- 17 Sep 07, 03:04 PM
Swansea - I finally got the chance of some first-hand World Cup action on Saturday as the France 2007 carnival, oddly enough, rolled its way into Cardiff.
I decided to indulge myself, too, by getting right into the heart of the city streets and sucking up a bit of the atmosphere.
When you’re involved as a player you get very little exposure to the buzz of a match day afternoon around and about the stadium where, on top of the 70,000 or so ticket holders, countless more enjoy the day in the capital’s numerous hostelries.
Ironically enough, after enjoying a fine pre-match lunch I joined some friends to watch the match - where else, but in an Australian bar!
You wouldn’t have known it, though, as the place was swathed in red and white and the walls echoed the familiar sounds of hymns and arias.
In fact, the depth of feeling was so strong in that room that, during the anthem, I don’t think the shiver that went down the back of my neck would have been any greater had I been stood alongside the boys on the Millennium Stadium turf - the place was electric.
It is fair to say, however, that by half-time the electricity had waned a bit after a quite ruthless first-half display from the Australians and a 25-3 deficit seemed quite insurmountable, especially seeing as we’d already lost two key players to injury.
The team were having none of my pessimism, though, and came out for the second-half with a renewed vigour and purpose.
For a period it looked as if they could mount a challenge on the lead.
The pub certainly thought so and got right behind their men, but ultimately Chris Latham’s somewhat fortunate score drove the nails into the coffin and it wasn’t to be.
The Australians were doubtless the better side on the day, and for us to reach the level they played at in that opening period we need to instil some confidence in ourselves pretty quickly.
We have two perfect opportunites to come.
I think level-par for us in this tournament was always going to be the quarter-finals and that is still the case. We’ve got two matches to win to get there.
The challenge for us is to come out of those games - most importantly with two Ws in the result column, but, secondly, having built on the second-half performance against Australia by playing astutely and fluidly, scoring tries, and dominating for long periods.
If we can achieve that, with the experience of the Australia match already under our belts we’ll be in good shape to have a tilt at South Africa in the last eight.
NB: Ryan Jones was seen leaving the Walkabout bar in Cardiff shortly after the final whistle had sounded at the Wales v Australia match on Saturday.
Close friends confirmed that not a drop of alcohol had passed his lips.
Although the traffic out of Cardiff was bad he was home in time for beans-on-toast in front of the X Factor, which he enjoyed very much.
Ryan Jones plays number eight for Wales but misses the World Cup through injury.