Wales reported an almost entirely clean bill of health as they arrived in Auckland yesterday to prepare for the next stage of their fairytale ride at the Rugby World Cup.
Seven months after finishing the Six Nations with a 28-9 drubbing at the hands of France, the Welsh squad wandered around the center of New Zealand’s biggest city in bright sunshine being feted by locals and visitors alike in the wake of Saturday’s victory over Ireland.
The French team who stand in their path to a first World Cup final are in the same Auckland hotel, for one night at least, and assistant coach Rob Howley warned there was plenty of work ahead this week.
“The players realize that we’re on a huge journey and a dream,” he told reporters. “That journey and dream is based on hard work, with some talent thrown in, and the players are very much looking forward to the opportunity.”
“It’s a pretty special to be in Auckland,” he added. “I’ve never been to Eden Park, it’s a very special place in rugby terms.”
“Who’d have thought five months ago that this Welsh team would be in Auckland? We’re savoring last night before preparing for the challenge of Saturday,” he said.
Flyhalf Rhys Priestland arrived at the hotel with a sling on his right arm after taking a knock to his shoulder in the 22-10 victory over Ireland in Wellington.
The only other injury concern is lock Luke Charteris, who also injured his shoulder, but Howley was quietly confident they would both be fit for Saturday’s semi-final.
“It’s only 20 hours since the game and hopefully they’ll get -better as the week goes on,” he said.
Backs coach Howley was particularly impressed with how the Welsh had dominated the Irish physically in Wellington and conceded that it was the forwards battle that would probably decide Saturday’s match.
However, Howley said the performance of the young backs has been one of the highlights of the tournament so far and he hoped they would be able to maintain their momentum.
“There’s no fear in the youngsters and you’ve got experienced heads like Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and James Hook ... who, with the youngsters alongside them, have moved their game to another level as well,” he said. “It’s great from a backs’ perspective; we’ve got the balance of skill and speed and we can ask the questions of the opposition that we need to. So hopefully we can keep it going for another two weeks.”
After a disappointing pool phase, France finally hit their stride in their quarter-final victory over England and Howley said they would present a major hurdle to the Welsh in the principality’s second World Cup semi-final after 1987.
“The Welsh players have achieved by getting to the semi-final of a World Cup and we don’t think we’re finished yet, we haven’t won anything, keeping our feet on the ground,” Howley said. “Actions speak louder than words and the actions you saw last night were pretty good ones. We have to replicate those to come any where near France on the weekend.”
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen
Max Verstappen informed his Red Bull team that he would not be driving “like a grandma” in Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Sunday — and he was as good as his word. The Dutch 22-year-old seized his opportunity at Silverstone, ending dominant Mercedes’ run of four successive wins this season and moving up to second place overall, 30 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen’s confidence shone through early on, after slotting into third place behind the two Mercedes, when he was told by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to take care of his tires. “Mate, this is the only chance of being
FULL GAME: Henry Sosa pitched nine innings for the Guardians, allowing only six hits all night, while the Monkeys’ offense were also shut out of their game Outfielder Lin An-ko carried a big bat this week — before his Uni-President Lions ran into the Fubon Guardians last night — blasting four home runs, including a grand slam as his side won four games in a row and moved into second on the CPBL table. However, the Lions could not sustain their super-charged offense for the whole week, as they were shut out 4-0 by the Guardians in New Taipei City. Fubon’s rookie catcher, Jhang Jin-de, took a page from Lin’s playbook. With two men on, Jhang smacked a three-run homer in the sixth inning. Henry Sosa of the Dominican Republic