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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Wales' World Cup foes up close
By Steffan Garrero

Steffan Garrero of BBC Radio Wales' Back Page programme spoke to the Canada, Australia, Fiji and Japan squads ahead of the World Cup.


Q: How professional is the Canada set-up these days?

Geraint John
The first game is always going to be the biggest game

Geraint John

We've put in a lot of time and effort and increased our coaching staff and when you talk to people in Canada they can see the difference.

About three years ago they played England and Clive Woodward had his team of 14 or 15 staff with him and Canada had the coach, the manager the physio and the team doctor! Now it's more professional.

Q: People will know the European-based players, give us a Canada-based player to look out for in the World Cup.

I put my hat on a young player who'll probably play number 12 and that's David Spicer.

He's 21 and played in the first half against Wales last November.

Steffan Garrero

He played very well in the match against New Zealand in June and he's just been given a professional contract.

He's an outstanding young talent and we've got a lot of high expectations that he could perform very well at this World Cup.

Q: What do you make of the Wales fly-half Stephen Jones missing Wales' World Cup warm-up matches?

Gareth Jenkins would probably have liked him to have played, but he knows Stephen from their days in Llanelli and I think he's a valuable player in the squad, both on and off the field.

He's so enthusiastic and wears his heart on his sleeve. You know what you're going to get with Stephen and while some people may see including him as a risk I think he'll still be able to perform at the World Cup.

Q: How big a game will it be between Wales and Canada on 9 September?


We will be the underdogs, but we know that if we perform to the best of our abilities and Wales have a slightly off day, then you never know!

As it's the first game it's always going to be the biggest game.

It will be difficult because nerves will play a big part. Everybody wants to win the first game because it puts you in a good position.

We're looking forward to the game and we'll be going out there to show everyone that we are a top 12 nation.

If we finish in the top 12 then we'll qualify automatically for the next Rugby World Cup in 2011.


Q: What state are the Wallabies in going into this World Cup?

Matt Cockbain in action against Wales in the 1999 World Cup
I saw the result of the England v Wales warm-up match and I think Wales need to get a bit of a 'wriggle-on'

Matt Cockbain

They've got a good coaching set-up in place under John Connolly. Michael Foley does the forwards and of course you guys will know Scott Johnson from his days with Wales.

They're very much a thinking side and they implement a specific plan for each team they play.

Q: Are expectation levels high in Australia?

I seem to remember that in 2003 the expectations built as the tournament went on and we kept on winning! At the start we were written off.

This time round the expectations are a little down, but within the camp there's real belief that they can do something.

Q: Tell us about the army-style boot camp the squad went on.

They went out to one of the islands off the coast of Brisbane and what you guys would call an SAS-style camp.

They were lumping logs and water cans up hills and the like. It's all about team building, it looked like a lot of fun and from all reports they got a lot out of it.

Q: We've read a bit about some rifts within the camp - any truth to the rumours?
(A report has claimed the relationship of the four-man coaching staff of Connolly, Foley, Johnson and John Muggleton was "edgy" and there were intense divisions within the camp)

I was called up to the squad as cover for a few back-row injuries and I was in camp when these reports came out.

It was a bit of a storm in a tea-cup to tell you the truth. From a player's point of view it didn't affect us too much at all.

We addressed it and said that there might be members of the media who want to stir something up, but for us we had to put it out of our minds.

I don't think it was anything too significant and I think it's been resolved now.

Q: What's your role in the World Cup build-up now then?

Well I'm on standby in case of injuries at the moment, there have been a few concerns over David Lyons and Wycliffe Palu over the past month.

I'm playing down in Melbourne and just taking it one day at a time.

I understand my brother Brent is out of favour in Wales at the moment which is a shame.

I saw the result of the England v Wales warm-up match and I think Wales need to get a bit of a 'wriggle-on'.

That said, I'm sure they'll pose Australia a few problems and give them a good run for their money at the Millennium Stadium.

Q: What do you think of that match?

