Wales. The great under-achievers of the Rugby World Cup.
Having placed third in the 1987 RWC, Wales never got as far as the quarterfinals, until 2011, where they placed fourth after, signalling a shift in momentum.
Sitting fifth in the World Rugby Rankings, with the only other European team ahead of them being England, Wales have propelled themselves back into the spotlight with four years of hard work and good wins.
Having won back-t0-back Six Nations titles in 2012 and 2013, the Welsh will be eager to keep the momentum of the last four years going as they look to solidify their top five spot in world rugby.
They have all the tools to upset the upper tier of teams and here is three things that could help them with that.
1. The Gatland Factor
Warren Gatland has really come into his own as an international coach.
He’s been at the head of Wales since 2007 and under his tutelage, they reached the semi finals of the RWC in 2011, won back-to-back Six Nations tournaments in 2012 and 2013, and he also led the British/Irish Lions to a successful tour around Australia in 2013.
Australia are arguably the toughest challenge for Wales in their pool so with most of the Welsh starting XV being in that Lions squad, they will be mentally prepared for their clash with the Wallabies.
2. Young Blood
Wales has arguably one of the most exciting young players at the tournament with George North.
No relation to Kanye, George North announced his arrival to World Rugby with style at the last World Cup aged just 19 years old.
He scored 2 tries after he came off the bench against Nambia, making him the youngest ever try scorer at a World Cup.
Over the last few years, he has grown into a real seasoned international player. At just aged 23, he already has 50 caps to his name and will be a staple for Wales this tournament if he can avoid any more concussion concerns.
Last Rugby World Cup could of had a very different outlook. Wales narrowly lost to France 9-8 in the Semi Finals in 2011.
France of course then went on and made the final against New Zealand and the Welsh supporters had to go home empty handed after getting so close to the biggest stage that they’ve had in world rugby since the 1987 World Cup where they placed 3rd.
This year, Wales will be the team that will sneak in key victories over higher ranked teams that will underestimate them.
Despite all the experts writing off Wales after injuries to key players Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb, Wales can go all the way.
With England and Australia to overcome in their Pool, it wont be a walk in the park for the Welsh Dragons but don’t be surprised if they come out number one in Pool A and make it to the next stage.
If they can get past that hurdle, the passion of the squad to make another semi and do one better will be a huge factor and could see them make it all the way to the final.
And the thought of doing that on their arch-rival’s home turf would be added incentive.