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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 18:21 GMT
Fans welcome Wales heroes home
Iestyn Harris signs an autograph for a young fan
Iestyn Harris signs an autograph for a young fan
Six weeks after leaving for Australia with the hopes of a rugby-mad nation on their shoulders, the Welsh squad has returned home from the World Cup as heroes.

Hundreds of fans turned out at the squad's base in the Vale of Glamorgan to welcome the players who recaptured Wales' rugby imagination for the five weeks they were in the tournament.

Wales were knocked out by England in the quarter finals, but unlike recent ventures abroad when the players have suffered morale-shattering defeats, the squad flew home into a new feel-good atmosphere surrounding the game in Wales.

Thank you for rescuing the name of Wales in the rugby family...Next year I expect you to win the triple crown and the grand slam, or else
WRU president Sir Tasker Watkins
Coach Steve Hansen's men posted three wins over Canada, Tonga and Italy, before running pre-tournament favourites New Zealand and England close in successive games.

In defeat, the Wales team played rugby that promised a return to the great days of the 1970s.

The squad home on Wednesday to be reunited with their families.

Around 220 fans were there to applaud the players' efforts.

The players were reunited with friends and family
The players were reunited with friends and family

Captain Colin Charvis told the crowd: "When we heard there were a couple of hundred people willing to meet us at the hotel, we thought it would be a great chance to meet real Welsh fans.

"When we first got over to Australia, people didn't have much confidence in us, but hopefully we have proved we can compete with the best by putting on some good performances."

Second row Robert Sidoli told BBC Radio Wales he was surprised by the welcome the players had received.

"I'm very surprised, we heard there might be something on the bus this morning," he said.

Wales captain Colin Charvis speaks to the fans
Wales captain Colin Charvis speaks to the fans

"The boys are tired, but it's nice to see everyone's spirits up.

"We are disappointed to be back two weeks sooner than we'd like, but it's good to see a lot of smiling faces."

Wales' successes Down Under have promised a bright future for the game in Wales after years of disappointments.

The close-run defeats to New Zealand and particularly England, who Wales outscored three tries to one, restored pride in the battered image of the red shirt and promised genuine hope for the future.

The World Cup made stars of the future in the likes of winger Shane Williams and 20-year-old flanker Jonathan Thomas.

About 220 fans turned up to greet the players
About 220 fans turned up to greet the players

But Welsh Rugby Union president Sir Tasker Watkins said the players now had a burden on their shoulders in the raised expectation created in Wales.

He told the team: "Thank you for rescuing the name of Wales in the rugby family.

"This performance has re-established our position as one of the best half dozen rugby teams in the world.

"You have gladdened the hearts of the Welsh people but you have earned a heavy burden.

"Next year I expect you to win the triple crown and the grand slam, or else."


SEE ALSO:
Did yoga help Welsh team?
10 Nov 03  |  Wales
Charvis: No regrets
10 Nov 03  |  Wales
Wales depart with heads high
09 Nov 03  |  Wales


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