Pressure still on Wales despite narrow win over Fiji – Jonathan Humphreys

By Sports Desk September 11, 2023

Jonathan Humphreys insists the pressure is not off Wales after a thrilling victory over Fiji increased hopes of a fourth successive Rugby World Cup quarter-final appearance.

Wales’ 32-26 success came after they repelled a ferocious Fiji fightback that saw them score two tries during the last seven minutes.

And had Fiji’s star centre Semi Radradra not spilled possession with the line at his mercy just seconds from time, then it could have been a totally different outcome.

Wales face remaining Pool C games against Portugal, Australia and Georgia, and the knockout phase is now undoubtedly in sight following a statement win.

“The big one for us is Portugal. We did well in a lot of areas, but there is still massive room for growth for us,” Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist Humphreys said.

“We are not thinking anywhere close to what possibly could be. We know what’s definitely going to be, and that is Portugal in a few days’ time.

“It is not an easy game, it is their first game in this tournament. They are a tough side to play against, they are very skilful.

“We don’t see this as pressure off. It is just the next game and we have to perform.”

Wales made more than 240 tackles in the game, with 71 of those attributed to just three players – lock Will Rowlands, prop Gareth Thomas and captain Jac Morgan.

And that punishing defensive effort ultimately thwarted Fiji’s attacking brilliance in a game that produced eight tries and no shortage of high-octane entertainment.

Humphreys added: “You can’t make that many tackles if you are not fit and have the ability to get up and go again. The mindset and fitness was excellent.

“I don’t think many people had probably given us a shot at that game, but we had a belief.

“We knew to an extent what Fiji were going to bring, but it is still so hard to stop them. Their footwork is so late and so good, so we knew it was going to be an unbelievably tough game.

“But to get through it with a bonus point is massive for us.

“It was a hell of a relief at the end, but the next thing is Portugal. We need to play better, we need to be more accurate. That is the next focus for us.”

Rowlands was at the forefront, making 27 tackles and missing none as he delivered a performance that defined Wales’ unflinching attitude in defence.

“He is an exceptional athlete,” Humphreys said. “It is very rare you get such a big man who is such an athlete with such a big engine.

“He has turned into a very important player for us. He came to rugby late – he was early 20s when he started playing rugby. He is brilliant around the group.”

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