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'We are more like a club team than an international team'

By PA
Wales/ PA

Jonathan Humphreys says that Wales “cannot afford to go off-script” when they tackle Rugby World Cup opponents Georgia in Nantes on Saturday.

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Wales need a point from their Pool C finale to win the group, having already secured a quarter-final place through beating Australia by a record 40-6 scoreline nine days ago.

They lost 13-12 at home to Georgia when the countries last met almost a year ago, and Wales assistant coach Humphreys has emphasised a fierce sense of determination in the camp.

“There has been a bit of an edge about training, which is what we want,” forwards specialist Humphreys said.

“We are just keen to continue the progress that we’ve shown. That is a big driving force for us, and we have talked constantly about that.

“I expect them (Georgia) to play a bit, and they are strong up-front – we are under no illusion about that.

“They are a dangerous outfit, and we cannot afford to go off-script.”

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Few could have imagined Wales reaching the last eight just 11 months after Georgia triumphed 13-12 in Cardiff, and Humphreys added: “We’ve had five months together. We are more like a club team than an international team.

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“We came in earlier than most teams, we know what we wanted to improve and we haven’t deviated from that.

“Probably the messages that went out in May, they haven’t changed at all.

“Every day, it has been working on those fundamentals that we felt were important and would make a difference.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made six changes for the Georgia clash, with Dewi Lake captaining a side that also sees starts for wing Rio Dyer, fly-half Gareth Anscombe, scrum-half Tomos Williams, lock Dafydd Jenkins and flanker Tommy Reffell.

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Centre Nick Tompkins will continue his midfield partnership with George North, meanwhile, and look to maintain the form that has made him among Wales’ most impressive performers at the tournament.

“We want no dip in our performance,” Tompkins said.

“We want to get better, we don’t want to take our foot off the pedal – that’s the last thing we want. We want confidence and momentum and to keep on going.

“I want to just keep getting better and keep pushing myself. There are a lot of things I need to improve on.

“I am happy with some areas, but there are some things I really need to push myself on.

“You look at some of the other centres out there and how well they are doing, and you want to emulate that.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
4
Draws
0
Wins
1
Average Points scored
26
10
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
80%

“Being together as a squad for five months means you can have those little conversations and make little tweaks.

“You are all looking for little things to tweak and improve. It has been really healthy, and it has been all of us pushing each other.”

Tompkins has also voiced his support for the World Cup bunker system, whereby incidents of foul play can be referred and a yellow card retained or upgraded to red.

“I like it,” Tompkins added.

“Decisions are tough at the moment anyway, referees are under a lot of a pressure to keep the game moving quickly and get the right decision.

“I think it is brilliant, I like that model. To cut down the pressure we put on referees, especially, is good.”

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Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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