Posts Tagged ‘ rwc2011 ’

Wales’ World Cup: Stars Born, Kicks Missed.

Well, in many respects, Wales’ defeat to Australia in the third place play off of the 2011 rugby world cup smacked of a game too far. The legs were not pumping as hard as they had been, the gain line breaks failed to travel as far as they could a couple of weeks ago, and all the time everyone in red pondered the absence of Priestland, Jones (Adam) and Warburton and what could have been with them on the field. The strength in depth to cover such absences is developing, but it is clearly not there yet. So fourth for Wales in the world cup (and a much lower world ranking to boot) and a sense of disappointment from a tournament which in the warm up period offered so little, yet grew to offer so much. The defeat to France and the infamous red card will be one to stand the test of time in Welsh irritations, probably outstripping the Andy Haden lineout dive in 1978 as the most controversial and bitter of reasons for defeat (though I wager Haden’s dive will ultimately hold more sway over Welsh rugby’s bitter taste buds). But despite consecutive defeats at the end of the tournament, and a string of sore bones and bruises (most of which will be focused on George North’s head), there is much cause for optimism as this squad moves forward, as will be considered below.

Welsh Player of the Tournament: There are so many players in the Welsh squad who could raise their hands for this accolade, Warburton, North, Priestland, Lydiate, Adam Jones could all make their case, but Toby Faletau for me has led the way, and should do so for a long time in a Welsh jersey. The man has been a monster in defence, hammering every single person down who was foolhardy enough to get within his grasp. In attack he proved a nuisance, crashing forward and making waves of space for those around him. At the end of the tournament he was asked to move out of position, and still proved his worth: he certainly won’t force Warburton out of his No7 jersey, but he proved his versatility in covering for the captain. Not since Scott Quinnell have Wales had such a presence from No8, and Faletau is already looking better than Quinnell did in his prime.

Star Find: Again, plenty to choose from, but Priestland probably stands out, more so by his absence than his presence on the field. All of the talk in the tournament focused on the Welsh backs, Roberts in particular, but so much of what went right for Wales in attack came from the mind of Priestland. He offered a sense of vision that has long been lacking in the No10 jersey for Wales, and both Hook and Stephen Jones’ efforts in the role highlighted just how important Priestland had been. Another one who will have hopefully a couple of World Cups in his future, Priestland has inherited the outside half crown and made it his own.

Wales LVP: Possibly a harsh branding, and a harsh recipient, but James Hook has gone from being the pundits first choice 10 for Wales, to the nations pariah…his journey to France could perhaps not be more timely. What happened to Hook one wonders? Once so calm with his kicks, once so dangerous running forward, he now looks a shadow, a wraith like presence scaring the Welsh attack into ignominy with his mere presence. As others have pointed out, Wales lost three games by a collective margin of 5 points – looking back over Hook’s missed efforts how can fans help but point a finger of judgement in his direction. Probably most telling of Hook’s contributions was against Australia in the build up to Shane Williams’ try. Hook broke, panicked, and flung a ball at Shane’s feet – chance then created the try, not Hook. A startled man, a broken man, perhaps a sabbatical in France is just what he needs, because far from being a grand slam hero, Hook is now damaged goods, and we must hope that this incredibly talented man can find a path to rugby redemption – he certainly needs it.     

The Good: When Welsh attack sparked it was the best in the tournament. From 1-15 there were occasions when Wales played something approaching rugby perfection. With one or two key personal lost, it could not be sustained, but when the Welsh first choice 15 took the field – what a joy it was to see them play. The Irish game will stand the test of time as an example of how rugby should be played – and boy did Wales play that day.

The Bad: The strength in depth is coming, but it’s not here yet. Hook for Priestland, Paul James for Adam Jones, no more openside flankers when Sam’s not around…it’s only one or two players but when they are not available to Wales we looked like the team that was caught in the Six Nations headlamps not so many months ago. The Welsh coaches need to grab a shovel and start digging to find the next tighthead prop and openside flanker and fast. Without support in those areas Wales go from being great and average – and it happens with alarming ease

The Ugly: Warburton, poor Sam Warburton. The debates are still raging as to whether it should have been a red card or not, yet even those who conclude it should have been, still pity the man for his punishment. Warburton stood as the leader, the man who would carry Wales to the world cup final. It did not happen. A referee made a decision and took it all away from him. Put aside the debate, if the card was right or wrong, his loss from the tournament was an ugly underserved moment.

