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17th Oct 2015

‘Welsh players will see it as a failure if they don’t win the World Cup’ – Gareth Thomas talks to JOE

Kevin Beirne

During his playing career, Gareth Thomas was the ultimate utility back.

Able to play anywhere along the backline, his adaptability made him the first Welsh player to earn a century of international caps, captaining his country as well as the British and Irish Lions along the way.

Even when his time in a Welsh jersey was over, he continued to break down barriers in the sport after coming out as gay in 2009.

JOE was lucky enough to have a chat with the man they call Alfie to ask him all about the World Cup quarter-final between Wales and South Africa.

LONDON - FEBRUARY 04: Gareth Thomas of Wales passes the ball during the RBS Six Nations Championship match between England and Wales at Twickenham on February 4, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

What do you think the mood will be like in the Welsh camp ahead of their quarter-final against South Africa?

I think they’ll be extremely confident. It’s a team that Wales are very capable of beating. They beat them at the end of last year. Even though people think Wales will be down after losing to Australia, I think they can look at it with a lot of positives.

I think they’ll go into it in a very confident mood. Throughout this World Cup they’ve been fighting against so many different things like injuries and the constant being the underdog.

For the Welsh nation, it’s kind of the easiest thing to be the underdog because that’s where they perform the most so in that way it’s no different to any other weekend in which we play.

How important is last November’s win over South Africa for the Welsh confidence going into this game?

It’s important going in with the knowledge that we know we can beat them. But I don’t think it’s a game-breaker as far as a World Cup goes. Between northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere teams, it’s always a little bit of psychological warfare knowing that we never really beat the big three on a regular basis but now we can.

It gives you a slight bit of confidence going into it but I think they’ll take a lot more from the last couple of performances – particularly from before the Australia game – than they will from having beaten South Africa.

Wales v South Africa - International Match

Do you think South Africa’s loss to Japan has kicked them back into shape?

I think they were already in shape. Sometimes in rugby a team plays to its maximum capabilities and things don’t go right for the team playing against them. I think it was good for the South African mindset and every game they’ve played since then.

In a group that could have been deemed an easy one for them, all of a sudden each match was a massive big game. They’ve been playing knockout rugby ever since then. In a strange way, it’s probably a positive for them.

What can people expect from Tyler Morgan in this game?

He’s a good player. He’s kind of inexperienced but he’s also been around the squad for a while as well. So he’s been around the training environment and the training environment the boys have is very intense.

It’s a bit of a cliche that anything can happen in a one-off game but I think that it’s the kind of game where a young centre could really be thriving. This time four years ago he was doing his GCSEs and now he’s playing in a World Cup quarter-final.

It’s kind of a massive rise to stardom but it’s something that I think you have to grasp. Sometimes people take a long time to get to the top and sometimes it happens in a very quick manner.

He’s had a real rise to prevalence in this World Cup. He played well against Fiji. He wasn’t outstanding but he didn’t do anything wrong either. The Welsh team isn’t about individuals, really. It’s about the collective. So long as he fits into that, he should be in good stead.

Wales v Fiji - Group A: Rugby World Cup 2015

Is it a good match-up for him to go against another young centre in Jesse Kriel?

Experience can count for a certain amount but you have to have a sense of enthusiasm. They’re two players who as far as international experience goes, they might be relatively new but they’ve been in the squad and played top-flight rugby week-in, week-out.

A World Cup quarter-final, as I’ve said, could be a case of do you need experience or do you need exciting youngsters? That’s what these guys bring, although they might not have the experience of someone like Schalk Burger or Sam Warburton.

How well do you expect the Welsh team to face up to the South African pack?

This weekend for me is about two teams – especially in the pack – who play very similar. So it’s going to be one hell of an arm wrestle. Defensively the both like to dominate teams when they don’t have the ball so they’re quite happy to not have the ball and dominate teams like that.

It’s going to be a really interesting physical match. The set piece is going to be huge. We’ve been creaking a little bit in the scrums so I’m sure that South Africa are going to come after us in the scrums.

I think both teams are quite predictable in the way that they play, so I think that both packs at the end of the game will know that they’ve been in a really physical test match.

South Africa v New Zealand - The Rugby Championship

Do Wales need to win this game to consider their World Cup a success or is it just a success to have gotten out of that group?

Well I think it depends on who defines a success. If you’re asking me, then I’d say yeah it’s a success to get out of that group. But I think the way the players have been talking, they’ve come here to win the World Cup.

Slowly but surely, everybody in Wales is starting to believe that because they talk about it constantly. All of a sudden we’re seeing a group of players that who collectively believe that they can beat any team in the World Cup so that fills everybody with confidence.

I’m sure that for the players if they lose to South Africa then the World Cup will be deemed a failure because they wanted to win it. But if you’re asking me a personal question, then with the way that they’ve coped with adversity and the way that they’ve played against England and Australia, you could take a lot more positives from it than negatives.

But what everybody loves about this team is the fact that they will deem it as a failure if they don’t win because they want to win a World Cup.

Gareth Thomas features in the latest Guinness campaign which celebrates stories of integrity and character from the world of rugby. To watch the films visit