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Magnificent Wales reach World Cup semi-finals

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Alastair Eykyn | 14:29 UK time, Saturday, 8 October 2011

Hats off to a magnificent Welsh display. Hats off to the mastermind Warren Gatland, to the inspirational captain Sam Warburton, and to the happy band of colourful Welsh supporters who make every game seem like a World Cup final. Their passion breathes life into each and every one of their contests. 


I want to isolate one man though, because despite the three excellent Welsh tries, the victory over Ireland was built on a teak-tough defence.


The man in charge of that particular area of high impact is Shaun Edwards, and he is doing a wonderful job. Ireland were not at their marauding best, but they asked a lot of questions, especially in the first half.

To give you some idea, the Welsh had completed 85 tackles at half time, compared to 46 by the Irishmen. Lock forward Luke Charteris had made 16 of those by himself, before withdrawing, injured, from the field of battle. 



Wales reached their first World Cup semi-finals in 24 years and on this evidence Sam Warbuton's side will fancy their chances of reaching a maiden World Cup final. PHOTO: Getty

Wales knew they had to withstand the Irish barrage, and the only way to do that was by throwing their bodies on the line repeatedly. Normally the defensive plaudits would head in the direction of the back row, and indeed they should this time, too. But the efforts of the entire team were staggering.

Who was underneath a pile of bodies preventing a try by Sean O’Brien after a quarter of an hour? It was probably the smallest man on the pitch, Shane Williams.

Not content with a scorching opening try to set the tone, the former World Player of the Year catapulted himself into harm’s way in order to preserve his side’s lead. It was a moment which epitomised the collective Welsh desire.

Edwards’ contribution was not simply to ensure the defensive structure was robust. He and Gatland have been working on a strategy for some weeks now. It involves a return to one of the fundaments of the game – tackling the opposition low down, to prevent any momentum.

“We were trying to take the Irish feet from under them straight away” said Gatland. “We looked at the Italian game last week, and Italy went too high against Ireland. Our focus was to go very low, and try to deny their ball-carriers any go-forward.”


Edwards is not a man to dish out praise in a hurry, but he was purring afterwards, saying: “The leg-tackling was of the highest order. We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months trying to reinvent the art of leg-tackling. To do that you need players with technique and courage, and we definitely had that.”


Needless to say, all that defending saps the energy. Whilst the Irish laboured over their rucks, shovelled slow ball out to their ball-carriers and became more desperate with every passing second-half minute, the Welsh remained spring-heeled.


This is where the benefits of a painful trip to Poland bore fruit. The cryogenic chambers, the ice baths and the spartan conditions almost certainly offered little in the way of fun. But the benefits were on display inside the Cake Tin. Chips down, lungs bursting, Welshmen manned the barricades.


“Our defence was absolutely outstanding, and it shows what good shape the guys are in. They were getting excited about defending without the ball,” said Gatland.


Ireland will be distressed that they failed to rediscover the magic of their previous wins over Australia and Italy. The fury was missing, the penetration lacking, the accuracy gone.


For periods of the first half they had opportunities galore, possession galore, territory galore, but little to show in the way of a reward. Wales’ defence was magnificent, but a side packed with Grand Slam winners and Heineken Cup champions should have found a way through.


The two second-half tries they conceded were soft, from an Irish perspective. There was no-one home on the blindside for Mike Phillips' cheeky score, and Jonathan Davies was waved through the midfield by Cian Healy and Keith Earls. 


For many of this Ireland team, there will be no more World Cups. Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Gordon D’Arcy and Paul O’Connell will not be around for 2015. For such warriors of the Irish cause, it was a deeply disappointing way to end a campaign so full of promise after that victory over the Wallabies.


So the Welsh are left to fly the flag of the home unions into the remaining fortnight Down Under. They will fly it with pride, and a spirit of adventure. They are an overwhelmingly young group, cutting impressive figures here: driven, single-minded, fearless and friendly. In the interviews after the game I was struck by the calm responses from the players as they head towards a semi-final clash with England’s conquerors France.


There was a contentment, a satisfaction at a job well done, but no jubilation, no over-excitement. As their remarkably mature 23-year-old captain Warburton said, “we’ve won nothing yet”.


Indeed they haven’t, but a World Cup final place is now well within the Welsh grasp, and a fairytale ending is not out of the question. There were grown men clad from head-to-toe in red, leaping uncontrollably into each other’s arms as the final whistle blew in Wellington. If it all ends tomorrow, this Welsh team has already made a lot of people very happy.




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  • Comment number 1.

    Awesome display, quite right Alistair. Its not just the skills and fitness, but the enthusiasm that the boys are playing with that's so impressive- like Gats says, its almost as if they enjoy tackling and contesting the contact area. More next week please, ymlaen Cymru!

  • Comment number 2.

    Wales performed wonderfully today, the defensive effort was outstanding consistently putting in the hits and slowing the ball. All of the players performed.

    On this level of performance, a victory against France is achievable and then who knows what this team can do against the cream of the southern hemisphere.

    Cymru am byth!

  • Comment number 3.

    Alistair, your link in the blog is to the wrong Jonathan Davies!! JD2 deserves the plaudits in his own rights.

  • Comment number 4.

    Now that I have calmed down and can appreciate a game well won, I find myself thinking there were things we could have done better in that game and things we will need to improve on. A couple of knock ons, runners getting themselves isolated, missed kicks to touch and frantic line kicks in the first half really could have cost us on another day.

    Our fantastic defensive effort won the day and 1-15 were superb. It is amazing what organisation, belief in the system and belief in your own fitness can so. The second half, after a poor opening, was excellent knock out rugby from us; playing the corners, watertight in defence, making yards with the ball, winning the set piece battle and being clinical with our chances. It was superb.

