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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK


UK: Wales

Henry issues 'feet on the ground' advice

Bob Humphrys passes on sound advice from Graham Henry

Beware! No prizes will be awarded to those providing the correct answer to the following question. Who gave this advice to the Welsh people..... 'let's keep our feet on the ground!'?

Those needing multiple choices, phone a friend or a leaf through the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations have either spent the last six months waiting for a passing tanker on their desert island or believe rugby is a town in the Midlands.

'Coach extraordinaire'

Those seven words have become the mantra of coach extraordinaire, Graham Henry, whose main fear for this world cup is that Wales will succumb to a bout of communal insanity and expect it's rugby team to brush aside all opposition on the way to a fifty point win in the final.

"There is the real danger," says coach Henry, "that the occasion will become bigger than the game!"


[ image: Wales coach Graham Henry:
Wales coach Graham Henry: "Let's keep our feet on the ground"
If that does become the case, all his careful preparations, all the psychological chivvying of conditioning coach Steve Black could come to nought as the players sweep like lemmings towards the cliff of over expectation and hype.

Not that it's likely to happen!

"We're not a great team," claims the man who coached Auckland to two Super Twelve titles and who rather likes to tell it like it is.

While some might reckon this is the latest case of Kiwi kidology, if it plays its part in putting the pressure cooker on simmer then it will have done its job.

'God given right'

After all, whisper it quietly in Blaenavon and Bridgend, but there are three other countries out there who believe, eight test wins in a row or not, that Wales does not have a god given right to stroll into the quarter finals.

There's Japan for instance ... a country where the New Zealand influence out-Henrys Henry.


[ image: Neil Jenkins will be a key weapon for Wales in the world cup]
Neil Jenkins will be a key weapon for Wales in the world cup
Indeed, such has been the recruitment to the Land of the Rising Sun from the Land of the Long White Cloud - presumably making it in rugby terms the Land of the Rising Sun Coming Out from Behind a Long White Cloud - that some have suggested Japan might perform the Haka before kick-offs.

Graeme Bachop, Jamie Joseph, Andrew McCormick - to name but a few - have helped forge a team that's won six of their seven matches this year, beating the likes of Canada, Tonga and Samoa along the way.

'Keystone Cops'

While Argentina's preparations might make the Keystone Cops seem organised - sorry, who did you say was coach today?

Any team which can win away in Murrayfield and boast Agustin Pichot at scrum half can hardly be taken lightly - especially with an old Graham Henry adversary, 'Grizz' Wylie, at the helm (or, at least, he was at the time of writing!)

Neither do three Welsh wins on the trot against the Pumas bring comfort to the Wales coach.


[ image: Wales captain Robert Howley will lead from the front]
Wales captain Robert Howley will lead from the front
He imagines himself in their place, going up against a country that had beaten him three times. The mental images involved in plotting revenge do not make pleasant viewing.

The mental images of an autumn day in 1991 did not make the most pleasant of sights either as a country most had difficulty placing on a map.

'Lightning strikes twice'

If they could then spent half an hour wondering where Eastern Samoa was - beat Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in the World Cup.

Those who like to think that 'lightning' and 'never striking twice' sit happily together are probably sanguine about the coming events of Thursday, October 14th.

But those who remember the ferocity of Samoan tackling ... and that certain Inga the Winger has gone back to his roots ... might entertain a certain pause for thought.

Belonging to that second school is Graham Henry. Even if Japan and Argentina and Samoa are seen off, most probably Australia awaits in a quarter final.

Now who was it who said, "let's keep our feet on the ground!"?





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