Wales primed for knock-out rugby
September 13, 2011
Wales were distraught by their defeat to South Africa © Getty Images
Shaun Edwards believes Wales have had ideal preparation for their World Cup showdown against Samoa after meeting the South African juggernaut head on.
Wales are braced for an inevitable Samoan physical onslaught when the Pool D stakes rise in Hamilton next Sunday. Wales will effectively be looking at a pool stage exit if they lose, but assistant coach Edwards has no doubt the squad is sufficiently fine-tuned.
"I don't think we need to say much," Edwards said. "There were a lot of positives that came out of the South Africa game and we've had praise from various aspects of the media, but we are not about that.
"We lost the game. We went into the game expecting to win, we lost by one point and that is really peeving the lads. They are pretty determined to front-up this week. We know we are in knockout rugby. We can't afford any mistakes, there are no second chances now."
Samoa's victory over Australia earlier this summer, and an emphatic opening success against Namibia, points to them being pivotal players in terms of which two teams secure quarter-final places from Pool D.
"Attacking-wise, they like to offload the ball," Edwards added. "They are big powerful men, similar to the South Africans, and it is important we keep up our tackle percentage on Sunday. It is about us performing on the day. Hopefully, we will get the job done.
"Any team that puts (prop) Census Johnston on the bench, they must be a decent scrummaging team. I know the loosehead (Sakaria Taulafo) very well, he plays for Wasps. But we more than competed in the scrum last Sunday against probably the most vaunted scrum in the world. "And we at least managed a Tri-Nations team at the breakdown, and the referee gave us penalties accordingly."
Wales captain Sam Warburton was at the heart of his team's effective breakdown work, stealing several turnovers, but he also suffered for his bravery when a South African player charged at him in a ruck. No disciplinary action was taken, though, with the citing deadline from the Wellington clash now having passed.
"It was a cheap shot," Edwards added. "It was a similar sort of action to what happened on the (2009) Lions tour - it was Bakkies Botha that time - with a shoulder charge on someone who was competing on the ball.
"If our captain, and our outstanding player on the day, had had to go off we would have been even more cheesed off than what we were. Some of our guys are still pretty sore from the weekend. The game against South Africa really was tough, but as (Wales coach) Warren Gatland always says, the best way to prepare for a tough game is to have a tough game."
Gatland names his team to face Samoa on Friday, with few - if any changes - expected, although prop Gethin Jenkins could feature in the matchday 22 after being sidelined by calf muscle trouble since January.
Both Jenkins and fly-half Stephen Jones, who has also had a calf injury, are both back in training at Wales' Taupo base, where preparations are in full swing for Samoa. It is possible both players could be on the bench as Wales look for a win that would keep them firmly in the quarter-final mix.
"It was obviously a bitter pill to swallow not gaining the win (against South Africa), but we can't mope around about the loss," Wales hooker Huw Bennett said. "You look back on it and it does bring back thoughts of 'if only.' But you have got to make it happen and at the end of the day we lost.
"We have got ourselves in a situation where we need to win all our games. We've put it to bed now, and we are fully concentrated on our task against Samoa. We haven't got the best of histories against Samoa in the World Cup (they beat Wales in 1991 and 1999), which is something we are looking to eradicate. It's a massive game for us.
"They did really well against Australia earlier in the summer, so they are running with some good form. They bring a lot of passion, a lot of physicality and some flair as well. You haven't got to be a rocket scientist to know what Samoa are going to come at you with."
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