Jamie Roberts and Wales turn attention to Six Nations title
Jamie Roberts has underlined Wales' desire to reclaim the RBS 6 Nations title after their World Cup dream died at Twickenham.
Roberts, his bloodshot eyes reflecting the raw emotion that permeated Wales' post-match mood, epitomised the character and attitude of a squad that overcame repeated injury setbacks and were only denied semi-final status by Springboks skipper Fourie du Preez's 75th-minute try.
While South Africa returned to England's Bagshot training base for the final World Cup fortnight, Roberts and company headed home feeling a sense of mission unaccomplished, even if they did lose key players like Leigh Halfpenny, Scott Williams, Rhys Webb and Liam Williams from their attempt on global domination.
"The next World Cup is four years away but the Six Nations will come round again quicker than anything," Harlequins-bound centre Roberts said.
"It is less than four months until the Six Nations kicks off and in a few weeks we will start looking forward to that. It is something we desperately want to win again."
Wales were last crowned champions of Europe two years ago, but it would be no surprise if their collective World Cup pain has not cleared completely by the time opening Six Nations opponents Ireland loom into view next February.
"It is difficult to take - especially at this stage of the tournament," added Roberts, following Wales' 23-19 quarter-final defeat.
"It's one of those brutal moments as a rugby player. The guys gave it everything.
"The Springboks come hard in waves off nine and 10. They have big players and physically I thought we more than matched them.
"I thought the defence was heroic - not to concede a try until the 75th minute was pretty special - but credit to them, they took heir chance well.
"We won a close game like that against England and, unfortunately, we've lost one and it doesn't feel great."
Wales only conceded three tries in five games during the competition while they progressed from unquestionably the toughest pool in World Cup history as England and Fiji both made early exits.
And the spotlight will now inevitably fall on Wales boss Warren Gatland's coaching team. While Gatland has a long-term deal in place, defence specialist Shaun Edwards is shortly out of contract and attack coach Rob Howley's existing terms expire next summer.
"I hope the coaching team stay together," Roberts said. "I think it's a great mix of characters and styles of coaching that the boys really enjoy.
"They bring out the best in the players but we will see what happens.
"Shaun Edwards is a magnificent coach and a wonderful guy and he has got the best out of us defensively. The guys putting their bodies on the line was amazing to watch.
"Obviously it (World Cup exit) is difficult, and it will be difficult for the next few days.
"We will look back and reflect on a tough group, one that we've done very well to get out of, but unfortunately that last try has killed us.
"But I am desperately proud of the boys. We've put a lot of work in to get where we are and now, unfortunately, it's over. It shows how brutal knockout sport can be."
Hooker Scott Baldwin, meanwhile, praised Wales' strength in depth developed at the tournament, with players like Tyler Morgan, Matthew Morgan and Tomas Francis all displaying rich potential.
"It has been a fantastic five or six months together," Baldwin said. "I think we have really gelled as a group and I think there is a lot more to come from this team.
"People speak about us not having strength in depth but we have shown over the course of this tournament that we have got strength in depth.
"It does bode well for the coming tournaments, but it is too soon to look ahead now. The raw emotion is that we are devastated."