Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Welsh out to banish Nantes ghosts

Wales have got all the motivation they require for Friday night's Millennium Stadium clash against Fiji - the pain of World Cup elimination.

It will be the countries' first meeting since their World Cup pool clash in Nantes three years ago. Fiji won a nine-try epic 38-34 in arguably the 2007 tournament's best game, knocking Wales out and costing coach Gareth Jenkins his job.

And Ryan Jones, who regains the Wales captaincy from a rested Matthew Rees, has already spoken with his team about that bleak September afternoon in north-west France and he said:"They (Fiji) gave Welsh rugby a huge shock. They got a result they deserved that day, and the guys have now got an opportunity to go out on Friday and put that ghost to bed."

Six of the Wales players involved that day at Stade de la Beaujoire - James Hook, Tom Shanklin, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips, Ian Gough and Martyn Williams - are in this week's matchday 22.

The Ospreys back-row forward added: "It's about focusing on this game. It's not about the New Zealand game next week, or the Six Nations or the World Cup, it's the guys going out this week and doing their best."

Wales were sucked into playing Fiji's renowned running game in 2007 - and they finished second.

"You can't win international rugby games without a good balance," said Jones. "Our set-piece has been good this autumn, and the breakdown is getting better.

"We don't want to get involved in playing 15-a-side sevens. We don't want to go out and try to beat Fiji at their own game, we want to go out and play the way we've developed and try to impose ourselves on the game for 80 minutes."

Wales are minus a handful of injured players for Friday, including Shane Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Andy Powell and Sam Warburton.

But the Fiji Test provides an opportunity for Wales boss Warren Gatland to assess players like Williams' replacement Aled Brew and fly-half Dan Biggar, while raw talent - Tonga-born Toby Faletau - is on the bench.


From Belfast Telegraph