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Welsh aim to banish ghosts of 2007

Friday 30 September 2011, 11:05PM

By Rugby World Cup 2011

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HAMILTON

Welsh rugby lovers still lament their team's ignominious exit from Rugby World Cup 2007 after they were beaten 38-34 in a pool match with Fiji.

And the present crop of players are hoping the ghosts of that defeat will finally be laid to rest when the two teams meet again in the final Pool D match on Sunday.

"It's obviously in the back of the mind. As games are when you lose big games," said prop Gethin Jenkins.

Fly half Rhys Priestland suggested the defeat four years ago was not something the team needs to be reminded about ahead of their clash at Waikato Stadium.

"We have to give them (Fiji) respect because four years ago they played a fantastic game against Wales," he said. "We have not spoken about it for the past week, so we'll go out there with confidence."

There is a belief in the Welsh camp that the Fijians will be up against a very different team this time round.

Competitive edge

"I think we believe a lot more coming into this game. Yeah, we expected to win last time but there was always the thought that we were not playing that well," said Jenkins.

"We've come into this game on the back of five good performances. There is a belief that we can go into the big games and pull off a performance."

Flanker Danny Lydiate, who will miss Sunday's match with an ankle injury, said: "The boys are in a good place at the minute. They're fresh, they're hungry and there's a real competitive edge.

"No one wants to give up their place in the team. It's quite exciting."

Veteran wing Shane Williams, who also misses out through injury, believes it is not just the current squad's physical preparation that sets them apart from their 2007 counterparts.

"This is the most mentally tough group I've ever been involved in," he said.

Reward for victory

But if the Welsh are confident of victory, they are still wary of the threat offered by their opponents.

"If they play that typical Fijian style, that could put us under a bit of pressure," said coach Warren Gatland. "They have not thrown the ball around as much as we thought they might have. They may do that on Sunday.

Williams added: "When they start playing the rugby they want to play, there are not many teams that can go with them. They are a very dangerous side."

Fiji may be playing merely for pride but with a berth in the last eight at stake for Wales, Gatland will be impressing on this charges the reward that awaits them for victory, and the potential consequences of failure.

"There is no greater motivation than playing a quarter-final. You win a quarter-final and then you are here till the end of the World Cup," said the coach.

"That for me as a player would be a huge amount of motivation, not having to get on a plane. Knowing that you are going to be here right to the end."