Finally, The Future: Wales must not get too excited too soon. They leave this tournament having played the best rugby, and at times, having looked like the best team, but not always. A Six Nations is coming, and Wales can win it. With the first XV available this Wales squad could take any nation, but we must find backups to the starting line up who are up to the task. 10, 7, and 3, positions on the field that are essential. Wales have three excellent players to start in those berths, but currently have no stars to step up. Without support in those positions, any ambitions of Grand Slam success will remains as ambitions alone. We have shown how average we are without stars in those positions, and the future of Welsh rugby will stand and fall not on the ability of Priestland, Warburton and Adam Jones, but on those who replace them when the need arises. Keep searching Wales, we have the power, now we need to back it up from the bench.

RWC 2011: A Brief Word on Red Cards and Spears…

There will be a cold light of day moment to go through Wales’ defeat against France today, but just q quick entry is required now, as I am in bewilderment at the volume of needling little oiks out there who think that the red carding of Sam Warburton was justified. Plenty have been citing IRB regulations, and fair to do so, so let’s cast an eye over them quickly:

 •The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.

 •The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.

 •For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.

Most of the Irish referring fan society have been pointing to the second point here, yet in reality, and as is the consensus in most of the rational rugby watching world, point three, and only point three was applicable. Warburton certainly did not force or spear the Frenchman into the ground, on that there is general acceptance. Dropped with no regard for safety though, this one is getting more support. Yet no Frenchman was dropped. Warburton was in control of his tackled man from start to finish. It was a tip tackle. The player raised during the momentum of the tackle, tipped over that key point of horizontal, and was guided to the ground. What Warburton did matches the description of neither points 1 or 2. This was a yellow card offence, at most, more likely a penalty.

Rolland made a rash call, and his retirement will not be missed, given that he has now not only ruined the Rugby World Cup for Welsh fans and players alike, but any purest who enjoys rugby played at its best. France do not offer this, have not offered this, and will not offer this. The worst team won, and Rolland’s shocking interpretation of the laws (not for the first time it should be added) are the primary, if indeed not the sole, reason for this development.

Finally – for all those licking at the heels of Rolland, if you want to see a game where Warburton’s tackle is worthy of a red card, then say goodbye to rugby. There was no malice, and no lack of control, no one went in to hurt anyone, and no one came out hurt. It happens in rugby, and will continue to happen – support that red card as a precedent upon which the future of the game will be run, and you can wave goodbye to realistic contests, if Rolland had his way, you would have a red card at least once a game, for the most innocuous of offences. Ruin the game if you must, because supporting this action will only result in that for the sport formerly known as Rugby Union.

RWC 2011: A Final Say on ITV: Steve Ryder Cares.

Given yesterday’s commentary from ITV you would have been forgiven for thinking that the British Isles had been the subject of some terrible natural disaster. A mood of misery overwhelmed the poor men in the ITV studios, as they were left with the heavy burden of having to relay the devastating news to a defeated nation. Brave, brave Steve Ryder was there to hold our hands though and nurse us through this difficult time.

Ryder wanted us all to know that they in the studio shared our pain, us poor viewers were not alone in that difficult time, that he would do his best to help us come to term with the grieving process, and that no matter how bad things seemed in the moment of that crushing defeat, we could take heart from the fact that the commentary team suffered the same agonies as those being endured by the television audience at home. But wait, what we were all supposed to be so sad about…?

In one final, epic effort of indulgence that firmly shoved two fingers up to the other home nations, anyone of an impartial nature, and certainly to any French fans unfortunate enough to be left relying on ITV for their World Cup coverage, ITV veritably vomited their disappointment that England, World Champions elect, had failed in their duty to the nation, to overwhelm all opposition with the most mundane of performances. Yet, many of those tuning in were Welsh and Irish, many of those tuning in were in no need of a comforting pat on the back from Steve Ryder, not in the slightest.

It would be interesting to garner the views of the English rugby community regarding ITV. Do they love it? Do they find every nonsensical reference to England regardless of their relevance to the subject matter, a moment for giddy joy? Do they wonder why, given the enthusiasm that ITV have for their beloved Red Rose, why on earth so many other non England fans have such an issue with them? After all, ITV kept telling us how good England were, they kept assuring everyone that England were certain to waltz into the final. Well, whatever they think, the rest of us hate it. We hate the constant talking up of a team that offered nothing, we hate the constant references to the English during games not involving them, we hate detailed analysis of their cliff jumping leisure pursuits while we should be talking about other rugby teams and other rugby matches.

