After the great performance against reigning 6 Nations champions Ireland in beating them in Dublin last weekend, on Saturday Wales played their final warm-up match before the Rugby World Cup by playing Italy. The match was in stark contrast to the game the week before; Wales looked laboured and below par, grounding out an uninspiring 23-19 win. At least they go into the World Cup with two wins under their belt, but at what cost? The headline news from Saturday’s game is that two of Wales’ key players came off injured and are now doubts for the World Cup.
According to the news I heard last night (Sunday night), we should know today (Monday) how bad the injuries are to the two players; but there is no doubt that both are key to Wales. Rhys Webb, at scrum half, provides a speedy service to outside half (and regional team-mate) Dan Biggar; and Leigh Halfpenny is one of the most accurate place kickers in the World game. Both would be massive losses to Wales if their injuries prove bad.
The Rugby World Cup will finally start on Friday the 18th, with the opening match being between England and Fiji at Twickenham. Wales start their campaign on Sunday the 20th with a match at the Millennium stadium; our second match is against England in Twickenham. Here are they key fixtures in Group A for Wales rugby fans. Two of our four group matches are at home in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, and two are in Twickenham. Without taking anything away from Uruguay and Fiji, it is the two away matches against England and Australia which are key to our qualifying from our group (the top two countries go through to the Quarter Finals).
- Wales v Uruguay – Millennium Stadium – Sunday 20th September 14:30 BST
- Wales v England – Twickenham – Saturday 26th September 20:00 BST
- Wales v Fiji – Millennium Stadium – Thursday 1st October 16:45 BST
- Wales v Australia – Twickenham – Saturday 10th October 16:45 BST
- England v Australia – Twickenham – Sunday 3rd October 20:00 BST
Runner up pool A QF – Twickenham – Saturday 17th October 16:00 BST
Winner pool A QF – Twickenham – Sunday 18th October 16:00 BST
England played Ireland on Saturday at Twickenham in their final warm-up match. They also ground out a win in a solid but hardly spectacular performance. England were much the better team in the first half, with their pack strangling Ireland’s and denying the men in green any real possession. But, in the second half Ireland seemed to be a different team (it was the same players), and played much better than England to nearly win the match.
So, the warm-up matches are now all over; the real thing will start in just under two weeks on the 18th. As usual, New Zealand go into the World Cup as favourites, I don’t think there has ever been a World Cup when this has not been the case. Who will emerge victorious in October and lift the William Webb Ellis trophy seems a long way off; and for Wales we first of all have to beat at least England or Australia to even get out of our group!