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Rob Howley: Wales want to reach World Cup final to erase pain of 2011 near-miss

Rob Howley has underlined Wales' desire to go one better than in New Zealand four years ago and reach a first Rugby World Cup final.

South Africa stand between Wales and a semi-final place on Saturday in what could be an immense last-eight clash at Twickenham.

Wales beat Ireland to reach the penultimate knockout stage in 2011, but they were then undone 9-8 by France after skipper Sam Warburton was sent off just 17 minutes into the contest and scrummaging cornerstone Adam Jones went off injured even earlier.

This time around, Wales have emerged from the tournament's so-called pool of death, qualifying as runners-up behind Australia, with host nation England and ever-dangerous Fiji both making early exits.

Asked if Wales now wanted more than just qualifying from that group, Wales assistant coach Howley said: "That's 100 per cent right.

"What happened to us back in 2011 and the situation in the semi-final of the World Cup, we want to better that.

"The only way to better that is to get to a Rugby World Cup final.

"The players' attitude has been exemplary, fantastic. We've got a huge task on Saturday, and we don't look beyond that because we understand how big this game is.

"You look forward to a quarter-final. We've been a part of one (in 2011), and we won that game. We would like to be a part of another and win that one, too, but it's going to be a huge task."

Wales' 28-25 victory over England last month put the quarter-finals within sight, then they had to dig deep to see off Fiji just five days later, but there is a sense of the complete package not having yet been unwrapped.

"Throughout the games there have been more than glimpses," Howley added.

"To beat England at Twickenham - and the way we did it - showed a lot of resilience and character and application in the last 20 minutes.

"We were composed and clinical and we saw out that game. That has put us on the front foot.

"It was frustrating against Australia (Wales lost 15-6) to be held up three times over the line and lose the ball.

"It reminded me of watching Australia against South Africa in the 2011 quarter-final in terms of Australia's resilience, their scramble defence.

"I think it will be a different game at the weekend. It will be a huge kicking game, an aerial battle, and there won't be many opportunities. So we have to have a complete game."

And Howley again underlined that Wales' injury situation - they have lost six players from their original 31-man World Cup squad - will not be a distraction.

"We haven't complained about the injuries," Howley said.

"It's the nature of the game, and I think that is what we've tried to do as coaches on the weekend, and for the last couple of weekends, is prepare the best back-line, the best team, up against whoever we are playing against.

"We are not moaning, not complaining about it because we trust the players we select.

"Thankfully, we selected 22 backs in the original (World Cup training) squad, because they have all been needed! They've done the same fitness work that other players have."


From Belfast Telegraph