Rugby World Cup 2011

Pacific teams are 'dangerous'

2011-08-04 12:22
Tom Shanklin (File)

London - Wales veteran Tom Shanklin has warned his countrymen that the Pacific Island sides pose a danger to the teams’ chances of escaping from their Rugby World Cup group.

The 31-year-old former centre retired in April this year, after suffering a knee injury, but was a member of the 2007 World Cup team which failed to qualify for the quarter-finals because of a dramatic 38-34 loss to Fiji in Nantes, western France.

This year Wales will face two Pacific teams (Fiji and Samoa) in Group D, along with defending champions South Africa and minnows Namibia.

"It's a tough, tough group, I look at that and think I'm glad I retired. These island teams are getting better and better year in, year out, with size and strength,” said Shanklin.

"Probably they don't play at a high enough club level but a lot of players for Samoa, Tonga and Fiji are (doing so) now, and that makes it even tougher. A lot of that is down to their top players playing for top teams in the northern and southern hemisphere.”

Samoa and Fiji are currently placed below Wales in the world rankings - at 10th and 14th respectively with Wales are at 7th - but a 16-16 draw played out by Wales and Fiji in November last year suggests that the teams are equally matched.

But, despite the challenge from Samoa and Fiji, Shanklin believes his former colleagues have every reason to believe they can reach the last eight.

"If they play well enough, they will get out of the group. They didn't have the best Six Nations but it doesn't really matter because the World Cup's all about how you play on the day," said Shanklin.

Wales play three warm-up fixtures this month - starting with a trip to Twickenham to face England on Saturday, before a return match in Cardiff on August 13 and then taking on Argentina at the Millennium Stadium on August 20.

Shanklin, who had been with Cardiff Blues since 2003 before retiring, scored 100 points in 70 appearances, making him Wales’ 11th most-capped player. He also toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2005.


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