With a 40-17 defeat to New Zealand in the bronze medal match, Wales’ 2019 Rugby World Cup journey came to a close in Tokyo.
A fourth-placed finish failed to eclipse what the class of ‘87 achieved back at the very first global gathering but equalled head coach Warren Gatland’s best finish at the tournament.
The players will take little consolation from that.
They came to Japan with the aim to return home with the Webb Ellis Cup, and little else mattered.
Nonetheless, it was a rollercoaster ride over the seven weeks that Wales spent in Japan.
It was a tournament which started so brightly and offered plenty of promise. Unfortunately, the toil of the competition and injuries began to take their toll.
The players and management first met up six months ago to begin preparations for this World Cup in Japan.
Here’s how the players rated when they finally got out on to the pitch…
ALUN WYN JONES 9
What is there to say?
Pick any superlative you want. Players like him are a rare breed. Was the tournament’s top tackler with 79 hits. Says it all. A leader that the entire country, not only the squad, get behind.
JOSH ADAMS 9
Was the tournament’s top try-scorer and set a Welsh record for tries scored at a World Cup with seven, overtaking Shane Williams’ tally from 2007. Made more than twice as many line breaks as any other Wales player. The biggest attacking weapon.
AARON WAINWRIGHT 8.5
Amid a staggering rise to prominence, Wainwright has already proven himself to be capable of not just holding his own but thriving on the international stage. His physicality and athleticism have already drawn comparisons with former Wales skipper Sam Warburton.
WYN JONES 8
Eyebrows were raised when Rob Evans missed out on selection but Jones has vindicated Gatland’s decision and then some. Grown to become Wales’ premier loose-head throughout the tournament.
JAKE BALL 8
Just a few short months ago he appeared to be Wales’ fourth choice. Proved undroppable throughout the tournament.
A constant source of go-forward and was rarely, if ever, stopped behind the gainline. A real weapon for Wales.
JUSTIN TIPURIC 8
It’s been easy to take Tipuric for granted at times but he was consistently good throughout the tournament. Perhaps hasn’t been as much of a factor at the breakdown as he might have liked but those nice touches in wide channels and work rate in defence have all been there.
JOSH NAVIDI 8
The loss of Navidi was the biggest Wales suffered during the tournament. His absence was felt in the physical battle against South Africa.
A relentless battler who made his presence felt every time he took the field.
GARETH DAVIES 8
Question marks over Davies’ game management linger but he had a considerable amount of positive impacts on games, particularly early in the tournament. His work in defence was a real weapon and teams had to adjust because of his threat.
LIAM WILLIAMS 8
On a personal level, the tournament ended in heartbreaking fashion. But before injury cut short his tournament, he was the creative spark behind and was a solid last line of defence. Heart of a lion.
KEN OWENS 7.5
There isn’t a wall that Owens wouldn’t run through for his country. The hooker always made himself an option, went about a lot of the unglamorous work. The heartbeat of the side.
ELLIOT DEE 7.5
Whenever Owens was replaced, his absence wasn’t felt and that is testament to Dee’s development into a genuine Test player. Came good in some big moments in the biggest games of his career.
TOMAS FRANCIS 7.5
There were reservations about Francis before the tournament as he was picked for his scrummaging and Wales’ scrum had struggled in the warm-ups. But he got things right in this tournament and cemented his place as Wales’ top tight-head.
DILLON LEWIS 7.5
Similar to Dee, Lewis is part of the generation that will take Wales through to the next World Cup. It was encouraging to see him stand up to the pressure of these games and not go into his shell. Brilliant around the park.
ROSS MORIARTY 7.5
The disappointment was obvious when he lost his place in the starting side. Feared the high tackle against France was going to define his tournament, but did what he does best and was one of Wales’ top carriers, despite making four appearances off the bench.
TOMOS WILLIAMS 7.5
Limited to largely coming off the bench but made obvious impacts in games. Dovetailed nicely with Gareth Davies.
If he continues on his current trajectory, could well soon become the starting No 9. Always a threat.
DAN BIGGAR 7.5
Has his detractors but had a good tournament despite two head knocks. An ultimate competitor who implemented the gameplan he was asked to.
Proved he could get a backline moving in the win over Georgia.
RHYS PATCHELL 7.5
After a tough year, it was great to see Patchell find his confidence again on the international stage. Got a deserved start against the All Blacks but wasn’t used in crunch games against France and South Africa.
JONATHAN DAVIES 7.5
Wasn’t the same player after he suffered a nasty knee injury against Fiji and, by his own admission, wasn’t fully fit. Up until that point he looked every bit the world-class player that he is.
RHYS CARRE 7
There will be a lot of excitement about Carre after this tournament and rightly so. Has lessons to learn at the scrum but the experiences he’s had will have done the 21-year-old the world of good.
Brilliant carrying in the loose. Unlimited potential.
ADAM BEARD 7
Did incredibly well to even take part in this World Cup after having his appendix out the day the squad flew out to Japan. By the time he arrived, he was unable to oust the impressive Jake Ball.
Will still have learned an incredible amount.
AARON SHINGLER 7
Did well to cover second row when Wales were short early on in the tournament and that contribution must be noted. Overcame a horror knee injury to even make the trip.
HADLEIGH PARKES 7
Was significantly banged up by the time the business end of the tournament came around with a broken bone in his hand and a shoulder knock. Only Adams carried more as Parkes crashed up the middle regularly, setting a platform but faded as the tournament wore on.
OWEN WATKIN 7
Had limited involvement in the tournament but stood in commendably for Jonathan Davies in the quarter-final. Didn’t put a foot wrong.
Had to play on the wing in the semi-final and had limited impact. Another who will benefit from the experience.
GEORGE NORTH 7
Wales’ biggest weapon will be frustrated at the lack of ball he received. Claims he wasn’t looking for work are false, he ventured off his wing regularly, the ball just never came.
Without his key defensive interventions against France and Fiji, Wales’ tournament would have ended earlier.
LEIGH HALFPENNY 7
Showed shades of the Halfpenny of old with his limited opportunities. Followed an impressive showing against Uruguay with a solid one against South Africa.
HALLAM AMOS 7
Had a difficult night against Uruguay, with three tries wiped out, one as a result of an over-acrobatic finish. Redeemed himself with a fine performance and a try from full-back – his best position – against New Zealand.
JAMES DAVIES 6.5
Struggled to impose himself against Fiji and got shown a yellow card in a game that should have suited him. Was involved a bit more against New Zealand with some nice touches and decent work at the breakdown.
NICKY SMITH 6
A difficult tournament for the Osprey who, not so long ago, was viewed as Wales’ top loose-head by some. Has obvious qualities, particularly in the loose, but struggled to impose himself when he had the chance.
RYAN ELIAS 6
Was always going to struggle for game time in Japan with Ken Owens and Elliot Dee the clear preferred options. Played less minutes than any other Welsh player.
BRADLEY DAVIES 6
Called out to the tour late to replace the injured Cory Hill. Had a solid solitary outing against Uruguay and captained the side when Justin Tipuric left the field.
Was always unlikely to push for a place in the side during the latter stages.
ALED DAVIES 6
Got a start against Uruguay but was part of a side that struggled to find their rhythm after wholesale changes. Couldn’t do enough to displace Gareth Davies or Tomos Williams.
OWEN LANE 6
Has gained valuable experience in coming out to Japan after impressing the Wales management over the last 18 months. Got an opportunity against the All Blacks but not as involved as he would have liked.
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