By Owen Hathway
People sometimes forget that Wales will be playing in New Zealand as world champions, albeit in another format of the game.
In 2009 the Welsh Sevens squad shocked the rugby world when they overshadowed the titans of the sevens game to become champions. What lessons can the senior squad take from that victory as they aim for immortality down under?
Lesson 1: It doesn’t matter if you’re underdogs.
The sevens game has always been dominated by the likes of Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand. The dominance of those nations has on occasion been challenged by South Africa, Australia and England but lowly Wales had hardly ever even been competitive. Prior to the world cup Wales had competed on the 2008-09 sevens circuit and eventually finished no higher than the ninth overall. In half of the events staged Welsh losses resulted in them competing in a competition a whole tier below the top teams.
It was therefore astonishing that not only did Wales beat New Zealand 15-14 in the quarter final, they recorded a 19-12 win against Samoa in the semi final and even had the audacity to take the title beating Argentina 19-12 in the final.
Lesson 2: It’s never too late.
Wales senior side have a history of leaving things late in recent years, most spectacularly against Scotland in the 2010 Six nations. However, if they want convincing of the merits of battling until the very end, they should look no further than the Sevens winning team of 2009.
In a tense and thrilling final, Aled Thomas left it until the last 90 seconds before scoring what would prove to be the decisive try to take victory 19-12. Even then after losing the kick off, Wales gifted Argentina one last opportunity. Thankfully, a fumble by the Pumas ensured Wales wouldn’t be denied their first world crown.
Lesson 3: A loss is not the end of the road.
Should Wales lose in the group stages, it would be a set-back, but it’s not the end of the road. On their journey to becoming world champions, Wales suffered a 14-0 defeat to Argentina in the pool stages. While it ensured the draw was harder for Wales as a result, having to face New Zealand and Samoa, it didn’t stop them gaining revenge over the Pumas in the final.
Owen Hathway is an amateur rugby player and sports writer based in the Rhondda, you can follow him on twitter @hath53.