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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 06:36 GMT 07:36 UK
Wales' Cup of woe

From the highs of finishing third in the 1987 World Cup, Wales have plumbed the depths at rugby's premier tournament.

They failed to make the knock-out stages in either 1991 or 1995 and scraped into the last eight last time.

Hardly the stuff to stir the passions of the country's notoriously passionate rugby followers.

Wales v Australia 1987
Played 16 - W:9 L:7
1987: Third
1991: Pool stage
1995: Pool stage
1999: Quarter-finals
Having won four matches in 1987, Wales have earned just four wins in the subsequent three campaigns - two of which were against Japan.

At the first World Cup they opened up with a crucial, yet uninspiring, victory over Ireland that assured them of top spot in the pool.

An equally dour win against England in the quarter-finals ensured that Wales became the first Home Nations to reach the last four of the World Cup.

Unfortunately, the all-conquering New Zealand stood in their way of reaching the final, as six different players ran in eight tries at the expense of the Welsh.

However, rather than go into the third place play-off against Australia in a despondent mood, Wales came out guns ablazing.

The match ended up being a kicking contest between flame-haired Paul Thorburn and Michael Lynagh of Australia.

Even though Lynagh kicked three more points than Thorburn, it was the Welshman who gave his country the win with a conversion from the wide left.

That was the last great World Cup moment the men in red enjoyed.

In 1991, playing all their pool matches in Cardiff, they managed only one win over Argentina and four years later their sole victory came against Japan.

But perhaps the most embarrassing moment from those two tournaments was defeat against Western Samoa.

The Pacific islanders were Wales' first pool opponents at Cardiff in 1991 and the home side were expected to win at a canter.

However, Samoa failed to read the script and ran out 16-13 winners.

Expectations were high when Wales played host to the 1999 tournament.

But yet again the players let the supporters down as Welsh nemesis Samoa struck for a second time.

Neil Jenkins may have been heralded a hero when becoming the greatest points scorer in international rugby, but he turned out to be the villain of the piece.

A trio of missed penalties, a wayward conversion and a poor pass gifted Samoa a fourth try and helped them to a 38-31 victory.

Although defeat did not deny Wales a place in the last eight, it dented pride and confidence.

And although they recovered to give Australia a run for their money, the greater athleticism and authority of the eventual champions told as it had in 1991 as well.

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