I played in the 1999 quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium and it is loudest atmosphere I've experienced at a Test match.

There was just all this noise constantly for the 80 minutes, there was never any let up.

We're not used to that and it could certainly cause problems for us this time round.


Q: How's the training been going?

Nicky Little
The Wales game is the one which the Fijian public and media have been targeting us to win

Nicky Little

It's been pretty hard! We've had about six weeks back in Fiji just running up sand-hills in the 100 degree heat.

The boys have been gelling well and, although it's pretty hard work, we've been enjoying it.

Q: The squad is very young and inexperienced, as the most experienced guy how've you found it?

There's a lot of blue-eyed boys in the squad - fresh from the islands!!

I think it's a good thing - they just run and run in training. They're just very keen guys - which in turn brings out the best in us old guys too!

Q: Are they as talented as other groups of players you've been within the Fijian set-up?

I actually think they're better athletes because a couple of World Cups ago we were just a squad a big guys who block a side out.

We were mentally tough and that's what got us through a lot of bad times.

Hopefully we can build the mental toughness up in this group too.

Q: There's a stereotype in island rugby of big guys who like to smash people in the tackle and also that you guys are good at Sevens but not at 15-a-side. Is it true?

I think it is true. I think that if we look in the mirror then all of us Pacific island teams are a powerful lot but maybe not good at the long-distance stuff... I guess if rugby was a 20-minute game we'd be pretty good!!

Q: What are you hoping to get out of this tournament?

I'm not the sort of bloke who sets himself goals, I guess that making the squad in the first instance was a goal achieved for me.

Now I really want us to play well and get to know what good international rugby is about.

Q: What would be considered a success by the squad?

I tell you what, if we get out of this group it would be an outstanding achievement.

Everyone back in Fiji, the media and the public, are pumping up that we're going to through but I've been around for a while now.

It's up to us not to listen to anything overly positive - or to anything too negative - and just play well, give it our all and have no regrets. That's always been my rugby philosophy.

Q: How much are you looking forward to the Wales game?

Loads, of course! This is the one which the Fijian public and media have been targeting us to win, but it's a big mountain to climb because they'll be much more profesional and have more of everything than us.

But Fiji can be the best in the world on our day - hopefully we can find a few more of those days!

Q: Have you managed to see any of Wales' warm-up action?

We've got some fancy videos and some laptop computers to analyse them but we need someone to take us through it because there's too many buttons for us!

So we've not really been looking at them too much - we've had the sun, sea and sand at home and that's all I've been looking at.


Q: How are the Japanese preparations going?

John Kirwan
The fixture list is pretty unfair for us

John Kirwan

Yeah, great thanks! We've had the Pacific Nations tournament which was good for me to get a handle on the squad.

I was really happy with how we progressed through that and it's very important that we continue to progress.

There's still a lot of work to do though.

Q: How do you rate yourselves as an international team?

I think we've got some real potential and some real ability.

I think we're lacking a bit of belief so we've got to work on that.

I also think we've got to find a style of rugby which really suits us so that we can impose that on the opposition.

That's our real challenge now - to develop a game plan which is really Japanese.

Q: What do you make of your fixture list at the World Cup?
(Japan face a tough schedule with games on 8 September and 12 September, then on the 20th and 25th)

It's pretty unfair for us, to be honest.

I think it's very important that the developing nations get helped out a bit. We've got to be able to compete.

If you gave the All Blacks coach Graham Henry the same draw as us then he'd probably be quite happy because he's got two sides.

But for emerging nations like us it's very difficult. We need to have a good World Cup to help grow the game.

I believe that the game worldwide is not as rosy as people would like you to think.

What we need to do is have a World Cup staged in Asia to make sure we grow the sport worldwide.

Q: What do you realistically expect from your game against Wales?

I just want to be competitive, I want people to see that we're playing a style of game which suits us.

I want to put our opposition, whoever they are, under pressure and start to compete on the world stage.

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

Rugby World Cup 2007 fixtures
11 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union


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