Rugby World Cup 2011: History beckons for Wales, says Neil Jenkins

Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-finals: Wales v France

Venue:
Eden Park, Auckland
Date:
Saturday, 15 October
Kick-off:
0900 BST/ 2100 NZ
Coverage:
Live text commentary, scores and report on BBC website; updates on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio 5 live; watch live on ITV1, ITV Wales & S4C (Welsh language), live commentary on BBC Radio Cymru (Welsh language) & TalkSport radio

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Jenkins says World Cup semi-final is perhaps the biggest game in Welsh history

Wales play possibly the most important game in their history when they face France in Saturday's World Cup semi-final, says skills coach Neil Jenkins.

"We've been involved in a lot of Grand Slams and Triple Crowns, and third place in 87 after a heavy defeat to New Zealand in the semi-final," he said.

"But this is the biggest game I've certainly been involved in and the players have been involved in.

"And it's the biggest maybe in Welsh rugby history."

Having started the tournament with a one-point loss to defending champions South Africa, Wales secured their fourth successive win on Saturday, beating Ireland 22-10 in the quarter-finals.

Jenkins said confidence in the squad has blossomed with each victory but added that the performance against the Springboks was crucial in building self-belief among the players.

"When Wales have won Grand Slams in the past, we're all about momentum," said Jenkins, who won 84 caps for Wales and won a Test series with the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 1997.

"When that first win comes in Grand Slam years, we seem to get better and better. I know we lost to South Africa first up but it was like a psychological win for us.

"We played well on the day and thought we probably should have won the game and we took a lot of confidence from that.

"I think that was shown in the win over Samoa a week later. We've just built from there and the boys seem to be getting stronger and stronger."

An uncompromising defensive effort was again evident as Wales stood firm against concerted Ireland pressure on Saturday.

Warren Gatland's men also showed a ruthless streak by capitalising on any half-chances to score three tries, and Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris believes Wales have the potential to go all the way.

"If Wales play like they did against us, there's no reason why they can't win the World Cup," said the Ulster back row.

"They were very smart and took every opportunity. They have big, strong ball carriers and a magnificent back row.

"They've brought in a lot of young guys who have confidence and self-belief.

"They have the right blend of youth and experience. Fair play to them, they beat us."

Despite all the plaudits, Jenkins stressed there was no real sense of achievement yet within the Wales squad, who know that a first World Cup final appearance beckons with one more big effort.

"You can all say we've reached the semis but we don't feel that we're done yet and we've got a fantastic chance, as have France, on Saturday," said Jenkins, who revealed that he expects Rhys Priestland and Luke Charteris to be fit for Saturday.

"We've got a lot to play for and this is a great opportunity. You never know do you - you haven't got a clue what will happen to us in four years' time so we've got to take this opportunity now. I'm sure the French feel the same."

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