Pass the sick bag!
No it’s not the flu jab I had at lunchtime. My nerves are kicking in….
We are now less than 24 hours away from the second biggest match in Welsh rugby history. We have triple crowns and grand slams aplenty. But this is different. This is the Rugby World Cup.
Being one of only a few Welsh people in the village – er, I mean Portland – there aren’t many around who understand the effect that rugby is having on my psyche. And it will be interesting to see, England departed, how many will put aside our usual rivalry and stand behind the boys in red.
Wales has made the semi-final stage only on one other occasion – the inaugural competition in 1987. Back then the other semi-finalists were: Australia, New Zealand and France. Twenty-four years on, we hope history will not repeat itself and that we manage to go a step further than we have done before.
Written off after the six nations and some pretty sloppy summer internationals, Wales regrouped and coach Warren Gatland spent months moulding the squad in Poland – even plunging his players into a deep freeze cryogenic tank and dropping the temperature down to –120ºC (yes that is a minus sign) to up fitness rates. It worked and the side has been playing some really exciting rugby this tournament. Let’s hope this will continue.
The loss of Rhys Priestland to a shoulder injury is upsetting (for some more so than others) especially given he and Jamie Roberts have really linked up well during play. But in James Hook we have another superb talent with an excellent running game. Many other countries would be happy to have him as a first choice number 10, let alone back-up.
Tomorrow will be difficult – our most difficult match so far. The French are masters of unpredictability, moving from the sublime to the appalling in a matter or minutes and back again. Dealing with such a schizophrenic outfit is challenging and at the back of every fan’s mind will be that night in Paris earlier this year where we were outclassed and outplayed. This time round we have the talent: Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, George North and Mike Phillips to name just a few. But we need to keep our heads.
The next 21 hours will be nerve-wracking and sickening. Not helped by the heavy media coverage building up the Welsh case. (Don’t jinx us, please!) In the words of my mother: “I just hope that they can beat the French but I’m too scared to think about it. All the hype I hope it hasn’t put the kibosh on them!”
By 10.30am tomorrow we’ll know whether it’s third or first that we will be aiming for.
We hope, but do we dare to believe?
Measurement and evaluation