    We need to match this level of performance against the French who won't be able to live with us physically but are more than capable of building a lead. I won't be confident letting the French backs run at us all day, but we have a week to worry about that.

    Today's match was fantastic and who would have though, 10 years ago, that we would be talking about Walesv Ireland being the high quality NH match of the round, while France v England lacked intensity and quality?

  • Comment number 5.

    Congrats to the Welsh, they really turned up. Congrats to Gatland too, who to my mind should never have been got rid of by the IRB. The Irish I think chose the wrong game plan, the wrong tactics on the field when opportunities presented, and unforntunately too many players didn't perform as they have done already.... But the Welsh won the game because the did what the had to do. They seem to be a complete side.

  • Comment number 6.

    Great attacking play great defence again kept the same up from Fiji. Shawn Edwards always did say that defence wins games and he was right again, same as they used to do together at Wasps when they were flying.

    They have a superb chance to go all the way here, and an attacking France I am sure is what Wales would love to see. Going to be another classic game next weekend.

  • Comment number 7.

    The players that Wales have brought in over the last 12/18 months are playing without fear, driven by ambition and a ruthless will to win and perform.

    Led by Warburton this side may be the most complete side we've had for over a generation with a strong set of forwards with composed backs with some power and creativity to mix things up.

    Hopefully we can dominate France and dictate the play early on which may get us to our first final ever!

  • Comment number 8.

    Excellent assessment Alastair, exciting times indeed! Cymru am Byth!

  • Comment number 9.

    Great game and an outstanding performance by every Wales player from 1 to 15. Special mentions for Roberts and Warburton though - they were both awesome and worth 10/10 today.

    I must also say that Ireland have shown some class in defeat. Declan is a gentleman indeed.

    When looking forward to next week my worry is that we will now probably be seen as favourites and I never like that!

  • Comment number 10.

    so if gatland goes to the ABs after WC, whos gonna take over wales?

    great win today, but gutted for the irish players who wont play a WC again.

  • Comment number 11.

    i was surprised that wales weren't the favourites for this game. the defence and their fitness is second to none and we should fear nobody now. on current form we could beat anyone and we must be favourites to make the final now. hook is in my opinion one of the best players in the world but he is going to struggle to get into the team now. COME ON WALES

  • Comment number 12.

    I keep thinking I am going to wake up to be cruelly disappointed! Wales are showing professionalism and commitment of the like I have never seen in over 30 years. Tremendous effort today against a very, very good Irish side, the stats show how much work and defending we had to get through.
    Every player contributed, every player put it on the line for the cause. So excited about the French game now.
    Favourite moment was watching Ickle prevent a try from O'Brien. I think O'Brien is one of the best there is but to win that mismatch was incredible.

  • Comment number 13.

    Our "momentum" (the buzz word that everyone seems to be using these days ) is building, but lets not forget that in the warm up games, we laid our stall out. Narrowly lost to England at Twickenham (we were all over them like a rash in the 2nd half) beat that in Cardiff when England clearly didn't have a game plan and then beat (admittedly an under-strength) Argentina. Then add on a one-point loss to SA (who we should have beat) and up until todays game we were second only to NZ in points scored.

    Nobody is more surprised than me, but we must remain calm and not get too carried away, the biggest game lies ahead next saturday......... would have preferred to be playing England but the way we are playing, I think even the French could be worried!!

  • Comment number 14.

    "The two second-half tries they conceded were soft, from an Irish perspective. There was no-one home on the blindside for Mike Phillips' cheeky score, and Jonathan Davies was waved through the midfield by Cian Healy and Keith Earls."

    It was that comment that really got my attention. Second half = tiring legs - now that for me was the difference between the two sides. No doubt about it, I am in a state of shock! This was the BEST Wales performance I have ever seen in the 61 years I have been in existence. A small part of me thought they could do it but I was not prepared for that! Today I heard Martyn Williams saying that players were 'puking up' during the two arduous training camp sessions in Poland and how those experiences gelled the team spirit. What's the odds on that spa (?) doing good business between now and 2015?

    Really sorry for those truly great Irish players who have probably played their last games on the international scene.

  • Comment number 15.

    Max Boyce is no doubt recalling his 1971 classic '9-3' and wondering whether he'll be writing an encore in a fortnight's time........

    It'll no doubt start something like this:

    It was on a damp October day in a week which had seen rain
    When all roads led to Eden Park for the World Cup's final game....
    We flew in from the valleys, we came from far and wide
    There were 60,000 in the ground and me and Dai pie-eyed.....

    I wouldn't underestimate the French if I were the Welsh. They'll be tough up front like the Irish.

    But you couldn't hope for a better chance to reach a World Cup Final, could you?

  • Comment number 16.

    Nice one Wales! France only had to turn up and make the most of our opening 30 mins of suicide to beat England today. They'll have to be as up for it as today and more to live with you, if you play the way you have been next week. Yours if it you want it boys :) Good luck!

  • Comment number 17.

    Perhaps not the time to winge but what I did find really annoying this morning was ITV's coverage. Wales make there first semi-final since 87 and England lose however nearly all the post-match analysis is still reserved for England. The London centric media can be rather one-eyed I feel! Grrrr.

    Still what a great day and moan over....

  • Comment number 18.

    As an Irish man i am bitterly disappointed but credit where its due, the welsh were truly fantastic today. Warburton really is a great player and I think our lack of a true no 7 showed today. With ROG picked i cannot understand why we didnt go fo the 3 points in the first half. Our gameplan was based around the expolsiveness of O'Brien and Ferris but we were far too flat today and Wales were so quick to the tackle. I really hope Wales go on and win it now. Good luck to you

  • Comment number 19.

