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Rugby World Cup 2011
Gaffney bullish ahead of Wales clash
ESPNscrum Staff
October 4, 2011

Ireland assistant coach Alan Gaffney has backed his players to draw on their knock out rugby experience in their World Cup quarter-final showdown with Wales.

The Irish enter the last eight for the first time since 2003 but Gaffney insists that the domestic success of the likes of Munster and Leinster leaves the squad well equipped for the much-anticipated clash with Wales.

"Ireland have been very, very good at this (knockout) style of rugby now for some time, initially probably led by Munster," he told RTE Sport. "The knockout competition, which effectively the Heineken Cup becomes, means late in your pool rounds you've got to win games or you don't go through and then obviously there's the quarter-final, semi-final and final."

An in-form Wales side have caught Gaffney's eye over the last few weeks and he was full of praise for the work of their coaching team. "Wales have been very, very good. I think they've improved enormously over the last 12 months," he said. "They weren't in a particularly good place the last few years. They didn't perform during the Six Nations for a number of years in-a-row after winning the Grand Slam.

"They've got some exciting young players. They have a very strong forward pack with Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones and Huw Bennett in the front row. Sam Warburton has obviously been a huge success, being captain of Wales at 21 or 22 is some achievement.

"In the back-line obviously they've got a lot of talent, so whether they play Shane Williams and George North or Williams and Leigh Halfpenny, whether they play Lee Byrne, whether they play James Hook - they've got plenty of options. It's an exciting bunch of players they've got."

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