You never know, we non English might have found the capacity for some sympathy for England’s demise, had we not had their faces forced into our living rooms during every single unit of World Cup coverage. Now, we are delighted that they are gone, we can revel in the fact that ITV have no legitimate reason to talk about the English at all from this point on (yet we know they will, again and again and again). We have no sympathy, because we never wanted them to win in the first place. Yet having been told by ITV week after week, game after game, that we should be backing England, that we should care about what they did on their days off, that we should give a damn about whether an aging flyhalf can kick a ball in a straight line or not – only served to reaffirm and consolidate our position, that we really don’t care about any of that, not one bit.

So thank you Steve Ryder, thank you for looking after us as you presumed our state of despair. I can assure you though that we were far from despairing, we were jumping, bounding out of our seats as France sealed victory, and laughing at your miserable face as you did your best to convince us that we should be sad.

Yet, we should be sad about one thing. Come the next World Cup, hosted, of course, by England, ITV will be there covering the whole thing once again. Nothing will have changed, and the four yearly cycle of having a whole host of new reasons to hate ITV will present themselves all over again.

Bugger off ITV.

RWC 2011: Wales Dispel the Irish Myth.

 Going into Saturday’s quarter finals, all the talk had come to focus on Ireland. Ireland were the side that would conquer the world, this being the time in which their legendary generation of players, at their final career hurdle, would rise to the occasion and achieve their predetermined destiny of World Cup greatness. We were told Irish experience would win the day, we were told the Irish front row would be too strong, the Irish second row would steal all the ball, that the Irish backrow, the best backrow in the world they said, would crush Welsh ambition, while the ability of BoD, RoG, Darcy and such would be too much for the youngsters of Wales, this is what we were told would bring the Irish glory at least.

As things transpired, the exact opposite happened. Wales were the ones to look ripe with experience, the Welsh front row consumed their opponents, the second row competed, while the backrow, whether the best in the world or not, certainly showed that the much vaunted Irish equivalents have, at the very least, work to do to be able to boast such a title. Then there were the backs. For Wales, the pre match talk had obsessed about North, yet this would be one of his quietest games of the cup so far. Instead, the game turned out to be one of redemption for Mike Phillips. The scrum half has been pressurised from all sides, inside and outside of the squad, for some time, yet managed to produce his finest performance in a red jersey since he spearheaded a second half recovery in Twickenham in 2008. His efforts, completed with a magnificent dive for Wales’ second score, were symbolic of the changed attitude which has brought Wales to this point in the tournament.

Wales looked good, very good, and had the boot of Priestland been less hampered by wind and post, the scoreline would have better reflected just how dominate Wales had been over their much vaunted opposition. Looking ahead, France come next, and while they always remain a potent threat, England knocked so many lumps out of the resurgent men in blue, that Wales, with their fitness continuing to be a 16th man on the field, should once again find themselves free of fear. A position in the final is possible, Wales can go further than they have ever been before, but contemplation on this must be left for another time. For now the nation must celebrate, celebrate a victory hard earned, and totally deserved. World Cup semi final appearances are very rare things for Welsh teams, and our mere presence there is reason enough to wake up tomorrow with a smile.

Well done boys, you continue to do us proud.

RWC 2011: Week 1.5. Wales lead home nations, with nothing to show for it.

With Georgia doing their best to spook the life out of Scottish fans, all the nations competing in this year’s rugby world cup have now entered the fray and tasted a bit of the action. With the first week and a bit out of the way, all of the home nations are in a position to reflect on their current progress, and most spectators will probably settle for the fact that, by some distance, Wales have looked the best of the bunch. In reality Wales, in their narrow defeat to the Springboks, looked head and shoulders over the other offerings of the northern hemisphere, who have so far either disappointed or embarrassed in their on-field efforts. Whatever happens against Samoa on the weekend, there must be a sense in the Welsh camp that runs a little along the lines of ‘why oh why could we not get one of the other groups?!’

Punishment for poor performances in previous years have left Wales in their unenviable group, yet on current showing, Wales would probably be the only home nation to stand a chance of getting out of it, certainly of having a chance of winning the pool. As Scotland labour past another minnow, as England brush off a shambolic display over Argentina, and as Ireland kneel to the gods and offer thanks for being granted the lightest pool in world cup memory at a time when they have no sense of a world class performance in them, Wales and Welsh fans must be gripped by pangs of pain, knowing full well that they could easily exit the pool stages of this tournament as being the best European nation to compete.

