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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK
Howley: '99 a missed opportunity

Steffan Garrero of BBC Radio Wales' Back Page programme has spoken to the captains of Wales' last five World Cup squads.

We are featuring one a day all this week and the fourth is with Rob Howley.

Rob Howley
Rob Howley captained Wales in 1999

Following two World Cup campaigns to forget, Wales knew they had to perform in 1999 as they were hosting the tournament.

On top of that, there was a real sense of hope under the leadership of Graham Henry, boosted by that last-minute Scott Gibbs try that secured victory over England at Wembley.

It was Rob Howley's turn to lead his country on to the hallowed turf of the newly-built Millennium Stadium.

"Our game was out there for everyone to see," said Howley. "There was no way we were going to be taken lightly.

"In terms of our preparation, we were raring to go."

But he admitted: "Everything was judged a little too high. The expectancy of the crowd was a tidal wave building up."

Wales were grouped with Argentina, Japan and Samoa in Pool C and the least they were expected to do was qualify for the quarter-finals.

First up was Argentina, which they won 23-18, and that was followed by a 64-15 victory over Japan.

Had we beaten Australia, I believe we would have gone through to the final of the World Cup
Rob Howleyll

Then came Samoa.

"Whilst everything was pretty rosy, the Samoan team that day had Va'aiga Tuigamala and Pat Lam playing for them, along with Graham Bachop who had actually been coached by Graham [Henry].

"For several seasons he had been under his tutorship so the Samoans knew how he wanted to play in terms of ball carrying.

"In the Samoan game they did a job on our ball-carrying players [Scott Quinnell, Scott Gibbs and Craig Quinell] and we could not create any forward moves at all because we were relying on those particular players."

Wales lost 38-31 and it ended their 10-game winning run, but they still made it through to the last eightl where they would face Australia.

"The Australian game was a game which I believe had we won, we would have gone through to the final of the World Cup," said Howley.

"When you reflect on the game, I don't think you can argue with that.


"At half-time it was 10-9 and the game was there for us.

"But the bottom line is we weren't good enough. We were beaten by a much more clinical, organised and intelligent side in Australia.

"It was an opportunity missed for that squad of players.

"Whilst the nation's hopes and supporters' hopes were sky-high there was a bit of reality with us. We knew we had the experience and we had to make that count.

"For whatever reason throughout that World Cup, we didn't have the consistency in our performance. I think we peaked before the World Cup started."

Australia went on to win the tournament, beating France 35-12 in the final.

Friday: Colin Charvis on the 2003 World Cup

*The Back Page has a regular slot on Saturdays, 0830-0900 BST

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