TEAMS from the Pacific Islands, chiefly Fiji and Samoa, often provide the World Cup with plenty of footage for the highlights reels with their determination to bring a Sevens-style approach to the 15-a-side game.
Often, however, their greatest moments have come at the expense of a Wales team who were no doubt less than thrilled by their presence in a hugely competitive Pool D.
Fiji ensured Wales suffered an embarrassing first-round exit in 1995, a result that saw coach Gareth Jenkins sacked, while Samoa triumphed against the odds in 1991 and 1999. Injuries have already provided a significant headache to Wales’ native Kiwi coach Warren Gatland, even before his side are subjected to the inevitable physical pounding they’ll receive from three of the tournament’s most intimidating sides.
Wales head into the tournament without their skipper Matthew Rhys, but their front row, bolstered by the presence of British Lions props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, and any side boasting a pair of wingers as incisive as Shane Williams and George North (left) are to be respected.
Unfortunately, as well as the quality of opposition they’ll face, the schedule has also been unkind to the Welsh. They’ll open up against the world champions South Africa, in with every chance of defending their crown, and are likely to be placed on the back foot right from the off.
George North: In contrast to the fleet of foot shane Williams, the 19-year-old is more of crash-bang-wallop style of winger. That’s not to say he’s any less of a try scoring threat – he’s crossed six times in his first eight international appearances.
POOL A | NEW ZEALAND OUT TO FINALLY BANISH CHOKERS TAG
The recent Tri-Nations series did little to suggest New Zealand will finally be successful in their quest to add a second world title to the one they garnered way back in 1987.
Man-for-man the All Blacks still appear to boast the strongest side, but Kurtley Beale’s winning interception try 30 seconds from the end of the tournament decider in Brisbane last month represented another confidence-sapping experience.
Still, progression to the last eight should be nothing more than a formality, with the match in Auckland against an out of sorts and typically enigmatic French side likely to determine who finishes on top of Pool A.