Hugo Southwell: Wales plot a simple path to world domination

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The Independent Online

Welsh rugby is definitely going places. Newly installed as the fourth-best country in the rankings, they are right there in the upper echelons of world rugby.

Having played against them last weekend, I understand only too well how good they are. Warren Gatland has obviously played a huge role in this, not only by simplifying their plays on the pitch but also by dealing with the weight of expectation from the Welsh public off the field. It would be easy to panic or shy away from the favourites tag, but Gatland has embraced it and his players have responded in the best possible manner. The belief they have in what they are trying to do really came to the fore on Sunday and it showed what a strong unity they have within their squad.

How good are Wales? On the back of Sunday's performance, I believe Wales are a very good side who can only get better. International teams are judged on results and in order to be a great team you have to win on a consistent basis against the top teams in the world. I believe Wales have the players and the coaches in place to push on and become a dominant force in world rugby.

The intensity, toughness and competitive nature of their squad was clearly visible on Sunday. It all starts up front with the forwards and the Welsh pack, led by the awesome Martyn Williams, put in a commanding performance. This gave the backs quick ball and allowed the likes of Jamie Roberts and the danger man, Shane Williams, to execute their array of skills. The simplicity and decisiveness of Wales' game plan at the moment reminds me of the All Blacks, but with slightly less tactical kicking. Although it may seem otherwise, they don't play complex rugby until they get in behind the opposition. Roberts in the centre is a key figure, providing the perfect foil for the Welsh style and creating the space for his destructive runners out wide.

Their clinical finishing once they did get in behind us will have been the envy of a lot of teams. The execution of their core skills and running and support lines were at times brilliant and very difficult to cope with.

How good can they become? I believe they have the talent to be one of the very best sides Wales has ever produced. They have an aura that resembles the All Blacks and are playing with huge confidence. There is a vital blend of youth and experience, with the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Roberts, Mike Phillips and James Hook complementing the older heads such as Shane Williams, Martyn Williams, Stephen Jones and Andy Powell. They should still be very much together come the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011. If they maintain their focus they can think about winning it.

Next, though, is England this afternoon. Though the English weren't at their best against Italy, I am sure they will provide Wales with a stern physical test. With Wales having displayed a massive physical presence against us, I am sure they will seek to stamp their authority early on. If England can contain this early onslaught then it could be a tight game. If not, the floodgates may open and Wales may again show us that they are not just the side to beat in this championship, but also in the world.

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