In an impossible group with hosts England and Rugby Championship winners Australia, Wales’s job was made even tougher after two key injuries in the final warm-up game. They are still a formidable side, but is their squad just a little too thin to see them through the Pool of Death?
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau Don’t know how to pronounce it? Have a go at watching this. Otherwise you have a couple of options. You can stand proud and just let the mood take you, or you can try mumble along awkwardly like former Welsh secretary John Redwood.
David Hasselhoff Seriously. The Baywatch star has been turned on to the charms of the game thanks to his Welsh girlfriend Hayley Roberts.
WALES HAD IT TILL THE 70 min .. FANTASTIC MATCH VERY PROUD OF WELSH GUYS AND PROUD TO HAvE BEEN INVITED!! Hoff pic.twitter.com/y57jjqfWNh
Cutest pup in rugby? George North’s dog Lola isn’t the only reason to follow the giant Welsh winger. He may be a battering ram on the pitch, but behind the scenes North and his world champion cyclist girlfriend Becky James are big softies.
Moment of glory
In 2011, North became the youngest ever World Cup try scorer at the age of 19 years and 166 days. He was part of a blistering back line that took Wales all the way to the semi final against France – until Sam Warburton’s controversial red card destroyed their dreams.
Pundit’s view: Shane Williams
Reasons to be confident?
“Wales have players who are very young, but have a lot of experience together. Many of the squad were in the team in 2011, and having been a part of it myself I could sense they were going somewhere.
“And Warren Gatland has got these youngsters well and truly blooded. George North is 23 and has 50 caps – that’s unbelievable. They’ve played for a long time together, won Grand Slams together, lost World Cups together. They need to take that familiarity into this World Cup and let the semi final loss in 2011 hurt them a little bit, and inspire them to go a step further.”
Reason to worry?
“The lineout needs tinkering with; the scrum is strong, but it’s criminal if you can’t win your own lineout ball in this day and age. Win and you’re immediately on the front foot, especially with ball carriers like North and Jamie Roberts.”
“Everybody talks about Sam Warburton and his leadership, but Justin Tipuric, who plays in the same position, is in the form of his life. He’s made it almost impossible for Gatland to leave him out. I’d like to see Warburton play at number 6, with Tipuric at 7.”
“I definitely see Wales getting through their tough group. Their defence is superb, and will frustrate England. England at home, at Twickenham, in a World Cup? They are under more pressure than Wales. I think Australia and Wales will go through from the group.”