Still, it’s early days, and Wales could yet exit the tournament as having been the worst of the European offerings. For that to happen, Wales would need to buckle under some serious Samoan heat on the weekend. We must hope that that does not happen. Playing tight and through a pack that has shown a degree of steel missing for several seasons, there is no reason why Wales cannot go through the rest of the pool without defeat. Really, with the attacking capabilities of the Welsh backline, each game should still produce a bonus point, but in order to do so, lessons must be learnt.

Wales let South Africa off in two key areas. As the second half moved on, and the South Africans tired, increasing amount of the ball was kicked. A fine strategy usually, but South Africa were weak and tired in the middle and that is where the ball should have been shoved. Samoa will tire in exactly the same position, but punt the ball away for their backs to counter attack with quick line outs, and Wales will lose. In addition, fail to use the bench, and Wales will lose. Gatland’s confidence in the fitness of the first XV is admirable, but the likes of Powell and Halfpenny would have been deadly in the last twenty minutes against a tired South African defence. The failure to use them was an oversight then, and will be again against Samoa. Do everything that we did to South Africa, plus correcting these two areas, and a Welsh win will come, but it must be done, otherwise Samoa will be too good to simply role over as the opposition has done for the other home nations, those other lucky lucky home nations! (And indeed, that is said with seething jealousy!)

Hating ITV at RWC2011.

Well, it can’t be said that I didn’t try. I knew from the moment it was announced that ITV would yet again be poised to cover this Rugby World Cup (and the next one to boot) that it would be awful. Yet, as the opening ceremony geared up to its spectacular opening, number 3 was pressed on the remote, and we found ourselves sitting in front of ITV’s coverage. Granted, this was done out of an act of kindness for my non-Welsh speaking partner who was struggling with the commentary on S4C, but for whatever reason, I found myself giving ITV a chance. It did not take long for the hate to bubble to the surface.

Opening ceremony – you don’t get many of them, because you don’t get many Rugby World Cups, yet ITV took this as an opportunity to cut back to inane babble in the studio. Tune in for the opening ceremony, and get four blokes sitting down blowing smoke up each others’ arses. Off to S4C then for the rest of the ceremony. My partner may not have understood everything that was going on, but then again, despite being fully furnished with the Welsh language, it was a struggle to really explain what was going on anyway, opening ceremonies being as bizarrely devoid of logic as they always are.

For the start of the game, we were back with ITV, and it only took 13 minutes for the most irritating trait of ITV commentary to creep out. That was the time marker for the first random England reference, as Phil Vickery became a brief talking point. I challenge viewers of this tournament to find a game when ITV will not mention England during the coverage. Go on, I dare you, put yourself through the whole tournament and see if ITV can hold its tongue about the only nation it gives two craps about!

The commentary team generally though were as hopeless as we expected. Forget the irrelevant England reference, explain the tennis reference. Richard Krajicek? Richard bloody Krajicek? Tennis fans don’t talk about about Richard Krajicek anymore, so why the hell does he deserve a place in the Rugby World Cup lexicon? Andy Gomarsall as second pundit was just headache inducing. The most flat, pointless self referential gibber based nonsense heard from the commentary box since, well, since the last World Cup. ‘Go forward’, ‘great offload’, ‘thought that was harsh’ ‘guff’, ‘guff’, ‘guff’. If there was only an option to switch the commentary off and just enjoy the crowd noise…if only. He couldn’t resist chattering in the second half about England’s world cup final defeat when a TMO call came…shut up Gomarsall you irrelevant little bastard, just shut up, You were a terribly overrated scrum half during your career, and it is clear ITV has made the same mistake regarding your commentary skills.

I know I’ve started this tournament biased, I hate ITV rugby commentary, I hate ITV sports commentary generally (I gave up following Formula 1 for around 3 years thanks to them). But that is their fault, they are the one who are consistently awful, and two thirds into their coverage on day one, nothing has changed. Fortunately, my partner has stepped out, so back to S4C we go. Insightful commentary, a general knowledge of the game, even a general knowledge of the players that goes beyond the match programme blurbs shoved in front of the ITV team. Just such a standard that goes above and beyond anything that the goons of the No.3 channel has to offer. Thank you S4C, and sorry that you can only show us a few games – certainly everyone you do show will have an audience in this house – and we’ll just have to endure ITV for the rest of it.

