Hadleigh Parkes column: Semi-final heartache and facing All Blacks

Hadleigh Parkes column
2019 Rugby World Cup bronze final
Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo Date: Friday, 1 November Time: 09:00 GMT
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

In his latest BBC Sport column, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes reflects on the disappointment of World Cup semi-final defeat and the excitement he is feeling about facing New Zealand where he was born and brought up.

Everybody is still so disappointed about not making the World Cup final after the semi-final defeat against South Africa.

It would have been awesome but unfortunately we could not quite get over the finish line last Sunday.

But we have a final game to concentrate on and it will be exciting to face New Zealand in the bronze match.

Everybody would have preferred to have reached the World Cup final but it is still a great challenge against the All Blacks.

Every Test is important but playing against New Zealand has a little bit more added interest for me.

I know a couple of the boys in the squad, most notably their flanker Matt Todd.

We used to live together for about a year at university in Christchurch and we also played club rugby together.

He was a good housemate but a terrible cook. He has children now so hopefully he has improved!

It will be nice to run into him, maybe tackle him on Friday and have a bit of banter.

My parents will be watching the game in Tokyo. They will be excited and I think they will be stoked if Wales win.

It has been awesome having them here from the first game against Georgia and it was their 40th wedding anniversary on the weekend of the semi-final.

They have loved every minute and all my older brothers Ben, Greg and Scott were also here for the South Africa game.

We don't actually get to see each other and get together very often, so it has been special to be able to do that.

Tough Test

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Warren Gatland ahead of his final match in charge of Wales

New Zealand are a team we respect hugely and it's going to be a tough challenge.

It has been almost 66 years since Wales have beaten the All Blacks so we are looking forward to trying to finish what has been a fantastic tournament on a high note.

It would be so nice to mark Warren Gatland's final game with a win because he has done so much for Welsh rugby over the last 12 years and gave me my international chance.

You also have to take your hat off to Steve Hansen (New Zealand coach) who has a pretty fantastic record. I know he will want to finish on a high but so will Warren and a few of the other coaching staff members who are leaving.

We will be facing the haka which will be a familiar feeling for me. Every school in New Zealand virtually has a haka and you face it often when you are playing sport in that environment.

It will be a nice challenge to be laid down. It is something special New Zealand teams always do, so it will be enjoyable to face and then hopefully we will get stuck into them.

Semi-final sorrow

Hadleigh Parkes swaps shirts with South Afrcia's Damian De Allende
Hadleigh Parkes swaps shirts with South Afrcia's Damian De Allende

It has been a strange build-up following the South Africa defeat.

You put so much time and effort into this journey and there has been so much build-up with almost five months leading up to this occasion.

It makes you realise how small the margins are. If a couple of things were done differently, maybe a couple of decisions had gone differently, maybe we would have been playing on a Saturday in a World Cup final.

You have to give full credit to the Springboks because they are a superb side and I think they will do well this weekend.

So this week has certainly been different but you want to go out there and finish well by putting in a good performance.

Monday and Tuesday were admittedly a bit slow. By Tuesday evening we started to click in because we have a Test match to play.

We can still create something special by being that first Welsh side to beat the All Blacks since 1953. That would be pretty cool to be a part of.

Replacements role

Hadleigh Parkes
Hadleigh Parkes started all Wales group matches - scoring one try - as well as the quarter-final and semi-final

I have a slightly different role this week, being named a replacement after starting the first six games.

There has been a lot of rugby in Japan for me but I have enjoyed it. It would have been nice to have continued the run of starts because you always want to do that but I am happy with whatever role I am given.

Foxy (Jonathan Davies) has been injured and I have had a couple of niggles throughout the tournament, so it's just about making sure we have a fresh line-up out there.

There have been a few changes made and it's exciting for those boys who have not had many starts. Coming off the bench you need to be able to make an impact and it's a role that will hopefully go okay for me.

The match will complete what has been a brilliant couple of months.

Japan is an amazing place. The people have been so hospitable and friendly and great ambassadors for the tournament.

I have not heard anyone say a bad word about the country. The food has been outstanding and everywhere we have gone the support for the Welsh team has been amazing.

Wales did a superb job before the tournament in Kitakyushu with the support we had down there and having 15,000 fans turning out to watch us train. That just set the tone. It has been a dream eight weeks and an amazing experience.

I will be glad to get back though. I am excited for what is coming up with my wife Suzy and I expecting our first child very soon.

We have spent a lot of time talking on Facetime over the last couple of months and luckily the baby has not arrived while I have been out here.

So I am sure the next couple of weeks in Cardiff will be busy.

It is a great time in my life and people have told me having children and becoming a father or mother puts a lot of things in perspective.

I am looking forward to experiencing that after these awesome couple of months in Japan which I will never forget.

Hadleigh Parkes was speaking to BBC Sport Wales' Gareth Griffiths

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