    I've supported Wales since the mid-1950s. Mike Phillips's try reminded me of Terry Holmes and before him, Gareth Edwards - opportunist, explosive, with a strong hand-off. Very hard to stop.

  • Comment number 20.

    Got to agree with Ybgur si taerg, the nadir for me was Steve Rider saying at the end of the game, "all of us in the studio share your pain"....

    The whole ITV coverage assumes none of their viewers care about any team other than England.

    Is it too much to hope that the BBC can get the TV rights and give us some less one-eyed coverage.

  • Comment number 21.

    @17 Rugby is Great - agreed, not the time to moan but I'm with you on that. Also the commentary teams are awful - both Monotone Michael Owen ("Wales must now be the most feared team at the World Cup") and Shouty Phil Vickery (" 'We' have got to get better. COME ON ENGLAND") have been dire

  • Comment number 22.

    The great thing for Wales is so many of their players will lack the fear of Southern hemisphere nations - losing a game they could definitely have won first up will be the only recollection many of their squad will have. If they get to the final then that freedom to play the game and not the opposition might do them some good.

  • Comment number 23.

    Agree strongly with criticism of coverage, even putting aside the inevitable metrocentric elements. RWC should be covered a la 6N...I want to hear Moore, Butler, Davies, Guscott, Wood, Greenwood et al....informed, passionate and is a BBC sport.

  • Comment number 24.

    Seen a few of the highlights and congrats to wales for a great defensive effort...confidence will be flowing thru the squad now and they will start to believe they can go on and win the RWC....trouble is they will meet either South Africa or the all blacks..true they ran the boks close in pool game, but that was a pool game and a rugby world cup final is a totally different story...Wales will beat the French, but coming up against a seasoned boks team or a flying all blacks team will leave them with losers medals

  • Comment number 25.

    Is there any truth in the rumour that Superman wears Sam Warbuton pyjamas to bed?

  • Comment number 26.

    The big question for me regarding next week is which French team will turn up, the one of the first 30 minutes, or the one for the rest of the tournament. On our day we can beat both, but it will be much easier if we play the worse France.

    As for 24. On our day I also think we can possibly beat Australia and south Africa, NZ is another matter. Of course a one sided final is also possible. However we need to beat France first.

    One thing that does stead is good stead is the fitness of the team, probably the fittest any Welsh team has ever been, it was a really intense game today and IMO Ireland played pretty well, but I thought we were better, and despite this only 1 of the pack was substituted and that was due to injury.

  • Comment number 27.

    @25, don't know, but Warburton's certainly the best thing since sliced bread!

  • Comment number 28.

    Great result for Wales and the young team we have, the standard of the game was so far above the France-England match that Wales have to be favourites for next week. It seems the cryogenic torture and subsequent 'group of death' has forged a team of young, iron-clad Welsh warriors.

    I must echo the thoughts of above posters, the Irish have taken the defeat very well indeed, no sour grapes and full of grace. One small point on that is that BOD keeps saying that they didn't turn up. I'd disagree because Ireland were very good indeed, it's just a shame for them that Wales were better.

  • Comment number 29.

    As for's all in the name :)

  • Comment number 30.

    as for @29...yes it is all in the name...just trying to be a bit real...we can all get very carried away, just trying to add a bit of realism

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with Pope #18, Wales really exposed our lack of a real openside, we missed Wallace today, but Wales were ruthless fair play. I thought before this game it would be close and this was our best chance of reaching a semi final, alas so did the Welsh, they did a job on us today out thought, out muscled and out played, although I don't think we played that bad! we were beaten by a better team on the day simple as! still I will be supporting the welsh for the rest of the tourny, good luck to them, whoever won this game I believed before and still do now that they will be in the final and have more than a good chance of winning the damn thing. Although I hear from a few of my welsh friends that if the opposition play in black then the welsh may as well not turn up beforehand. Wish england had won today though ....Wales would have put 50 on them no probs.....Good luck Wales

  • Comment number 32.

    Congratulations to the Welsh. It's always fun to see a team really pick up momentum as a tournament goes on. Talented bunch undoubtably, but I think it's in their mentality and passion that they are really stretching ahead.

    I thought today would be Ireland's day (and England's come to that - shows what I know) and I do feel sorry for the Golden Green Generation. I don't think anyone would have begrudged O'Driscoll leading his side into a World Cup final.

    Still, Wales won and deservedly so. 2 more wins? Certainly possible on this form.

  • Comment number 33.

    Amazing to think that 8 months ago this team finished 4th in the Six Nations, When the draw was made people started to remind themselves of the devastation 4 years ago.

    Many Pundits didn't fancy Wales to get through the group. But not only did they get through, and overall got through very comfortably they are now in the semi finals of the world cup!!!!

    This team are already legends in welsh rugby for finally bringing back some pride and belief to the country. We now go in to games thinking we should win. 12 months ago we would go in thinking if we can just get close and get destroyed we have done our jobs!!!

    Congratulations lads, the whole country of wales and i believe the Celtic nations of Scotland and Ireland are also behind you, let's bring the cup home!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Agree with other posters, gutted for the Irish boys in their last world cup. On a happier note, looks like the Irish and the Welsh will dominate the next Lions side though. Like us Welsh, the Irish seem to struggle with the favourites tag. Hope they don't make us favourites against the French. Magnificent performance today against a 'best of a generation' Grand Slam winning Irish. Gatland seemed downbeat in post-match interview. I'm wondering if he's worried that if we win the whole thing he won't be able to go home :) Probably a bit worried he's made us too good :) Have to agree on the anglo-centric media. The BBC is just as bad. Huge great headline on the news page about England's failure and a little footnote on our success. Would have thought we'd get a better billing as were the only British/Irish side left. Anyway, brilliant win, just sorry it at to be against the Irish. No doubt they'll mash us in the Heineken Cup again as a manner of revenge.