Just to summarise, if good reader you hadn’t got it already – I bloody hate ITV!

RWC 2011: The Beard

Wales has long celebrated its hairbear duo, even if only one of them has made it to this World Cup, but Canada have stolen a march on their opponents when it comes to  facial hair. It’s fair to say that Canada wont be expecting to defeat France or New Zealand in this tournament, but can anyone out there in the tournament rival these beards? :

Already Adam Kleeberger should be able to walk away from this years cup as a legend, and rightly so!

RWC2011 Wales and the Remaining Questions.

Wales brought their pre world cup fixture list to a close in Cardiff yesterday with a comfortable victory over a clearly underprepared Argentina. It must be stressed that during an abysmal first half, Wales could count themselves very lucky to not have found themselves on the wrong end of a 15 points deficit, had the Argentineans not forgotten to pack their kicking radar. As it was, a dire first 30 minutes, characterised by dropped balls, high passes and poorly placed kicks, was torn open by the Welsh attack with only moments remaining of the first half. Inspired by an excellent Tavis Knoyle, the speed of the ball around the breakdown opened up the Argentine defence and allowed two well taken scoring opportunities. Wales, as their current form dictates, had two chances, and scored from them, ultimately proving the difference between the opponents, largely mirroring the performances against England in this respect. The second half brought more intent from both teams, though errors would ultimately dominate. As the game reached an odd conclusion, with Hook taking it upon himself to make safe a two score lead with no time remaining, Wales will clearly leave the field as the more contended team. Argentina will be better for the experience, but one wonders whether this single game warm up will be enough to prepare them for a frustrating, but ultimately better prepared England team.

Yet questions remain for Wales, and while a win could be enjoyed in the evening, certain players continue to have question marks hovering over them going into Monday’s world cup squad selection. Going through some of the more prominent names below, it will be of interest, and concern, if certain players make the grade.

Lee Byrne: Who knows what has happened to Byrne, the man is a mere shadow of his former self. Pulled in the second half, and outperformed by Halfpenny at the back, Byrne showed little ability going forward, with erratic kicks coupled with terrible decision making. Wales might be light on designated fullbacks, but the style of the Welsh play is such, that three covering wings have proven as effective in both attack and defence over the last three games. One imagine Byrne will be handed a plane ticket, but only as a man who can only wear the number 15 on his back, it certainly won’t be on form, and one hopes that if he does travel, it will only be as an emergency squad player.

Richard Hibbard: Another player who should find himself cast aside. Everyone in Wales knows that Hibbard is overweight and an underperformer. Single handed, he managed to destroy month’s worth of work at the lineout, and no one was surprised. Having come into the world cup squad so late, one imagines that he will now travel, but Welsh fans must pray that Huw Bennett remains fit, because a reliance on Hibbard in any game bar Namibia, would prove a disaster. Should not travel, for want of others in his position, sadly, probably will.

Andy Powell: The enigma goes on. My heart sank as he bullocked his way towards the try line, thinking that one score has probably sent him to New Zealand. At the very least, he should be considered only 3rd choice behind Faletau and Ryan Jones. Powell’s one dimensional play will leave him exposed against South Africa, and vulnerable to the power of Fiji and Samoa. While he did not let anyone down yesterday, his handling in advantage play situations was poor. A back up and nothing more (yet another player who will probably earn his caps against Namibia should he travel).

Mike Phillips: One certain to travel, but one who should not take his starting position for granted, Phillips was outplayed by two youngsters against Argentina. Both Knoyle and Williams looked sharp and hungry, and most important of all, quick. Phillips may have improved over the two England games, but he still looks a step behind the young pretenders in terms of speed and decision making.

James Hook: The final figure to dwell on for today, Hook will obviously travel to New Zealand, but as 10,12 or 15 should be an unresolved issue. Given his chance to deliver a full 80 minutes in the role, Hook can only be seen to have disappointed. The sense of control and authority required from an outside half was clearly lacking from Hook, and it was not for want of good ball. The French referee’s insistence to dissolve the scrum as a contest meant there was plenty of quick ball for Hook, but often the decision making and execution was poor. On form, Priestland stands out as the clear first choice 10 for Wales, while Hook should start at fullback (in place of the dreadful Byrne). There is no doubt that Hook can deliver, but on the strength of what we have seen, he does not look comfortable with the responsibilities of 10, and unless Priestland gives any reason to doubt (which so far he has not), the coaching staff would be hard pressed to overlook him in that pivotal spot.

