Wales have sought inspiration from former world boxing champion Joe Calzaghe as they look to pile the pressure on last Saturday’s victims England by winning today’s Pool A game against Fiji in the Millennium Stadium .
The squad were given a private viewing of the soon-to-be-released documentary Mr Calzaghe then enjoyed an informal chat with the former super middleweight world champion, who grew up in Newbridge, South Wales, and his father and trainer Enzo.
Calzaghe, who boasted 21 successful defences before hanging up his gloves seven years ago undefeated in 46 professional fights, drew parallels between his own fight career, which saw him become the longest-reigning super middleweight world champion in history, and those of his rugby-playing compatriots.
Forwards coach Robin McBryde said: “It came across that he’s been true to his roots in Newbridge, had that never-say-die attitude and always saw himself as the underdog and trained as such. He thrived on that. It was great to have some respite from the rugby and talk to one of the best boxers in the world.”
Full-back Matthew Morgan, who makes his first start for Wales replacing a concussed Liam Williams, agreed. “I do watch a bit of boxing and I did watch some of his fights when I was younger,” said Morgan. “He said he always liked to be the underdog in every fight he went into but he obviously came out on top all the time. Wales were underdogs on the weekend and came out on top and beat England.”
Wales have had star-studded backing behind the scenes at the tournament to date. The singer Tom Jones gave the players their jerseys for the England game, while the actor David Hasselhoff, whose girlfriend is Welsh, has been one of their most staunch supporters.
McBryde joked: “Tom Jones one week, Joe Calzaghe the next, there’s pressure on who comes next week.”
As for the Fiji game, McBryde said Morgan, who has played the majority of his rugby for Championship side Bristol at fly-half and goes into today’s encounter as a relative unknown on the international stage, would bring a “bit of magic” to Wales’ back line when they are anything but underdogs against Fiji.
“He’s quite a slippery character,” said McBryde of Morgan. “I wouldn’t want to stop him in a five-metre channel.
“One of the best things with Matthew’s selection is the fact the whole of Wales can see the strengths he’s got and can identify him as a Wales player of old with that swing of the hips, that extra bit of magic, something different. He’s akin to Shane Williams with regards to the threat he possesses.
“And because the supporters can identify with that they’ll get behind him and the roar will go up and the anticipation will grow when he gets the ball. It’s good to have someone of Matthew’s capabilities in the team because he’s quite a threat.”
Morgan is so excited about being called up he has had trouble sleeping. “I was over the moon when I was told of my selection but I actually struggled to fall asleep last night,” he said. “So I spoke to the doctor and asked if he could help out me to sleep tonight. But I’m really looking forward to the occasion.”
Morgan, at 5ft 7in, is also looking forward to the fact that Fiji’s 20-stone winger Nemani Nadolo will miss the match through suspension. “I think anyone would be glad,” he said. “I think they will miss him.”
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