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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Wales RWC team guide
A one-stop guide to all you need to know about Wales for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Fixtures (Pool B):

  • v Canada - 9 September, 1300 BST, Nantes
  • v Australia - 15 September, 1400 BST, Cardiff
  • v Japan - 20 September, 2000 BST, Cardiff
  • v Fiji - 29 September, 1600 BST, Nantes

    Recent form: Patchy to say the least. Four Six Nations defeats followed by a convincing win over England, who then thrashed the Welsh second string 62-5 in a warm-up Test. Victory over Argentina was encouraging, but still a way to go.

    Coach: Gareth Jenkins. Considered "the people's choice" when he succeeded the popular Mike Ruddock - via Scott Johnson - but the Welsh public are not so sure about the former Llanelli Scarlets coach after just four wins in his first 15 Tests.

    Captain: Jenkins has turned to Gareth Thomas, Wales's most capped player and record try-scorer, with his original choice, fly-half Stephen Jones, uncertain of his place because of injury and competition from James Hook. An inspirational character, "Alfie" twice led the Lions Test side in 2005.

    World Cup pedigree: Their third place finish in the first tournament, upsetting Australia in the process, remains the only time they have advanced beyond the quarter-finals. Failed to make it out of the pool stages in 1991 and 1995.

    World Cup high: Paul Thorburn's monster winning conversion in Rotorua to beat Australia - Campese, Lynagh et al - in 1987 remains the high point of Welsh achievement at World Cups.

    World Cup low: Being humbled by Western Samoa in Cardiff in 1991 was, in the words of the Welsh captain that day, Ieuan Evans, "awful, horrible, something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy". Losing to Samoa again in 1999 wasn't great.

    World Cup legend: "The World Cup has not been kind to us overall," admits current captain Gareth Thomas, who is heading to his fourth. Given the failures since 1987, Paul Thorburn's kick probably makes him the man.

    Present star: Precocious fly-half James Hook is the nearest thing the northern hemisphere has to Daniel Carter. Has the pace to beat a man, the vision to exploit a gap and the nerves of steel to nail his kicks. France should be his stage.

    Maverick: Can infuriate team-mates and spectators alike when he goes it alone but impish wing Shane Williams remains a marvel of the modern game, proving that size is not everything. Bamboozles past opponents in the blink of an eye, and 29 tries from 46 caps are testament to his value.

    Enforcer: The Welsh pack is not likely to put the frighteners on anybody these days but lock Ian Gough has emerged as an unlikely and un-sung hero in recent times. A tireless worker who inspires team-mates with thumping hits in defence.

    Strengths: With one of the world's best scrum-halves in Dwayne Peel and Hook at fly-half, Wales have the tools - and the backs - to breach any defence, given enough possession.

    Weaknesses: Winning enough possession. The perennial Welsh problem. If the front five fire, as they did in the 2005 Grand Slam campaign, the rest usually follows. But the line-out in particular has been notoriously flakey of late.

    Did you know? Gareth Thomas became the first Welshman - in his 96th Test - to rack up 50 Test victories in their recent warm-up victory over Argentina in Cardiff.

    World Cup base: Pornichet (from 4 September)

    They say: "The players are setting their sights on winning a World Cup quarter-final for the first time since 1987 and then going for broke in the semi-final. I think we have a better chance of winning the World Cup this year than ever before."
    Gareth Jenkins

    You say: "I can see Wales stepping up to the plate and winning in Cardiff to top the group."
    mikeyphil on 606

    World ranking: 8

    Odds: 40/1

    Our verdict: Have the talent to make it to the last four, especially if England await again in the quarter-finals. But failure to beat Australia in their crucial pool match could see them up against the Springboks, so last eight more likely.

    Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.

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