Whilst the Welsh team are currently focussing all of their energies on the 2015 World Cup, we look ahead to why they may dominate in 2019.
Now, there is every chance they will be challenging for the World Cup title this year, but looking ahead, the 2019 World Cup looks very winnable from a Welsh perspective. This isn’t because of a raft of new players coming through, or because of their aggressive fitness regimens, rather it’s because of the current squad.
The scary thing is that by 2019, the vast majority of the Welsh starting XV is likely to be appearing at their third World Cup. The side who turn out at the 2015 World Cup is likely to look very similar to the team who turned out in 2011, and it’s hard to see too many of the faces changing before 2019 given the average age of the squad.
Of the current team, the only ones likely to have retired by 2019 are Richard Hibbard and Gethin Jenkins. Even then, there is still a chance they could be in or around the squad if fitness permits, and they can maintain the fire. Beyond that, it’s easy to see the whole side being available for selection in 2019.
At this stage, it’s pertinent to remember that this is the team that narrowly missed out on the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, after seeing their captain sent off, and narrowly missing a kick at the posts in the dying minutes. By 2019, the majority of this squad will have been playing together on a regular basis for over 10 years.
Gatland has also done a good job of bringing in new talent, and giving them international exposure in preparation for them stepping up. Adam Jones has already been (somewhat controversially) replaced by Samson Lee, whilst Rhys Webb is currently transitioning over from Mike Phillips at scrum half.
There are also a number of younger players who can be cycled into the squad over the next four years in preparation for the World Cup. The likes of Rhys Patchell and Hallam Amos potentially have big futures for Wales, and will be stepping into a firmly established Welsh squad that will provide them with plenty of support.
This means Warren Gatland has options in a number of positions, and can afford to make a couple of strategic changes, whilst still maintaining the core of an experienced squad. Just imagine the experience players like Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau and Alun Wyn Jones will have by 2019.
That is one hell of a core whilst still ignoring players like Dan Lydiate, Samson Lee, Alex Cuthbert, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb who if they can maintain their form are all likely to be heading into at least their second World Cup by 2019. Whilst individually they may not necessarily match up to the likes of the All Blacks and Springboks, as a unit they will be more than a match, given the understand developed between key personnel over the course of a decade.
Do you think Wales could be serious contenders for the 2019 Rugby World Cup?