- 2 Oct 07, 03:36 PM
Swansea - Well what can I say?
I can’t say that I’m hugely surprised that Gareth was asked to vacate his position following the defeat on Saturday because history has shown us that when the national team underachieves heads have tended to roll - and this World Cup campaign will be categorised as an underachievement.
The sheer weight of passion that this nation holds for its team means that the emotions of the people following a defeat such as Saturday’s go beyond just disappointment, but the truth of the matter is there will be nobody more dejected than the boys who went out on the field on Saturday and in the weeks previously, together with our management team.
The country’s television and radio stations have been consumed by post-match comment and analysis and fingers are inevitably being pointed, seemingly because it is only by apportioning blame that the common grievances of the fans can be appeased.
The responsibility this time round has been placed squarely at Gareth Jenkins’ door with the swell of public opinion to remove him from his role ironically rivalling the swell of public opinion that put him in the job in the first place.
They’ll say that international sport is a results-driven business, and rightly so, and in black and white our record during Gareth’s tenure does not make for pleasant reading.
But that is a fairly simplistic view and, after coming into the job with limited time available to prepare for this tournament, does not take into account all of the hard work Gareth has put in to make this chapter in his career a success.
I don’t think there can be many people around the world with a more fervent passion for their sport or their country than Gareth and he is a patriotic and proud Welshman, therefore, the fans should appreciate that he will be hurting as much as anyone.
I’ve no doubt that Gareth will use this episode in his life to move on and rekindle the great successes he had at Llanelli for all those years in another role and wherever that role may be, he will bring bags of passion and enthusiasm to it, not to mention his astute rugby brain and coaching talent.
As for the game itself, however little a consolation it is, it must be said that it was a tremendous match. Both teams scored outstanding tries and it was a pity for us that we took so long to click into gear.
I was sat watching the game in the living room and couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing in that first half. Credit to Fiji, though, they produced a magnificent spell and we couldn’t live with it for a period and as happens on a rugby field when facing a purple patch like that we got a little shell-shocked.
When we produced a purple patch of our own at the beginning of the second half, though, we looked like world beaters again but unfortunately that was the story of this World Cup for us – magnificent in patches but fairly indifferent sometimes too.
It could have been so different though had we not missed opportunities early in the first half and had Stephen and James had a little more luck with their place kicking or the ball had bounced differently for us.
I don’t ever remember being involved in a game where we hit the woodwork three times!
So it must be said, amid the calls for the restructuring of the game in Wales and wholesale playing and coaching changes that, had we scraped through that game, we would likely be mopping our brows after a close shave then heading into a quarter-final with South Africa believing that a stellar performance could see us march into the semis – so as disappointed as we all are, we do need to let the dust settle and gain some perspective on the issue.
The search for a new coach however has begun and, starting with South Africa in November, another new chapter in the turbulent world of Welsh rugby begins.
I must also take the opportunity to pay tribute to Martyn Williams who has announced his retirement from the international scene.
Nugget seems to have been around forever and in his 76 caps I’d challenge anyone to recall a bad game that he had.
Very few make it to the top of their fields in sport and even fewer show the longevity and consistency of performance that Martyn has and there is no doubt that whoever takes over the mantle of the number seven shirt has an immensely tough act to follow.
He has been a true servant to Wales and he will be sorely missed in the squad on and off the field but I wish him all the luck in the world for the future and I’m sure we’ll get to tangle a few more times yet in the domestic game.
Ryan Jones plays number eight for Wales but misses the World Cup through injury.