After suffering their third Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of South Africa on Sunday, Welsh rugby is having to come to terms with another disappointment; but as one era ends, former winger Shane Williams sees lots of hope for the future.
Head coach Warren Gatland will step down following the bronze match against New Zealand on Friday, having taken Wales to the brink of the World Cup final twice, first in 2011 when they lost by a point to France and then the 19-16 loss on Sunday.
Williams, who scored three tries during Wales’ 2011 campaign, stressed that Sunday’s loss will be particularly bitter for the likes of captain Alun Wyn Jones and winger George North who have now lost two semi-finals.
“It stings. For me, as an ex-player, it stings but I can’t imagine what the lads are feeling, especially as there are lads there who would have gone through the exact same thing in 2011,” Williams told Reuters on Monday.
Despite winning three Grand Slams with Wales and 133 caps, Jones was understandably left devastated by Sunday’s loss and, although he has not said he will be retiring, it appears the 34-year-old will not have another World Cup tilt.
Williams, himself World Player of the Year in 2008, said that Jones was the best player he ever lined up next to.
Gatland may not have managed to take Wales to the promised land of a first World Cup final but the New Zealander will be leaving following Friday’s bronze final against his homeland after 12 highly successful years in charge.
He has won four Six Nations titles and made Wales a force to be reckoned with again on the world stage.
Williams believes that incoming head coach Wayne Pivac, who will take over following the World Cup, has the perfect platform to build on Gatland’s success.