  • Comment number 35.

    Welsh defence was immence and it's great to see that positive enterprising rugby is winning the day at this tournament.
    Really looking forward to see how this young Welsh side approach the French... should be another cracker.

  • Comment number 36.

    In some ways I was glad we weren't going in as favourites today, and hope France also look at us and say 'Ah it's just Wales - how good can they *really* be?'. Hope we are underestimated for the rest of the competition - especially against SH teams (e.g. in the Final). How could SA or NZ in the final deep down *not* think - ah, *really* we should win as it's just Wales.. they usually beat us all day long.
    But if they do that this time - we might go all the way.. think this time we have a belief I don't think I have seen for a long time - if ever in my lifetime of supporting Welsh rugby. So SA, NZ, France - please underestimate us :)

  • Comment number 37.

    "So SA, NZ, France - please underestimate us :)"

    Underestimating the Aussies a bit there?!

  • Comment number 38.

    Playing well but win the RWC, well you've got more chance than Eng, Ire and Scot but no, no chance.

  • Comment number 39.

    @37 I know, I guess I am :) Just that when we play the Aussies I think we have a belief to beat them. When we play NZ and SA we don't believe as much I feel... apologies for not backing the Aussies more to get to the final - but of course wish them all the best!

  • Comment number 40.

    @38....yeah we all said that about the english in 2003 (which is just like '66') I wouldn't write them off, they beat a very good Ireland side today, I don't think most people would be so quick to write us off if we had won today. This is not the welsh teams of years gone by, even some of those with their tails up played some excellent rugby. i.e. 2005 and 2008 and these are much better than those.

  • Comment number 41.

    The Irish beat the Aussies and we beat the Irish. In an ideal world we should therefore beat the Aussies should we meet in the final. Alas, it doesn't work like that. We'd probably have 70,000 naturalised Welsh All-Blacks in the crowd though :) It would also be nice to avenge the blatant Aussie knock on in Cardiff 99 as well.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am a very proud welshman today. Up until the match I was more nervous than Sarah Palin about to sit a geography test. Half time I turned to my wife and said "Ireland will win this they are wearing us down" I was so glad to be proven wrong. Gatland and his much maligned (in the past few years) coaching team has clearly instilled a pulse of cold professionalism into the squad. All too often our side has jack the ladded it insulting the hundreds of thousands who would have killed a small furry animal to wear their jersey, now they are honouring the jersey. The biggest compliment I can pay the welsh team is we are approaching the games and performing like a southern hemisphere tri nations team. I am ebullient, we cannot take France for granted, we must approach the game with ice cold determination and bring controlled passion to the arena. For me the frightening thing is the age of our squad. With a rejuvenated England (likely) the always dangerous France and the depth of talent in Ireland I would wager an all NH final in four years there is a definite power shift occurring!

    Just a quick word about England, (1) I'm glad we aren't playing them in the semis and most welsh fans would agree. (2) I think the English party has really let down their public, ill disciplined on and off the field, indecisive disjointed and sloppy are words I would never have associated with England. (3) As I mentioned above, perversely I hope England do learn the lessons of this world cup and rejuvenate, there is no joy in beating a poor England side and a strong 6N is vital to our collective success on the world stage.

    So proud right now of my team

  • Comment number 43.

    Good blog and on the mark too well done. The leg tackling issue especially is something I was watching through the game, even where Wales were making a point of holding the ankles so the much vaunted Irish back 3 especiallly couldnt carry on and claim 'not held'. One of the fascinating things pre-match was who would win the the battle between the Welsh 'jackalers' and the Irish choke tacklers, and fortunately, Wales' tactics won through. And some. Shame there was little mention of Danny Lydiate in the piece, the guy who put in the most tackles for Wales, and apparently according to Gats, didnt even have the energy to pull off his shirt after the game. That is all you can ask for, win or lose. (as well of course as his night icing)

    In many ways, I also wonder if Irish / BOD's disappointment masked a small sense of their complacency pre-match, exemplified by D'Arcy's interview saying he knew what to expect from the Welsh backline and had no worries facing them. Of course this was blown away in the first 10 mintues of the game when they were smashed by Jamie R, a number of times. This set the tone for the game, ROG didnt fancy it after that and Ireland never got on the front foot.

    But for now, lets sit back with huge pride on a wonderful Welsh (and gallant Irish) performance, in the wind and rain, which showed off great defensive qualities, composure and high quality heads up attacking rugby, which was a great advert for 6N rugby.

    Ymlaen Cymru.

  • Comment number 44.

    Make no mistake, Ireland were good today, very good at times, (and they will continue to be a good outfit - they would have beaten France or England today, no doubt about it) but were prevented from being excellent by a superb team effort. Glad we're playing the French instead of England - as somewhere in that English Team is a top performance - they were on top all second half today - but ultimately clueless. The French are good but they will need the A++ game next week - not sure they have it at this WC, but if they can beat us in our current form after losing to Tonga then they thoroughly deserve to reach the final.

  • Comment number 45.

    I wonder if Johnson will survive? Probably got a bit too chummy with the players and discipline suffered. Maybe he lacks a degree of separation? Maybe in his heart of hearts he still thinks he's one of the players. Let's face it playing rugby with a hangover, however delayed, is probably no barrel of laughs. Boozy nights out and dodgy 'bonding' day-trips sounds more like a stag weekend than a world cup campaign. Not being too smug as it also sounds like a 90's Welsh team.

  • Comment number 46.

    Well done Wales...the best team won. No complaints from the Irish on that one. I hope ye kick ashh in the semis and make the final.
    What a prospect...this Welsh side playing well against the All Blacks in the my...its been a long time since we had an exciting final won on scoring trys and not kicks.

