Heads Held High: Wales’ Rugby World Cup 2011
Foreword by Phill Bennett, Afterword by Max Boyce
For two weeks in October, Wales held its breath. In the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, the Wales team had negotiated a difficult qualifying group to reach a quarter final against an unbeaten Ireland side which had already disposed of Australia. Wales had done it with an influx of young players and probably the most exciting rugby played in the competition. And if the rugby was at times electrifying, so was the effect at home.
Ireland were despatched 22:10; next up was a France side which had misfired throughout the tournament. In New Zealand and at home, Wales believed: over 60,000 people watched the game at the Millennium Stadium. But injuries to key players, the controversial sending off of skipper Sam Warburton, missed kicks and a France team which now remembered how to defend meant that Wales came up just short in a grippingly tense match they dominated. The final everyone wanted to watch – New Zealand vs Wales – wasn’t to be.
And defeat against Australia in their last game left Wales fourth in the competition. Yet this was still a time for celebration. Wales had lost to three of the world’s top sides by a collective margin of five points. It couldn’t have been closer, and having won new admirers around the world with their style of rugby, the Wales squad could return home confident for the future and with their heads held high.
Max Boyce is a comedian, singer and rugby icon. His career took off during the seventies when Wales dominated northern hemisphere rugby, and his passion for the game and his rugby-related songs seemed to define the Welsh rugby fan. ‘Hymns and Arias’ is sung at Wales international matches today, and rugby (including the 2011 World Cup campaign) is a feature of his songwriting still.
Phil Bennett is one of Wales’ most famous fly-halves. He played for Llanelli, masterminding their famous victory over the All Blacks in 1972, and for Wales between 1969 and 1978, who he also captained in the final years of his career. A regular with the Barbarians, he toured with the British Lions in South Africa in 1974 and captained their 1977 tour to New Zealand. He is now a television commentator and newspaper columnist.