7J91IQ20110829
    Yes that pre-professional era was full of soft jobs and expenses everywhere but the only guys who made the TV commercials and got paid for tours were ABs.

    # 34 MikeinWilts - LOL - listen to yourself mate - 'rightly sent off for throwing a flurry of punches before Shelford put a stop to it with one punch'. I think that pretty much sums up the way the rules were applied to NZ in NZ in those days. Shelford should have gone too. Richards going may not have affected the result but it certainly impacted the score. And Richards was actually defending a teammate and Shelford threw a punch from behind him but lets not affect the romantic AB version of the story.

  • Comment number 85.

    79: Howie3 and 83: Anthony - NZ have been in 2nd gear all tournament, I agree. The most disappointing thing about the QF was the lack of accuracy on both defence and attack. Not entirely of their making. Fra didn't come to play in the pool game so the opposition hasn't been strong.

    What was great about the QF was Arg put up a defensive effort that's exactly what the ABs have come to expect from opposing teams - defend in numbers with intensity and hit them on the counter attack. Aust are a different proposition. Their game is so similar to NZ's (although their players aren't the same). Wales still the form team to beat. NZ/Aust not far behind. Fra, as ever, the dark horses.

  • Comment number 86.

    Two advantages NZ has over all the remaining teams despite the loss of Carter.

    1. The team's style of play is still multi-dimensional. They can still attack effectively through forwards and backs. Those weapons haven't been blunted. If anything there's an air of unpredictably about them because of SBW and now Cruden. Suddenly, NZ's play doesn't look so patterned.

    2. We haven't got out of 2nd gear. If we do, and move smoothly through 3rd to 4th, game over.

    But it's all about who turns up on the day to play.

  • Comment number 87.

    Team named this morning:

    Dagg
    Jane
    Smith
    Nonu
    Kahui
    Cruden
    Weepu
    Read
    McCaw (C)
    Kaino
    Thorn
    Whitelock
    O. Franks
    Mealamu
    Woodcock

    Reserves:

    Hore
    B. Franks
    A.Williams
    Vito
    Ellis
    Donald
    SB. Williams

  • Comment number 88.

    Postscript to #79:

    The disappointment for me in England's departure (sorry I know this is a blog about Wales, but Tom Fordyce's blogs are now closed), was that having got through the banana-skin fixtures of Argentina and Scotland, and having raised expectations by topping Pool B and avoiding an early clash with the All Blacks (and getting the results if not the performances), they then failed their first significant test of the tournament. Had they lost to one of the Southern Hemisphere powers, it might have been a case of 'c'est la vie', but they lost to a team who they play regularly (they were 16-0 down for 24 minutes). There was no indication that the England camp were taking France lightly (after their Tonga setback), but I am guilty of being one of the fans who was looking past the QF. France became the fifth team to eliminate England from a World Cup after Wales, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (2)...

  • Comment number 89.

    Far out. 3500 tickets issued for the Wales-Fra semi. I'd love to, but already broke the bank with tickets for Sunday! Options, options...sell a kidney, smash and grab an ATM, beg, watch it on TV at home, hang at the Viaduct...

  • Comment number 90.

    I had tears in my eyes when I read that about the standing ovations. What a special bunch of boys.

  • Comment number 91.

    France beat New-Zeland as much as the others 5 North nations together ever did. France is the most prolific team in North Hemisphere for 60 years. I can't wait France win this world cup, even though I know it won't be easy. Because if France do it, they will be able to claim themselves as the best North nation as they deserve to be. As they had always be for me. Just have a look at the statistics, England have a look at the statistics only if they praise them. But France are much better than England, anyway.

  • Comment number 92.