  • Comment number 47.

    @45 - with all due respect, there is a blog by Tom Fordyce dealing with England's shortcomings, I think you would get more of a response over there.

    Excellent result by Wales - we have got further than I even dreamed of before the tournament. Can we get to the final - sure, why not? Can we win...? I really hope so.

  • Comment number 48.

    Also hard luck England. They never quite got out of 1st gear and their defence was non existant. They have alot to think about over the coming months. I think Johnson should go after his ill decisions.

  • Comment number 49.

    It's an interesting question, lose in the greatest final ever, a game that goes down in rugby history, a 'I remember where I was' game by a single point, or win an utterly drab final with a feeble last-minute drop-kick. The win I guess, but alas, heroic failure is usually the Welsh way. Hope they prove me wrong and I have my cake and eat so much I'm utterly sick.

  • Comment number 50.

    Bold prediction but the Arg-NZ game is not a foregone conclusion

  • Comment number 51.

    @50 yeh you're right. Will it be 30 or 40 points the win's by?

  • Comment number 52.

    @51 yeah I feel silly now. I'm just delirious

  • Comment number 53.

    @52 It's ok. Everyone's forgiven a bit of drunkenness when Wales win :D

  • Comment number 54.

    Well done Wales, you beat us in every department today, particularly your defence.... heroic!!! Thoroughly enjoyed the intensity of the game & you guys were a great advert for Northern Hemisphere rugby.

    Would love to see you win it now, hats off & best o' luck. ;-)

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm not surprised Wales had to defend like demons for the first hour of the game. The Irish seemed to be able to run around offside and obstruct the ruck, come in from anywhere and hang on to the ball as long as they could. Adam Jones was stuffing the Irish scrum up down and round and the ref was giving them a gentlemanly reset. I loved Tommy Bowe's knock on. What was the penalty count in the first hour? England , France and Wales get penalised for offside. It's those camouflaged green shirts. Wales looked a lot better when Seamus O'Joubert evened up the penalty stats in the last 20. Just who's mother is he?

  • Comment number 56.

    The benefits of the cryogenic chambers in Poland? The same ones we (Ireland) used before the last world cup - which was out worst ever.....!

  • Comment number 57.

    A year ago I was all for giving up on Gatland and Edwards as coaches, I thought there bubble had burst.... So glad to be proved wrong.... but do wonder on how long Gatland will stay especially if AB's dont win the RWC!!! Another ex welsh coach for the AB's....

  • Comment number 58.

    A good win, a performance of intensity, commitment & courage. Wales did today what the good Southern Hemisphere teams would have done to Ireland over the years. Ireland are a very good team - not a great one - but a tough nut to crack. And Wales cracked them very well with some clever teamwork.

    I still feel we're short of the very top, elite level performances that the likes of NZ can regularly deliver. NZ seem to have a natural instinct and inventiveness that we still lack. France, more rarely, can achieve these mind blowing irresistible performances but Wales are still very workmanlike.

    I don't want to sour what has been a great day but I just feel that we are still making silly errors and giving away stupid penalties. To win semi-finals and finals you need to be practicly error free and solid defensively. I think we're very solid if people run in straight lines without offloading (Ireland, Samoa, for 60 minutes South Africa) but when teams up the pace and offload we will concede. France look for the offload and NZ are masters at it. If Wales think they have conquered some mountains already, they are only half way up.

    Moving absolutely in the right direction but much more work to do before we're a top top team.

  • Comment number 59.

    When Alexander the Great was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer. Sam Warburton has only just turned 23.

  • Comment number 60.

    Any thoughts regarding selection for next week?

    Hopefully Roberts and Charteris will be fit for next weekend so we can go for same xv again. Thought Halfpenny was superb today.

  • Comment number 61.

    I watched the game on Skype. It costs something upwards of $50 a game to watch on PPV. I was watching the game from New Zealand, being broadcast from my parents home in Wales at 6am, to my home in LA at 10pm. The picture quality was just awesome, considering it was on a video conferencing platform, and I got to watch it with my parents too. I highly recommend this to expats!!

    Awesome Welsh display. When I was a little kid, I used to run in the lounge pretending I was in a world cup final, where we would always beat New Zealand in the final. Could this really really be happening? Collectively, Wales are nuts for rugby. It is our religion. I am not too sure if the collective Welsh spirit can take the strain. If we beat France, all hell is going to break loose. Glad I am not there - the emergency services will be over run.

    Oh boy - pinch me.

    It was quite thought provoking that Steve Jobs said "death is life's greatest invention". How very true. Wales have one of the youngest sides out there, and in both matches yesterday we saw the end of careers which have world cups, Heineken Cups, and Gram Slam glory to their names. The Welsh side seem fresh out of the box in their style and tempo, and they have that new car smell and feel of reliability.

    But lets go one further. Just say we do reach the final against NZ. That will be a tough game for NZ. One of the greatest records in sporting history is the NZ rugby record of never having lost to Wales (which is why we have worshipped the NZ vs Barbarians 74 game). I am not sure which will be the over riding concern for the Kiwis in that game. Sure, they want to win the World Cup on their home soil, but also, no Kiwi wants to be in THAT team that loses to Wales. No-one. It will happen one day, they just don't want it to be on their day. The potential to "bottle it" from the NZ camp is quite big. The pressure will be on them, and not Wales. For sure, Wales won't have an opportunity like this again for some time.

  • Comment number 62.

    It was great to seee such a fantastic game of rugby today. Plaudits for the way the irish played, and in particular to Kidney - much respect. Wales got the win they deserved.
    In contrast, MJ was whinging about missed chances and that this young team will be around for the next world cup - why not congratulate the French and move on. England looked one dimensional and various players showed their weaknesses today.

