Welsh record adds to Minnows' RWC woes

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Wales beat Namibia 81-7 on Monday in their biggest ever Rugby World Cup win to cast doubt over claims that so-called 'minnow' nations are making gains on rugby's giants.

The Six Nations team took an easy step towards the quarter-finals with Scott Williams claiming three of their 12 tries and Stephen Jones celebrating his record 101st Welsh cap with a penalty and six conversions.

With the win, Wales confirmed the elimination of Fiji, who can now only play spoilers for the Dragons' quarter-finals hopes when they meet on Sunday. Wales are equal on points with Samoa, who face defending champions South Africa.

Despite the yawning chasm in the scoreline, Wales laboured at times against a willing but fatigued Namibia side, who exit the tournament having conceded 266 points against 44 scored in four games.

"We've got the bonus point, which is what we wanted," said Wales captain Sam Warburton. "Namibia made it very difficult for us, especially in the contact. That's something we need to look at."

Namibia lost 87-0 to South Africa just four days earlier among a run of large scores including New Zealand's 83-7 demolition of Japan, England's 67-3 win over Romania and Ireland's 62-12 stroll against Russia.

The string of uncompetitive matches has made for unappetising viewing and raised questions over strong signs earlier in the tournament that 'tier-two' countries were catching up with the traditional powers.

Analysis by the International Rugby Board (IRB), which has invested heavily in the sport's development, found that over the first two rounds, the average points difference in games between big and small countries had shrunk to 29, from 42 in 2007.

Several of the "tier two" nations, like Namibia, have complained about their turnaround times between games - often only four days, which they say discriminates against them.

The top teams from the Six Nations and Tri-Nations tournaments in general have been accorded more time to recover between matches.

Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt branded their punishing schedule of 16 days as "unsuitable".

"It was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, not all the time in our favour," said Diergaardt, who returns to his job as a building contractor a day after his squad return to Windhoek on Wednesday.

"It's hard to play South Africa on Thursday and then have to play Wales on Monday. The turnaround was not suitable, not the most positive thing. We also played Fiji and Samoa in the same sort of sequence."

The IRB said the match schedule took into account fan appeal, spread of matches across New Zealand and player welfare, as well as broadcast and commercial considerations.

Meanwhile, jubilant New Zealand media trumpeted Saturday's 37-17 win over France, which followed two World Cup tournament upsets and cast off a cloak of pessimism that had enveloped the All Blacks' campaign.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, former All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson claimed the World Cup is "ours to lose" based on the emphatic victory at the team's Eden Park headquarters.

"It was a fantastic performance from the All Blacks. It showed how dangerous we truly are, if we get possession for any length of time and we make the great decisions we made. We were fantastic," he enthused.

New Zealand now have the formality of a last Pool A game against Canada before an expected quarter-final against Argentina, unless Scotland can upset old rivals England in Pool B on Saturday.

Ireland are gearing up for a must-win game against Italy to stay top of Pool C, while Australia are expected to welcome back influential flanker David Pocock after a soaking in thermal springs speeded his comeback from a back injury.

However, the Wallabies are dealing with a raft of other injury problems as they size up Russia on Saturday and a likely quarter-final against South Africa.

England lock Courtney Lawes vowed not to compromise his confrontational style after serving a two-match ban for kneeing Argentina's Mario Ledesma in the head.

He is now available for Saturday's much-anticipated clash with Scotland.

"I thought I played well. I'm always a physical player and that's how I'm going to be," said Lawes.

"I didn't try and do anything malicious. I'm always physical. I don't aim to hurt people, that's just part of my game."

Russian hooker Valery Tsnobiladze became the fourth player ordered before a disciplinary hearing, over an alleged head-butt in Sunday's defeat by Ireland. No time or date was set for the proceedings.