    So many of my work mates have asked me " Do you expect Wales to win against France?" and it got me thinking, I don't "expect", that implies I'll be disappointed if they don't and the boys have played with a maturity and confidence that belies their age and experience. So, I "believe" they can win! I've watched Welsh rugby all my life, I played from under 11 age right up to my university team and I watched Wales go through some good times and some bad times. I don't really remember the last world cup semi-final we were in as I was quite young at the time but I remember so many other games. Beating England 32-31 at wembley in the 1999 5 nations tournament 3 weeks after beating France 34 - 33.
    I remember being at university watching Italy beat Wales in 2003, I'm half Italian by blood but all Welsh when it comes to rugby and I was sad, I was deflated but I never stopped believing that Wales would one day again be a force in international rugby.
    I sat and cried when I saw (for the first time in my life) Wales win the Grandslam in 2005, that all started with that 11 - 9 win over England and ended with the great win over Ireland but the match that made it for me was against France in Paris, what a game!
    Apart from another Grandslam in 2008 some people might say Wales have been pretty quiet but I'm having none of that! Wales have been the sleeping Dragon and now that they're awake they have captured the hearts and imaginations of the rugby world.
    I've always been a proud Welshman but now it seems impossible to be anything else and I would never say to our boys "I expect you to beat France" but I would say "I believe you can beat France!" and that's what the whole campaign has been about so far, belief and raw Welsh passion, you're already heroes boys and now you have the chance to become legends. WALES BELIEVES!

  • Comment number 93.

    Philippesella

    It is a shame indeed that you do not have the grace of your name sake!

  • Comment number 94.

    Everyone's talking about the breakdowns being where the semis will be won. That's justified. But before you can create a breakdown you have to make the gain line. Wales have been doing it through Roberts and Falatau. Fra through Harinorduquy v Eng. NZ use Kaino, Nonu (and Franks to a lesser degree). Aust by comparison, look lightweight.

    Some NZ media harping on about the Wallabies being arrogant. Give it a rest. Aust confidence is like American confidence. Big. Bold. Brash. That's not arrogance. It's belief.

  • Comment number 95.

    Nice blog, it's great to see that the current bunch of Welsh players are not concerned with history and are not looking back. It would put them off if they did. I hope they go on to win the lot, no one would have seen it coming six months ago.
    Oh by the way, the AB's never choked or bottled, they were beaten by better teams. The AB's are always put forward as the world's best each tournament but this has only been the case in maybe two of them. I don't think the 91, 99, 03 or 07 teams were the best out there. South Africa were the best in 07 and England in 03 without question. Calling them chokers is an insult to every other team that has beaten them. It remains to be seen if the All Blacks are the best team left in the tournament, I think that honour should go to Wales or maybe Australia so far. The All Blacks have some big holes in the team.

  • Comment number 96.

    Francis: good call. Out of all the WCs after '87 NZ probably should have won '95. Every other one, no way. They're being given the favourites tag for this one too, even though they didn't ask for it. Hard to see why. Riddled with injuries, underdone, the pressure of being host. Media gone hypo.

  • Comment number 97.

    #91 France aren't playing England this weekend mate!!

  • Comment number 98.

    @ jmaccy,I had a tear in my eye just reading your comment , this does not bode well for tomorrow,I'm going to be an emotional wreck before the game even starts...YMLAN CYMRU BACH !!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 99.

    @96 Noah come on are you serious? OK New Zealand haven't always been the best going into world cups. In 2003 England were, though New Zealand were close seconds, similarly they weren't in 1991 or 1999. But they were the unquestionable favourites going into this one, and I'd say in 2007 as well. They've been the No.1 ranked team for ages, have barely lost games for years (OK 2 this year but they were experimental teams) and had home advantage. They've probably been realistic favourites 4 out of 8 world cups (87, 95, 07 and 11) and have normally been near the top for the rest of them. I'd also say that they're probably still the favourites to lift the world cup this time. Remember no side has ever won a world cup losing a game in the group stages, only one team left in it has so far not lost a game and it's New Zealand. Wales are looking good and could win it but give New Zealand the credit that's due.

  • Comment number 100.

    I've been delighted how Wales have gone so far this world cup and I think it speaks volumes of the Welsh publics expectation that they believe they can win it. A Welsh team playing well with confidence is a match for anyone (except maybe the AB's + Aus), so I cannot wait for the weekend to come, it should be two cracking contests.

    One thing that I've not agreed with is the journalists fascination with the training camp in Poland. To say it has made a dramatic difference is taking away the effort the Welsh lads have put in. You can have the best training facilities in the world, but if you don't have the commitment and application they mean nothing really.

 

Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.