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Welsh rugby in ‘golden era’

Roger Lewis believes Wales' World Cup heroes have launched “a golden era” for Welsh rugby with their eye-catching exploits in New Zealand.

Wales came within a whisker of reaching the World Cup final against New Zealand next Sunday, losing 9-8 to France despite having skipper Sam Warburton sent off and seeing prop Adam Jones depart injured, both inside the opening 20 minutes.

They will now face Australia in Friday's bronze medal match, having spread a huge feelgood factor about the way they play the game and how it is underpinned by an exciting young generation of players like Warburton, George North, Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate.

Coach Warren Gatland (pictured) is under contract until 2015, while a deal was struck earlier this year with the players to 2016.

“It truly is an exciting period,” Welsh Rugby Union group chief executive Lewis said.

“This is most probably the first golden era of Welsh rugby in the professional era.

“This tournament has been an absolutely resounding success for Welsh rugby.

“It has given us all a great deal of confidence, it has given us all a greater pride.”

While Gatland's future with Wales appears long-term, though, defence coach Shaun Edwards' contract expires after the tournament and backs specialist Rob Howley has been strongly linked with a move to Aviva Premiership club Bath.

Edwards is currently head coach at Wasps and Lewis said: “Any discussion about Shaun's future has to take place first with Wasps.

“There is no doubt he has been absolutely outstanding for Welsh rugby, and I am on record for saying that, but there is not a lot we can say until we have had that conversation with Wasps, out of respect for his position with them.

“They have always been his principal employer.”

More than 60,000 people watched Wales face France on giant screens at the Millennium Stadium, and Lewis confirmed the exercise would be repeated for Friday's third-place clash.

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“The energy that has been created by this group of players, it's so powerful that we have now got to harness it,” he added. “The next four years is going to be so exciting for this coaching team and this group of players.

“After what they have achieved here and all the hard work they have put in over the last few years, they have now got it all ahead of them.”

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