Wales serve up a defensive feast.

Well, what a strange game of rugby that was! Having followed international rugby for the better part of three decades now, it can honestly be said, that the memory banks cannot recall quite such a defensive performance as that which Wales produced against England in Cardiff, during the second of three World Cup warm-up matches. Even going back to the Grand Slam efforts of 2008, where defence underpinned everything good that came from Wales, couldn’t compare to what happened yesterday, especially in the first 40 minutes. For with something in the region of 70% possession and territory to boot, England failed to make any impression on the Welsh defence. They came close, plenty of times, but there are no points for coming close, especially if you choose to spurn so many shots at goal. People will rightly question the English attack as much as they will praise the Welsh defence, for without figures like Tuilagi, Ashton and Armitage, England looked lost going forward, but equally little can be taken away from a Welsh defensive effort, which will few will rival, in a red shirt or otherwise, in the coming years.

As the defensive efforts took their toll, one team wilted, but it was the much vaunted Welsh energy levels that stood up to the rigours, and the English forwards in particular who seemed to be drained from their successive efforts attacking the line. A Welsh win was sparked by the sort of magic that only Hook can produce, but few would doubt that from the 50th minute or so onwards, that Wales had the game won. It was remarkable really how, apart from the occasional sloppy turnover, Wales locked England out of the game so earlier in the contest. The score line in the end was only separated by 10 points, but the performance was worth much more. As Gatland described it, this was a performance to be proud of above all things.

And pride perhaps is the opportunists point to dwell on, because a good performance, defence aside, it was not. In some respects this might have turned out to be the perfect game for Gatland, as a win came while the performance was far from perfect, and questions have been answered about certain players. Of those found wanting, some members of the pack certainly should be wary of enjoying the result for too long. Charteris in particular was a huge disappointment. We all know he is a great club player, but repeated experiments have shown that he just not have the mental fortitude to deliver on the international field. Shorter, less experienced line jumpers produced better results than Charteris could on the day, and were he to travel to New Zealand now, surely his trip would warrant a game against Namibia and little more. Lloyd Burns and Craig Mitchell are two who will probably benefit from injury concerns in the squad, but both performances highlighted that these were backup reserve players, and far from world beaters.

In the backs, all eyes fell on Henson, and while he did little wrong, his opportunity to shine was limited through an unlucky arm injury. What we did see indicated that his fitness levels were up there with the rest of the squad, his intent was clear as he argued his way back on to the field of play despite clearly carrying a limp arm into battle, and his defence stood up well, battering a number of white shirts backwards. However, in attack the backline was clearly stuttering, and Henson must be seen as a problem there. The fluidity of the backline seems to vanish with his presence, and it must be said that Wales are probably better off with Henson injured, than with trying to find a way to fit him into the Welsh attacking line.

Yet, good news abounds for other members of the squad, with the Welsh backrow developing into a formidable unit. Toby at No8 might have some wobbly handling at times, but more than makes up for it with his damaging runs, yet it is Warburton and Lydiate who are the real shining stars. These two figures did as much to secure Wales victory with their work on the ground as any other player did in attack. That being said, Priestland and Hook glimmered as well, showing that there is no shortage of possibilities at 10 and 15, with these two firing any concerns about injuries to Stephen Jones and Lee Byrne will fast be forgotten. Shane Williams even showed that there is further strength in depth at fullback, while his own defensive work indicates that the Polish training camp may well have added a new dimension to the tiny wingers game, as he ably took down the monstrous Banahan.

There can be little doubt that sitting back and taking a pummelling in order to tire out an opponent Rocky style, will only work for so long, and it will be important for Wales, not only to beat Argentina, but also to recapture some of the attacking fluidity on display in the Twickenham encounter. Samoa and Fiji might tire, but they have backlines far more capable of creating scores than the English were yesterday. Wales do not need to be chasing games, but forcing opponents to try and chase down a Welsh lead, then we will really see the benefits of the fitness training. Beat an underprepared Argentinean team next week by a comfortable margin, and this World Cup warm-up period can be ticked off as a successful endeavour. So far we have seen Wales lose despite exciting attack, and win through deadly defence, put them together, and who knows, a browbeaten South Africa might look more vulnerable by the day.