Team profile series looking at the Rugby World Cup records of the 12 directly qualified teams for England 2015.
Wales’s adventurous approach has left an indelible mark on the history of the Rugby World Cup
Via rugbyworldcup.com With the wing play of first Ieuan Evans and then Shane Williams in particular providing many moments of magic; Wales’s adventurous approach has left an indelible mark on the history of the Rugby World Cup. But it was a new-found resolve in defence that almost saw Wales to their first final at Rugby World Cup 2011.
Masterminded by Shaun Edwards, Wales had a defence the envy of every other nation, conceding just five tries and 56 points in six matches up to their Bronze Final showdown with Australia.
WALES ON THE RWC STAGE
Not even Wales, though, could cope, however manfully they tried, with the loss of inspirational captain Sam Warburton to an 18th-minute red card in what was an agonising 9-8 semi-final defeat to France.
The tone had been set in Wales’ opening pool match when they went down by a single point to defending champions South Africa. Wales flirted with disaster against Samoa before pulling through and then produced big wins against Namibia and Fiji to ease into the knockout stages. Tries from Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies sealed a stunning quarter-final victory over Ireland that left Warren Gatland’s men on the verge of glory – only for their hopes to disappear in the red mist. Back in 1987 Wales had no problems winning tight matches, notably the third place play-off against Australia, which was won 22-21 after Paul Thorburn magnificently converted Adrian Hadley’s late try from the touchline. Since then Wales have never managed to better their third place finish in the inaugural tournament. The Welsh Triple Crown winning team of the following year quickly broke up with the departure of many of its stars to Rugby League and the three Rugby World Cups of the 1990s were largely forgettable affairs. Rocked by the resignation of head coach Ron Waldron on the eve of the 1991 tournament, Wales’ challenge was effectively over before it started after they fell to a humbling 16-13 defeat to Western Samoa at Cardiff.
History repeated itself in 1995 when Alan Davies, who had taken over from Waldron, left his post with RWC 1995 in South Africa only a few months away.
Australian Alex Evans headed up a caretaker coaching team. Defeats against New Zealand and Ireland again eliminated Wales at the pool stage. A star was to be born, though, as Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas, who went on to be a Test centurion and captain of his country, made his debut. Enter the ‘Great Redeemer’ – Graham Henry. Henry had restored confidence and raised expectations leading into RWC 1999 with a number of standout results, including wins over France in Paris and South Africa in Cardiff. As host nation, Wales started solidly enough with victories over Argentina and Japan but their 10-match winning run was halted by old foes Samoa. A 24-9 quarter-final defeat by Australia at the Millennium Stadium signalled the end of their campaign. RWC 2003 proved something of a turning point for Wales at the Rugby World Cup, scintillating performances against New Zealand and eventual winners England proving that their exciting brand of rugby could trouble the best.
Now coached by Steve Hansen, Wales had gone into the tournament on the back of a Six Nations whitewash, and there were few signs of a revival in the pool stages with largely unconvincing wins over Canada, Tonga and Italy earning them a quarter-final against England.
With the pressure off, Wales were able to express themselves in their final pool match and they had New Zealand in some trouble, before going on to… Read More>