Wales secure personal best in world rankings
February 10, 2009
Shane Williams scored his 46th career try to propel Wales to victory over Scotland © Getty Images
Wales' 26-13 win over Scotland in their opening Six Nations game has catapulted them into fourth place in the IRB world rankings - their best position since rankings began.
Warren Gatland's men now sit behind New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, having leapfrogged Argentina into fourth spot ahead of Saturday's crucial showdown with England at the Millennium Stadium. Their ranking reflects a remarkable turnaround for the side, who began 2008 in tenth position following their humiliating exit from the World Cup at the hands of Fiji in 2007.
Victory over England on Saturday will give Wales a Six Nations hat-trick over England, but their record try-scorer Shane Williams has urged caution ahead of the game.
"They would be the first to admit they didn't play well against Italy, but they still won the game," he said. "That is credit to them. They capitalised on a lot of mistakes by Italy. There are a lot of new faces there, but they are still a very good side and, make no bones about it, the game on Saturday is going to be very tough.
"We just need to prepare ourselves for a battle up-front, and a confrontational battle in the backs as well, because they have got some exciting players there. You can never write off England."
Williams' ankle knock sustained late on at Murrayfiled has made him one of three injury doubts that have prompted Gatland to delay naming his team until Thursday, with skipper Ryan Jones and influential centre Gavin Henson both struggling with calf strains.
Williams believes however that Wales can cope with several injury absences due to their new-found strength in depth, exhibited by the superb performance of Tom Shanklin in place of Henson at Murrayfield.
"Dafydd Jones came in for Ryan (Jones) last-minute and did a job, while losing Gavin gave Tom Shanklin a chance, and he and Jamie Roberts in the centre had great games," said Williams. "We are lucky that we've got the strength in depth and it is good for Welsh rugby that we have got players coming through that are pushing for positions.
"There is no complacency - no one's position is safe. With the first match of the championship, there are always a few jitters and a few things that don't go your way that you have to work on, but overall I thought we did very well.
"When we keep ball and go through phases, we can score points and tries. It's probably the most important part of the game at the moment - keeping the ball and the breakdown. We know there are things to work on, but it gives us a bit of confidence going away from home and winning."
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games