  • Comment number 63.

    Well played Wales from an England supporter, magnificent all round team games - full gloating rights accepted!! Wish we'd have had your props, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 12 combo ...and manager! Hope they can be as fired up for the next game, so often in the RWC one massive display after such a big build up gets followed up by a slightly tired less passionate display.

  • Comment number 64.

    Re 30...I understand your point, but I think your original post 24 overstates it. My realism only a few weeks ago would've been hoping/worried about getting out of our pool, I've been proved to have been a pessimist by events. ABs, Boks and even Australia would start a final against us as favourites, granted, but I think realism now includes the serious possibility that this young Wales side, developing in front of our eyes, can win. We'll soon know anyway.

  • Comment number 65.

    Fantastic lads, well done! I fancied Ireland to win a v tight game by the closest of margins but felt if we played to our potential, with the right tactics and a solid defence we would win.

    Both of those we did today superbly. Agree about Ireland, very gracious in defeat (players and fans) Mike Phillips summed it up when he said great players and gentleman too. The manager also showed plenty of class in the interview which is always tough to do after a disappointing defeat.

    I do feel a little for POC and BOD et al, as this is likely to be their last hurrah and definitely World Cup. One GS doesn't seem worthy of the quality that Ireland had with some of those players that graced Irish Rugby. Two greats!

    Still, they have Heineken Cups aplenty to reminisce over into retirement.

    As far as we go - we'll win it now of course ;-).

    My stance is exactly the same. Immensely proud however we do now. Great if we manage to get to the final. But I said on the last blog, it would be just like France to go and win it now they've been written off.

    Job 1 done today.

    However poorly or averagely France play, they can turn in a fantastic performance anytime - they have that in them.

    So, we'll have to be 100% focussed, prepared and on the ball just like today.

    Once again well done all team and management (I think a shout out to Shaun Edwards ) that most definitely had a hand in such a great defensive performance.

  • Comment number 66.

    Absolutely superb performance from Wales. Their defence absorbed the Irish attacks and they were able to hit back with pinpoint accurate attack. The mark of a team that is fit, conditioned and full of so much belief they're prepared to back their skill and technique.

    As a Kiwi who grew up with stories of the traditional rivalry between NZ and Wales it's great to see the Red Dragons back playing rugby as it should be played. I know the semis have yet to begin. But I sure hope Wales win a place in the final. They deserve it. World rugby deserves it.

  • Comment number 67.

    Just delighted, tired, very tired, but so delighted. Wales dominated in all areas of the field, and should have taken it by more. Just such a joy to see our team back at the top table, after having been absent for so long. Doing Europe proud Wales - keep it up!

  • Comment number 68.

    Nice one Noah.

  • Comment number 69.

    Gotta say too - love that Welsh halfback, Phillips. Tremendous playe, excellent pass, bossed his forwards well. If only NZ rugby had halves like him.

  • Comment number 70.

    As a proud but extremely disappointed Englishman I wish you lads the very best of luck – I think it’s possible you can do it – you are the outstanding team of the tournament so far.
    Even if you don’t win it could you please beat the French for me..............

  • Comment number 71.

    Can't agree with last comment
    " If it all ends tomorrow, this Welsh team has already made a lot of people very happy.
    "- on that showing it's an insult to Wales' form. They really should be in the final at very least and I hope that's how they approach the game. That might have been enough for some Wales teams of the past, but no this one.

  • Comment number 72.

    Well done Wales.

    Ireland did not turn up today - which was very disappointing and surprising. Ireland players talked about their ability to cope with high pressure cup games like H Cup, but then they bottled it today.

    Agree with view that something missing in the Irish coaching in comparison to job Shaun Edwards did motivating Welsh team's defense.

  • Comment number 73.

    Great result but very wary of a French 99 SF performance next week... it would be typically French for them to get to the final having lost to Tonga! Must disagree slightly with 61 SmilingSpongeMuffin - Wales have beaten the ABs 3 times but admittedly not since 1953! I think you will find that it is Ireland who have never beaten the ABs. Still fancy a Wales v SA rematch though.

  • Comment number 74.

    The great thing about Wales is the team is so young. Irrespective of what happens in the next fortnight this Welsh side has an opportunity to build a great era in their rugby. They could very well rule Europe if not the world over the next decade.

    Looking forward to NZ - Arg tonite. Got my tickets to the game. Warily watching outcome of SA-Aust. Prefer SA to win because I think NZ will have a better chance against them. Aust game too similar to NZ's - meaning we always cancel each other out. Then again, if NZ want to win the WC have to be prepared to take on allcomers.

  • Comment number 75.


    You are a numpty if you want to continue your barrage of hatred towards England go onto that blog this blog is about Wales Who were fantastic and Ireland who are gracious in defeat.

    Well done Wales and I hope you get through toe the final

  • Comment number 76.

    Noah, bow to your greater experience of SH rugby but I have a sneaky feeling that the Boks may wrap the ABs up in the semis. I think Wales can beat SA and gain a bit of revenge for the pool defeat but playing the ABs in their own backyard in the RWC Final is a completely different kettle of fish. Praying that Wales make the final as I think France in the final will result in a crap game for the neutral (just like 87 & 99) but Welsh chances living the dream will totally depend on the ABs progress. Imagine a NZ v Wales final that produces rugby like the RWC 03 pool stages classic!

  • Comment number 77.

    Wales are very good and improving side and put too much physical pressure on the Irish side.
    Not sure why O'Gara best known as a kicking passing back kept running into contact and turning over . When Sexton a runner came on he kicked very badly instead.
    Every game though has its tip moment and I thought the line out loss on our throw at 10-10 after a penalty following long period of defense leading to the second try for Wales was it.
    Will we see much more of BOD?
    Hope Wales go all the way. They have conducted themeselves superbly

  • Comment number 78.

