Wales Have Been Perfect So Far . . . But It’s A Numbers Game And If They Drop They’ll Be In Trouble

NICE, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 16: A Wales fan shouts during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 in the group C match between Wales and Portugal at Stade de Nice on September 16, 2023 in Nice, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Wales Have Been Perfect So Far . . . But It’s A Numbers Game And If They Drop They’ll Be In Trouble

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From Hamish Stuart in Lyon

Not many fans here in the South of France would give Wales 10 out of 10 for performance so far, but 10 is still the magic number for the squad.

Their 10 points in Pool C is the perfect start in a tournament where only South Africa, and possibly Ireland, will feel on top of their game after the first two rounds.

A total of 16 points should be enough to guarantee a quarter-final, though there are still some permutations even then. Anything more guarantees topping the Pool.

Wales will go into the Australia game on Sunday thinking only of a win, of course, but a losing bonus point would be more than useful and if combined with denying the Aussies a bonus point then it would almost certainly be enough.

Australia can reach 16 points with two bonus point wins over Wales and Portugal, Fiji play the two ‘minnows’ so should return to their free-flowing traditions to get to the same total.

Wales have a points difference advantage, but not an insurmountable one, so winning the game against Australia will keep the mathematicians out of the equation.

A draw would also be enough as long as Georgia are also beaten.

The good news is that Australia were far from good against Fiji, who won that game through the basic, hard-to-beat, kick-for-territory and strike-in-bursts style Warren Gatland has instilled in Wales.

Australia will have periods of pressure, of course, and a couple of cutting edges, but they struggled to get their key players into the game, their outside-half experiment does not seem to be working and they posed very little threat from deep.

All those things play into Wales’ hands.

They may also have the home support. Certainly, every non-Australian in Nice was passionately behind Fiji as Eddie Jones has a habit of rubbing opposing fans up the wrong way!

Watching World Cup games is different to the usual November or Six Nations diet – there are more neutrals, with plenty of fans from other games at the same venue as well as French fans everywhere.

That meant a few Ireland fans staying on to watch Wales beat Fiji in Bordeaux.

A lot of England fans went to Wales v Portugual and quite a few Welsh fans stayed in Nice to watch England v Japan the following day.

They may have wished they had not. As one frustrated England fan put it midway through the second half, “Why can’t you just f****** pass it, England!”

But once again it was job done for Steve Borthwick’s team, they look like topping their group which would mean Wales will miss them in the quarter-finals if they, too, top their table.

England and Wales talked about slippery conditions and all teams have had problems holding onto the ball.

Temperatures have been steadily in the mid 20’s, but when it has rained it has been like tropical monsoons so there is plenty of moisture in the air and the ground.

Standing outside when the rain hits is like having a bucket of water thrown over you before being able to get under cover.

Japan struggled to hold the ball as much as England, maybe because they attempted more.

They will face Argentina in their final group game, probably for the right to face the team topping Wales’ group.

The South American side will be favourites as Japan struggled to burst England’s bubble despite plenty of endeavour, but Samoa this weekend will be a real test of Argentinian mettle.

Wales are back training in Versailles, before travelling down to Lyon to face Australia.

They will be in Beaujolais country, but just as we are a few weeks from the latest Beaujolais Nouveau being available, so Wales will have to wait before celebrating.

Keeping that hard-to-beat tag against Australia will be a big step towards it though.

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