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Players blew 'last' Wales chance says Shaun Edwards

Wales reflect on the disappointing 16-16 draw with Fiji
Wales reflect on the disappointing 16-16 draw with Fiji at the Millennium Stadium

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards says that some players involved in Friday's 16-16 draw with Fiji may miss out on selection for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

A side showing nine changes from the one that lost 29-25 to South Africa put on a lacklustre display in Cardiff.

"It was a last chance really to look at players before the World Cup, there's no other time to do it," Edwards said.

"Some were rusty and probably they'll look back and think 'I had a chance and I probably didn't take it'."

In the week building up to the Fiji game, the Wales camp talked about keeping things tight and not being dragged into the loose game favoured by the visitors.

But Wales seemed helpless to prevent the game splintering at the Millennium Stadium, while Fiji found it much too easy to turn over possession.

Edwards praises back-row Lydiate

Fiji knocked Wales out of the 2007 World Cup and await them again in the pool stages in the 2011 tournament that begins in New Zealand next September.

"We're judged as a team and... there's no doubt that as a unit, as a team, [against Fiji] we didn't come up to our expectations, and the expectations of the Welsh people," Edwards said.

"It smelt of a team who were very rusty, a lot of guys hadn't played for a month or so and some guys not even playing regular rugby for their regions.

"Obviously turning the ball over was a huge problem for us and yet another try from a turnover, it's what has probably killed us in this series so far.

"But our minds are already on next week if I'm being honest, we know what's coming next Saturday and we're getting ready for that."

Wales wrap up their autumn Test series against New Zealand next Saturday - a team they have not beaten since 1953 - and Edwards believes that match is where the build-up to the World Cup begins in earnest.

Henry anticipates Wales 'edge'

Head coach Warren Gatland said after Friday's draw that hooker Matthew Rees - rested against Fiji - would return to captain the side against New Zealand on Saturday, 27 November.

Ryan Jones had returned after a calf injury to lead Wales against the South Sea islanders but it was the back-row's error in the final minutes that gifted Fiji the penalty chance to level the scores.

"We've had the toughest schedule of any of the home nations over the last two years by far and this Saturday - and obviously the Rugby World Cup - is the main test of whether it has actually worked," Edwards added.

"To be captain next week you've got to be an automatic starter and there's no doubt that our number two [Rees] and our number three [Adam Jones] are playing pretty well at the moment.

"They're definitely automatic starters and he [Rees] did a great job the week before.

"Matthew has already called a players' meeting... they've got to come in early by themselves on Monday, they want to have a chat about how they want to approach the week."

While Rees, Adam Jones and, when fit, Gethin Jenkins - an all-British and Irish Lions front row - are almost certain starters for Wales, Edwards suggested that almost all the other starting places are up for grabs - with competition especially fierce in the back row.

Errors hurting Wales - Rees

"A couple of positions we've got a lot of strength in depth at the moment are eight and six and Ryan, I think, has only played three games this season and he's another guy who's a little bit rusty going into the game, not having been playing regularly," Edwards said.

"One person who's stood out throughout this autumn campaign is [Dragons flanker] Dan Lydiate, I think he's been a real find.

"Obviously George North [the Scarlets wing who scored two tries on his debut against South Africa] is the headline-grabber but Dan Lydiate, he made 20 tackles [against Fiji] and missed one.

"His defence against Australia was absolutely fantastic, punishing, he did a great job on Rocky Elsom in that game and that is one position where - let's be honest - there is no guaranteed starters at the moment."

Highlights - Wales 16-16 Fiji

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see also
Gatland created scapegoat - Jones
22 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales half-backs frustrate Howley
20 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Jones takes blame for Fiji draw
19 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Welsh players are gutted - Lydiate
20 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales 16-16 Fiji
19 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Fire and flair: Fijian rugby
29 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
All Blacks magic: New Zealand rugby
21 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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