Rugby Union: Wales making right tracks: Former All Black heaps praise on tourists in Fiji while back home his countrymen are criticised

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The Independent Online
Fiji. . . .8

Wales. . .23

AT LONG last Welsh rugby is being taken seriously again, so much so that one former All Black reckons Wales are good enough to reach the semi-finals of next year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

The views of Bernie Fraser, the New Zealand wing brought back to the land of his birth to help the Fijians prepare for this match, were unsolicited and must have made interesting listening for the Welsh management. More so because they came shortly after Robert Norster and Alan Davies, manager and coach of the tour party, had openly criticised their team for not performing to their best.

They will need, Norster said, 'to sharpen up' this week before tackling Tonga and Western Samoa, the hard school of South Seas rugby, in the space of four days.

'A few years ago Welsh rugby was a bit of a joke, so I have nothing but admiration for their coaching team,' Fraser said. 'They will have them ready as a world force by next year and I think they are capable of reaching the semi-finals at the very least. Wales are the current trend setters.'

The first of two Welsh tries demonstrated Fraser's point as Adrian Davies sent Mike Rayer racing through a superbly made breach in the Fijian defence to score without a hand being laid on him.

Davies was in commanding form, resurrecting his battle with Neil Jenkins for the Welsh No 10 jersey and provid ing 13 points to add to Rayer's try and another from the flanker Richie Collins. His resurgence showed that Wales are developing considerable strength in depth.

Fiji: Try Veitayaki; Penalty Bogisa. Wales: Tries Rayer, Collins; Conversions A Davies 2; Penalties A Davies 3.

FIJI: R Bogisa; J Vidiri, J Toloi, E Nauga, P Tuidraki; F Rayasi, J McLennan; R Williams, E Batimala, J Veitayaki, I Tawake (capt), I Savai, S Matalulu, A Mocelutu, J Campbell (M Korovou, 58).

WALES: M Rayer (Cardiff); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), N Boobyer, N Davies, W Proctor (Llanelli); A Davies (Cardiff), R Moon; R Evans (Llanelli), R McBryde (Swansea), H Williams-Jones, A Copsey (Llanelli), P Arnold (Swansea), H Taylor (Cardiff), E Lewis (Llanelli), R Collins (Pontypridd). Replacement: P Davies (Llanelli) for Lewis, 73.

Referee: E Sklar (Argentina).