- 5 Sep 07, 02:54 PM
It’s been a strange sort of pre-World Cup fever in Wales, a summer sickness in the August warm-up games cooling the volatile passion of the fans.
Last year, Gareth Jenkins and his coaching team were talking confidently of the “Welsh way” and the possibility of claiming the World Cup.
It’s fair to say that the fans never really bought into that, yet, despite a record of just four wins from 15 games, the buoyant background mood inside the camp seemed to hold true – until last month’s France game.
The Twickenham disaster on 4 August could be put down to selection and the fact that it was the first competitive game after a long summer of training, a poor performance that mirrored Wales’ poor build-up in 2003.
But the fine-tuning should have been complete by the time France came to the Millennium Stadium.
Wales seemed to play reasonably well – but they were blown away by a world-class team, and since then all talk from the camp has been about “getting to the quarter-final and taking it from there”.
The build-up in the office has been pretty feverish, though, particularly after the World Cup sweep.
This female-dominated affair confirmed the increasingly prominent role of women in rugby as the old-school blazerati are elbowed aside.
My colleague Emma organised the draw, and promptly picked out South Africa, blowing on her scorched fingers as they left the bag.
The other prize choices - New Zealand and France - went to Laura and Dot.
Australia fell to me – fittingly, as I have the reputation in the office of a style-conscious new man, the bloke most in touch with his feminine side.
Anyway, with department travel plans and hotel bookings being conducted in French accents worthy of ‘Allo ‘Allo!, I’ve been chained to my desk, working on the launch of the new-look Scrum V and Scrum V Extras websites.
The Beeb didn’t see fit to shout me a ferry fare to France for Wales' opener, though they were happy to exploit my contacts in the Tredegar-Orvault twin-town association for their radio features, and I look forward to hearing my good friends Alain and Christophe Balliau waxing lyrical about Nantes FC on BBC Wales.
I’m pretty jealous of the fans who are making their way to Brittany, it’s a lovely part of the world and you may have seen Tom Shanklin raving about the talent on La Baule beach in his column!
Wales seem to be banking on winning the support of the Bretons, but, while the Bretons are fiercely proud of their heritage, I’m not too sure how widely known the historic and linguistic ties to Wales are.
I remember my hosts being astounded when I was able to translate the Breton name of their dog – Pen-du – into English (black head). When I explained that it was the same as in Welsh, I just got some quizzical looks!
I’m off work for the opening weekend of the Cup so will be holed up in a Cardiff pub – purely to judge the mood of the nation, of course.
I’ll be there for THE match of the group stages, Wales v Japan on 20 September.
It’s the game that none of the pundits can pick, so count yourselves lucky that you’ll have my knowledge and expertise to hand…
Sean Davies is a BBC Sport journalist based in Cardiff.