History says Wales have a team for the ages

Rugby News Service analysis suggests that Wales may finally have the perfect blend of youth and experience to go all the way.

TOKYO, 17 Oct – Having watched their team complete the Six Nations grand slam this year, Wales fans were always quietly optimistic about their side's chances going into Rugby World Cup 2019.

Results during the pool stage - in which Wales beat Australia at a World Cup for the first time since 1987, before going on to top Pool D with four wins out of four - have fuelled hopes that this could be their time to shine on the biggest stage of all.

With a mix of wise old heads such as Alun Wyn Jones, pictured above, Liam Williams, and Jonathan Davies, combined with exciting young talents including Josh Adams, could Wales finally have the right blend of youth and experience to go all the way?

Going by the ages of the winning squads at all previous World Cups from 1987 through to 2015, it appears they might.

The team of analysts at RugbyWorldCup.com have taken the average age of all eight victorious squads and compared them with this year's quarter-finalists. Based on this data, Wales seem to be best placed.

On average, the winning World Cup squad has an age of 27 years and 258 days. With an average age of 27 years and 246 days, it is the Wales crop of 2019 who are closest to this benchmark.   

In 2011, when Wales suffered semi-final agony at the hands of France, aided by a Sam Warburton red card, pictured below, and the ruthless boot of Morgan Parra, the average age of their squad was 26 years and 158 days. That relative lack of experience may have proven costly as, apart from New Zealand in 1987, no country has won the World Cup with a team that young.

This time round it may be the French who end up being hindered by inexperience in Sunday's quarter-final clash. Les Bleus have comfortably the youngest squad of all eight quarter-finalists, with an average age of 26 years and 344 days.

Going into the tournament, it was New Zealand who found themselves facing criticism from their national press for having a team that was perceived to be too old, but with an average age of 28 years and 35 days, the All Blacks squad are not far off the mark.

Incidentally, at the past two World Cups, the All Blacks have won the tournament with slightly older teams – their 2011 squad were 28 years and 127 days on average, and the 2015 squad was 29 years and 43 days.

Having introduced some new stars at RWC 2019 to balance the experience of Beauden Barrett, Sam Whitelock and Sonny Bill Williams, they will feel perfectly poised.

RNS dc/pp/ajr