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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Tom Shanklin's column
Tom Shanklin
Tom Shanklin
Wales centre

The tournament's coming up fast now and I have to say that our World Cup preparations have been pretty up and down.

We're heading back to Brittany this week where we enjoyed a week-long training camp in August, and I'm sure that the fans will love it there.

Tom Shanklin battles through the Argentine defence last month
We won't take Canada lightly, but hopefully we can build some confidence

Nantes seems a lovely place, although we only saw a little of it as we were staying further up the coast.

Our World Cup base has a little complex where we have our own rooms, there's a pool, restaurant and a team room to watch movies and stuff.

We took the push-bikes from the hotel and after a 20-minute ride we were in La Baule.

That's a holiday town and it's just beautiful with a long coastline, bars, places to grab waffles and crepes - and a lot of talent on the beach!

After our time there it was a rude awakening against England at Twickenham - where we obviously didn't play well - but selection policy changed after that and it was full on all the way.

We did pretty well against Argentina, before letting ourselves down a bit in the last 20 minutes.

My knee was a bit sore after that match and the coaches told me to rest, which has done me good as I know there's no problem now for the start of the World Cup.

But as soon as I got to the Millennium Stadium for the France game it felt strange, I just wanted to be out there playing.

The French had done well in their two Tests with England and there's just no denying that they were better than us on the day.

Gareth Thomas
Alfie's a great defender who you can have confidence will make the tackles inside you

It was such a tough, bloody game, France have really made a statement as they prepare to host the tournament.

The August Tests seem to have thrown the centre position that I play in into the sharpest spotlight, with a lot of talk amongst fans and media about our kicking game and the balance of the 12-13 positions.

The kicking is something all the backs have been working on a lot with Neil Jenkins.

We know it's something we have to improve, to take the pressure off our outside-half.

As I'm left-footed I can give Wales an extra option in defensive kicking.

Anyone who saw the Argentina game will know that I need to work on my kicking of the ball on the ground, though!

The massive debate is about who plays at 12, and with Sonny Parker and Stephen Jones getting back to fitness we'll have plenty of possible combinations - all I can say is, thank God I'm not the coach!

Stephen, Sonny and James Hook are all options there, while I'll have plenty of competition for the number 13 shirt.

Gareth Thomas' role at 12 has come under close scrutiny, but I've enjoyed playing alongside him.

The draw has favoured us as we'll be in Nantes, away from the goldfish bowl, for that first fixture

Alfie has the skills for the position, he's a great defender who you can have confidence will make the tackles inside you, and he's also a big ball carrier.

That takes a lot of pressure off me, when there's only one guy taking it up the middle it can get too predictable.

We'll need options in our opening match against Canada. They're always very physical and Geraint John is making an impression as a coach.

I think that the draw has favoured us as we'll be in Nantes, away from the goldfish bowl, for that first fixture.

We'll be doing our preparation work and know that we need to get in there early and blow them away.

We won't take Canada lightly, but hopefully we can build some confidence and be ready for the big one in Cardiff against Australia.



SEE ALSO
Rugby World Cup 2007 fixtures
11 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union


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