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Future is bright for Wales after World Cup rollercoaster ride

Published 29/10/2015

Wales centre Scott Williams is taken away injured during the World Cup pool game against England. His exit was one of several setbacks Wales suffered
Wales centre Scott Williams is taken away injured during the World Cup pool game against England. His exit was one of several setbacks Wales suffered

Wales bowed out of the World Cup one round earlier than in New Zealand four years ago - but that does not even begin to accurately chart their rollercoaster ride.

They exited the tournament after South Africa skipper Fourie du Preez scored a brilliantly-executed try five minutes from time of a titanic quarter-final clash at Twickenham.

That 23-19 defeat left the Wales players and coaching team crestfallen - but also begged a question of how much more did they have left in the tank?

Not only did Wales emerge from a so-called pool of death - the toughest group in World Cup history also contained Australia, England and Fiji - they did it despite an injury list that bordered on being calamitous.

Wales' injury woes began some four months before the World Cup started when British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies suffered a tournament-ending knee ligament problem playing for his club Clermont Auvergne.

All was relatively calm via punishing training camps in Switzerland and Qatar, but a final World Cup warm-up game against Italy in Cardiff delivered a miserable double setback when full-back Leigh Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb were carried off, underwent surgery and told their respective rehabilitation programmes would take months, rather than weeks.

And it did not end there.

Centre Cory Allen scored a hat-trick of tries in Wales' Pool A opener against Uruguay - then damaged his hamstring - while centre Scott Williams (knee), wing Liam Williams (concussion) and fellow threequarter Hallam Amos (shoulder) all exited during a manic second-half at Twickenham as Wales recovered on the scoreboard to beat England.

Liam Williams returned in time to face final group stage opponents Australia, before a foot injury ended his competition, while in defeat against South Africa, Wales also saw full-back Gareth Anscombe and centre Tyler Morgan laid low.

Given such repeated hammer-blows, it is a minor miracle that Wales were still standing by the World Cup knockout phase.

Defensively, they were impressive, conceding just three tries during the competition. Yet there were issues in attack, notably a failure to crack open Australia when the Wallabies had two players sin-binned in quick succession, and they paid dearly in suffering a 15-6 defeat.

Wales created plenty of chances, but a cutting edge was missing on a consistent basis, and that ultimately cost them.

Given all the circumstances, though, Wales' 2015 World Cup campaign must be viewed as a success, and with genial head coach Warren Gatland already contracted for another four years, the future is bright.

The mixture of experience and youth is an exciting one. Amos, Morgan, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis were among those who emerged impressively on a world stage, while fly-half Dan Biggar looked as accomplished as any other number 10 in the tournament.

Yes, there was pain - mental and physical - but ultimately Wales must look back on a job reasonably well done.

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