State of the Nation: Wales

Date published: November 5 2015

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As we do at the end of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Wales!

Although they went one stage further in 2011, under the circumstances the 2015 effort has to be viewed as a positive campaign from the men in red.

Second in the pool of death ahead of main host England and pushing eventual finalists Australia all the way, this was a showing that made Warren Gatland and Welsh fans proud. Unfortunately they suffered a quarter-final defeat to South Africa, which could have gone either way.

Injuries will be the lasting memory for many in Wales as losing Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Webb, Scott Williams to name but a few seriously impacted on their hopes of going all the way in England. Who is to say how far they could have got with an injury-free side.

But there were several bright moments to store in the memory bank before the Six Nations, beating England at Twickenham being a highlight, while Alun-Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Sam Warburton were a spine for a relatively inexperienced backline that was constantly changing.

Wales prepared as well as they thought possible in Switzerland and Qatar but those injury absences ultimately cost them further progress.

Success stories were created though from front to back in this line-up as Tomas Francis and Samson Lee combined well as tighthead options while lock Jones and the back-row continued to shine. Gareth Davies' fine performances cushioned the absence of Webb no end as he scored five tries in the tournament while Dan Biggar was their star man as he came of age, scoring 56 points in authoritative shifts throughout.

The next task for Wales is getting those injured players back into action with their respective regions and preparing for the Six Nations, with the coaching team also yet to be finalised as Shaun Edwards' future remains unclear – although Gatland is eager to keep things as is.

Will new faces come in on the field from what we saw during the Rugby World Cup? That seems unlikely although one player making plenty of noise in the PRO12 has been flank James Davies. His stumbling block however comes in the form of captain Warburton and the superb Justin Tipuric.

After 2011 when they were harshly bundled out of the competition in the semi-finals to France, 2015 was set to be the golden time for the Welsh as many of the squad remained together.

Sometimes things don't turn out as planned though as with a tough pool and as bad luck with injuries as a team can get, the Springboks were just that bit fresher than Gatland's men. We expect this lot to be a real force in 2016.

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