RWC Gold: Wales breathe fire again

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 16 July 2014
RWC Gold: Wales breathe fire again
Stephen Jones, scorer of Wales' first try against England in the RWC 2003 quarter-final in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images

Wales’ legends Stephen Jones and Shane Williams talk to Total Rugby about the time they had England on the ropes in RWC 2003

Stephen Jones, scorer of arguably the best try seen at RWC 2003, believes Wales' battling 28-17 quarter-final defeat to England in Australia that year acted as the springboard for a period of success not seen since in the Principality since the halcyon days of the 70s.

From that point onwards Wales went on to win four RBS Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams as well as being a whisker away from reaching their first-ever Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand in 2011. Not only that, Wales’ players were very much in the majority when it came to the composition of the British & Irish Lions squad that conquered Australia in 2013.

“It was the start really of a journey for that side. We laid the foundations at that World Cup and we evolved and got better and thankfully Welsh rugby is in a lot better state because of the hard work that that group of players put in,” Jones told Total Rugby.

Considering their largely disappointing Rugby World Cup campaigns of the 90s, and a heavy defeat to England in Cardiff in the build-up to the tournament, the fact Wales were leading their arch rivals 10-3 with 43 minutes gone in a RWC quarter-final probably came as much as a shock to Wales’ supporters as it did to anyone else.

However, Shane Williams, creator of Jones’ first half try that started all the talk of a possible upset, was never in any doubt about Wales’ ability to beat whatever opposition was put in front of them, even the pre-tournament favourites.

“I believed we could beat anyone and I think that when you have got fifteen people like that on the field you can beat anyone,” Williams said.

“I think once Welsh confidence is up there is no better team really. It’s just having confidence in our ability. I always have that because that’s the way I play, I just think if you don’t try things you won’t find out what’s possible.”

With half an hour on the clock in Brisbane, England led Wales 3-0 after Jonny Wilkinson had kicked his second penalty attempt. But a poorly executed kick from the now retired Mike Tindall gave Wales an opportunity to continue where they left off in their final pool match against New Zealamnd and produce more exhilarating rugby.

Williams collected the misplaced punt just outside his own 22 and set off on a run that saw him round England lock Ben Kay with ease. Williams then found Gareth Cooper up in support on his right shoulder and the scrum half took play on into England’s half before passing to Gareth Thomas who was half stopped by the despairing lunge of Wilkinson. Thomas still had enough composure and skill to offload to Williams as he stumbled to the floor and after juggling the ball the fleet-footed winger flicked a try-scoring pass back inside to Jones before Ben Cohen could smash him into touch.

Recalling his Golden Moment and the circumstances leading up to his fourth Test try, Jones said: “I think I was around the halfway line and I was just delighted to see Shane, probably our best player of that World Cup, get the ball in space. We all know how awesome Shane is in space.

“I was just hoping Shane could get the ball to me. Obviously he has a wonderful skill set and yeah, he juggled with it but he gave a wonderful inside pass to me.

“I don’t think it was very stylish grounding if I am honest, I was just more concerned with making sure I got the ball down and nobody could knock the ball out of my hands. I think it was 0 out of 10 for style but I was just delighted to have been at the end of a wonderful team try. “

Also on Total Rugby TV, we look back on a thrilling CAR Division 1A championship which ended in RWC 2015 qualification for Namibia, Super Rugby is reaching the business end of the season and we take a look at the movers and shakers in the Southern Hemisphere and South Africa's Women are gearing up for their third World Cup appearance - all available to view HERE>>