    Come on Wales!

    I'm an Englishmen who spent Saturday morning sat on the edge of my seat watching the Welsh beat the Irish before throwing my breakfast at the TV watching England. As an England rugby fan I think we all hoped we would have played like the Welsh by being attacking, brave and playing like a team who knew what they were doing - sadly we were wrong. I'm supporting Wales now and just hope they can bring the World Cup back to the Northern Hemisphere. Come on the Welsh!

  • Comment number 79.

    All week the media, well mainly the Itv so called experts really did not give us any chance for the game agains Ireland. Normally i would agree but this time i took exception due to the fact that the way we have played and the confidence of our truly remarkable team of youngsters!! That our effort and the way we have played and surely must be the best NH team so far has been totally overlooked and i dare say that the Irish were a bit guilty of of this also. But i would agree that this was a fantastic game and we came through it with confidence and maturity that even now must make us favourites for the 6nations next year although we do perform better withouy any tags!!

    Also the itv coverage of these quarter finals leaves a lot to be desired , the coverage was so dominated by Englands oh so dramatic defeat you would guess there was no other team in it!

    Anyway for next week. Allez les rouge, Allez les bleus.

  • Comment number 80.

    I cannot believe how well Wales have performed so far in this WC. Phenomenal effort, power and stamina. Sam Warburton has been consistently a stand out performer and his attitude has been inspirational - what a player!! Just wish I was in New Zealand!

    France will be tough, but I think we have the edge.

  • Comment number 81.

    @29 My father was from Blaina and he always called it football, soccer was what the English played!

  • Comment number 82.

    Taffinthetoon : a NZ-Wales would be fantastic mate! While I want NZ to win I have to be honest. I don't think the ABs are the form side, even if they have the pedigree. Wales are the form team and I think they're riding the crest of a wave that will take them all the way to the final.

    NZ media are reporting this morning that Israel Dagg and Cory Jane got absolutely plastered on Thursday night in an Auckland bar. Piri Weepu had to kick their butts back to the hotel. If it's true it sends the wrong signals about team cohesion. It also shows how immature and naive Izzy and CJ are. Grow up and save the partying for when you actually win something. Take a leaf out of a young 23 year old who's taken this WC by the scruff of the neck and is behaving with all the aplomb that far belies his years. His name? Sam Warburton, Superstar.

    In the past, AB sides have believed their own PR spin and have left in tears. Show some respect for the game and the fans who pay for your lifestyle.

  • Comment number 83.

    On form, the top 3 teams have to be: 1) Wales 2) SA 3) NZ.

    Wales are 1) because they are the best balanced. SA are 2) because of their experience and NZ because of host advantage.

    Wales and SA have it over NZ because they've played tougher games so are consequently battle hardened.

  • Comment number 84.

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

  • Comment number 85.

    Heading out to Eden Park. Beautiful spring day in the City of Sails. Looking for the AB scrum to stay stable and keep the aggression down. Play smart and get it to Nonu to turn on his aggression. Let Slade be Slade, not a Carter wannabe. Do the fundamentals right, make the correct decisions. NZ needs to send a statement to the other teams remaining in the tournament. We're still here and ready to play. Bring it - Kia Kaha Aotearoa / NZ!

  • Comment number 86.

    Alastair, we live in Switzerland. Nothing like feeling homesick to make a welshman's patriotism go through the roof. So proud yesterday. Other Welsh work colleagues here al glued to the TV, as if watching the first lunar landing. So excited now about next weekend, considering booking a rediculously expensive flight home to watch the Semi against Franch with my family in Wales.

  • Comment number 87.

    After watching the other side of the draw this morning - I really think Wales can win this now - nothing there to be afraid of.

  • Comment number 88.

    We got what we (the Welsh) had prayed for: a great game of rugby that included a Welsh victory! Ireland were tough, all credit to them. O'Driscoll looked pretty shell-shocked. Warburton and Roberts were incredible. Cymru am Byth!

    The French will be tough, but probably do-able. The SH side that makes the final... let's just wait and see!

  • Comment number 89.

    Great to see the Welsh playing so well, a final between the 2 countries that really worship rugby - NZ and Wales - would be a great way to end the tournament. And if so, I wouldn't like to pick the winner, it should be a close and truly exciting game. Of course the French and the Aussies may have something to say about that!

    Just watched the last 2 semis and although Australia were lucky, it's very good to see the teams who rely on brute force and big forwards - SA, Eng, Arg (to a certain extent, although they played better than that today) - are all going home early...

    BTW, SmilingSpongeMuffin (#61): "One of the greatest records in sporting history is the NZ rugby record of never having lost to Wales" - not true, I'm afraid - Wales have beaten the ABs at least 3 times but the last time was in 1953 so it probably seems like never...

  • Comment number 90.

    Personal message to Welsh coach Warren Gatland - can you please have a word with your players. You are seriously messing around with my weekends. Based on an improvement in form, I got up early last weekend to watch the Fiji game. Got up early yesterday to watch the Irish game - thought it would be a gallant defeat, now I have to do the same thing again next weekend.

    Before the tournament I predicted that Wales could possibly not even qualify from their group based on form going into this tournament. How wrong I was. Eating lots of humble pie at the moment, mmmm delicious.

    Have to say, I thought the Irish were superb yesterday. Totally beat us in possession and territory, just wish we could have played them later in the World Cup. Sad that it's a possibility that we will not see some of their older players again.

    Still not confident about France next week though, that will be very tough. I know it's a well worn cliche, but it all depends on which French team turns up on the day. As for us actually winning the World Cup - stranger things have happened, but I don't think it is our turn this time.

  • Comment number 91.

