Ruthless Wales send a message
05 October, 2011
HAMILTON, 2 Oct. - Fiji had promised they would enjoy themselves but it was Wales who had all the fun in the final Pool D Match of Rugby World Cup 2011 on Sunday.
The Welsh ran in nine tries as they kept the Fijians scoreless in a 66-0 victory at Waikato Stadium to clinch second place in their pool and set up a quarter-final against Ireland, the Pool C winners, at Wellington Regional Stadium on 8 October.
Coach Warren Gatland told his players to be relentless against the Fijians, and they were.
"We spoke at half-time about what good teams would do with that kind of score (31-0) and not take their foot off the pedal. And I thought we did that," he said.
"The pleasing thing from our point of view was we were in front. We could have easily slacked off, conceded a couple of tries, but we kept working until the 80th minute."
Nineteen-year-old wing George North played with a maturity beyond his age in a classy man-of-the-match performance.
North, the second-youngest player at the tournament, scored a breathtaking try in the first half, as well as setting up two more for his teammates. Penalty problem
But he recognises it was the forwards who gave the backline room to move.
"The forwards today showed where we are at," he said. "Today we proved we are a team that can compete in this competition.
"As a whole Wales squad, we are over the moon with this win and we'll take it forward from here."
The Wales coach had asked his team to play error-free rugby, but admitted conceding 12 penalties at the breakdown was not good enough.
"I thought in the second half we were a little unlucky in a few calls. But we will work on that area and we'll be tough on ourselves," Gatland said.
Fiji coach Samu Domoni said his team simply were not good enough.
"To have an error rate of more than 30 at this level is disappointing. We take responsibility for that," he said. Took advantage
"The scoreline reflects our performance. It's a disappointing performance."
Fiji captain Netani Edward Talei said his young team were outclassed by Wales.
"I think they played very well today. We tried to stretch them out wide and take them up the middle, but it didn't work for us. We dropped a lot of balls and they countered from it," he said.
Assistant coach Greg Mumm said: "We knew we would have to try to play our hand to get in their face physically. To their credit, Wales took advantage of our mistakes.
"I think they'll be real contenders in the quarter-finals and further."
Fiji exit the tournament with one win, over Namibia, from their four pool matches.
"There's a number of areas in which we've failed at this World Cup. It's very disappointing for the players and the people of Fiji," Mumm said. Change in mentality
However, veteran fly half Nicky Little is already looking towards the next Rugby World Cup, in 2015.
"I think it starts from the grassroots with skills from school, then goes from there," he said. "I don't think having fancy stadiums in Fiji will help. It's got to be a change in mentality."
Wales head to the quarter-finals for the third time in four World Cup appearances with growing self-belief.
"We've got a massive task next week and hopefully we can bring the same intensity," said fly half Rhys Priestland.
"We have a confident group and I think we back ourselves against any team we come up against. It's the biggest game I will have ever been involved in."
While Wales coach Gatland was happy with the victory and the way in which it was achieved, he was not talking up his team's chances in the quarter-finals.
"We've built a bit of momentum and confidence going into the quarter-finals. We feel like the squad is in good shape at the moment, but it's one step at a time," he said. Article courtesy of rugbyworldcup.com