Rob Howley says Wales have reached ‘another level’ but ‘haven’t finished yet’ as they prepare to face France in the Rugby World Cup semi-final in Auckland on Saturday (Kick-off 9.00pm).
The assistant coach, who, alongside Warren Gatland, masterminds the attacking play of his national side, is as happy as the rest of the country that Wales have reached the last four of the RWC for only the second time in history.
He is daring to dream of going one further and securing a place in the final in two week’s time, but there is no suggestion that Howley or any of the rest of the coaching staff or players will relent on any of the hard work that has got them where they are to date.
“We have experienced heads like Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Gethin Jenkins, who have played a lot of places in world rugby, and even those players are taking their game to another level alongside the youngsters,”said Howley, speaking this afternoon (Sunday) from the team’s new headquarters at the Sky City hotel in Auckland.
“Warren Gatland and the players have set the standards and we now have an opportunity and a dream which we want to continue.
“But we realise it is all based on hard work and the players are very much looking forward to seizing upon the opportunity that is in front of them.
“We are in the semi final of the Rugby World Cup, the players have achieved that much, but we don’t think we have finished yet.
“We haven’t won anything, so our feet are firmly on the ground.
“Our players and our captain in particular are well rounded people, we felt before the game yesterday it wasn’t time to come home and we are still hungry for more today.”
Wales came through their impressive 22 -10 quarter-final victory over Ireland in Hamilton with no notable injury problems to report and will look to continue were they left off next weekend when they face the French.
“The players are in good shape, we picked up a couple of knocks with Rhys Priestland and Luke Charteris both taking bumps on the shoulder but they are both expected to be fine,” continued Howley.
“We played particularly well last night, we took our chances and the challenge now is for us to replicate that on Saturday night if we are to come anywhere near France at the weekend.
“We are under no illusion as to how good this French side are, they have world class players throughout the team. But, what we have tended to do over the last four or five weeks, is concentrate on ourselves and put our own game right in attack and defence and that will continue this week.
“We are just concentrating on ourselves. The confidence and momentum we achieved over that last few weeks is there for us to build on.”
From a personal point of view Howley is relishing the task ahead and particularly the chance to take his side to Eden Park.
“It’s just special to be in Auckland to play rugby,” he added.
“Personally I’ve never been to Eden Park and we are all looking forward to going there and playing there this weekend.
“Auckland is a pretty special place in the rugby world, so we are savouring the moment and looking forward to the event that is the RWC semi-final on Saturday.
“We have youth and exuberance and this side want to express themselves. These boys have worked particularly hard and there’s no fear there.
“We are in a cocoon here to a large extent, but we were all getting text messages through last night.
“We always say we have the best fans in world rugby and I’m sure Wales is going mad at this moment in time.
“Judging by some of the texts that came through last night, we know the whole of Wales is behind us.
“They will keep supporting us, whilst they are not all here in body they are here in mind. They’ve been through some tough times with us and I’m sure they are now, like us, very much looking forward to Saturday.”