    Good review Alister until the last paragraph you crushed your enthusiasm by "and a fairytale ending is not out of the question" We Welsh have to stop hiding behind these sort of statements. Our confidence,quality and competencies are good enough for us to win this RUWC outright.

  • Comment number 92.

    After watching the southern hemisphere matches this morning, starting to believe Wales can go all the way.

    France are France and capable of beating anyone but can they deliver twice on the bounce? The evidence so far suggests not and Wales know they are capable of beating any northern hemisphere side.

    Not sure how Australia managed to beat South Africa, they can consider themselves extremely fortunate and the thought of Jamie Roberts going down the 10 channel against Quade Cooper on the form he displayed today is a mouth watering one for a Welsh fan.

    New Zealand didn't seem to know how to bring their backs into play in the absence of Dan Carter and only the Argentinians tiring in the last quarter lent respectability to the scoreline for the kiwis. This Welsh side will not fade as the match goes on.

    I can't believe that I can realistically imagine Sam the man lifting the trophy, heady times indeed and taking nothing for granted against opponents who can and will raise their.

    But in Gat I believe and dare to dream...

  • Comment number 93.

    Looking over the game again, Phillips deserves more credit than he is getting. He looked up, and saw in that split second that Darcy has looked over the defensive line, weighing up what was happening out wide. By the time he turned back, Phillips had reacted. He didnt run blind around that side of the ruck, he did it knowing full well the first defenders attention was elsewhere. It was a try created by Phillips, rather than a lucky run around the blindside.

  • Comment number 94.

    Cannot begin to describe my elation for the Welsh team (I'm English by the way). The quality of rugby, the way they have played the game in this world cup, the modesty - all have been outstanding. No puggish, thuggish Chris Ashton-type showboating, just a quiet confidence and steady progression.

    Before the game, under a Ben Dirs post re "Could England Yet Win...", the English disease of quoting the past and dismissing everyone else was all too prevalent, as usual. 'England won their group..., in 2003 England started slowly but won..., Wales don't know how to win difficult games..., England will beat France..., Ireland will beat Wales...', blah blah blah.

    Oh yes? Let's remind ourselves of the facts:
    Wales 22 Ireland 10
    France 19 England 12

    Both were the right results and entirely predictable by anyone other than the typically blinkered England fan.

    As for 'the best is yet to come from England' type comments, sure! England are always world-beaters in a virtual future of their own-making. Sadly, the English, even in defeat only ever seem to focus on themselves - how 'wonderful' they are 'really' and 'watch out next time...'. No admission that their smaller neighbour, Wales, is playing the best rugby any of the 6-nations has EVER produced. The English lack grace in this respect.

    But right here, right now, in the real world, Wales are in the semi-finals. Only facts and the present count. Everything else is Twitter fodder - opinions like countless rain drops in yesterday's downpour. Mostly wrong. And who cares about yesterday anyway?


  • Comment number 95.

    Thanks @94 suzkid, well said...

  • Comment number 96.

    Great summary Alastair, echoes the feelings of many of us.

    Interestingly, the French media has switched 180°. Before the England game they were vilifying their players and coaching staff. Now they're portraying them as World Cup finalists.

    Suits me fine - when France think they've got no chance they play without fear and turn in fantastic rugby, but when they're favourites they get scared and nervous. There are too many holes in the French defence, and some of their best three-quarters are left at home so they lack the creative spark in the threes that we usually expect from them.

    If we can score early and sow doubt in the French minds then they could implode spectacularly and Wales could run away with the game. With Wales' fitness and new-found total professionalism they have every chance of making the final.

    Cymru am byth !!!

  • Comment number 97.

    @24. footiefan wrote:

    Hey footiefan, glad to see you're still on these boards posting your usual drivel. Wasn't it you who predicted a Fiji win over Wales?

    Wales 66 Fiji 0


    Wasn't it you who predicted an England final?

    France 19 England 12


    And now I see you're saying: "...trouble is they will meet either South Africa or the all blacks..."

    Australia 11 South Africa 9

    Oops, not SA then.

    So that leaves your comment "Wales will beat the French but coming up against a... flying all blacks team will leave them with losers medals."

    Thanks for the laugh :) - as you know, I think you're a clown, but now I'm wondering about your mental health. What's your next prediction? England football team to win the 2014 world cup?

    Keep 'em coming ;)

  • Comment number 98.

    #94 - you have a rather parochial (and miserable) view of the game if you think all England rugby supporters are like that, but I think you are right about the England set-up. The Welsh win was a great result for rugby, terrific game. That Ireland side were no pushover, and would have done the home nations justice in the semi's. As an Englishman I take my hat of to the Welsh side. Their union had the sense at last to get some world-class coaches and let them get on with building a team. I was at Adams Park when Gatland opted for Wales, and it was widely expected that Edwards would join him - England really missed out, but that's the RFU for you, stuffed blazers with no vision.

    It's now a very open tournament, with the All Blacks narrow favorites. They plodded a bit against Argentina (now then, which other side did that earlier in the tournament?) and missed Carter. Australia just hung on against SA and could easily have lost. Who knows how the French will play next time out. Wales have to have an even chance against the others (except maybe the home side, assuming they beat Australia which is by no means certain).

    A Wales-Australia final would be a cracker!

    So from an England supporter, no sour grapes, only best wishes for a team that plays with real spirit and has been a credit to the game so far. Not sure what will happen to the Scots and Irish now - the Irish in particular are likely to lose some key senior players to retirement. England are unlikely to improve until the whole management set-up is changed and they appoint a manager who can control his coaches, and/or one who knows how to coach.

  • Comment number 99.

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

  • Comment number 100.


    The Met office has issued a severe weather warning for the UK.

    A shower of is on its way over from new Zealand.


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