With Wales' bronze medal loss to Australia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup it's a case of "four more years, boyos" to show they can triumph on rugby's biggest stage. However, with a 30-man squad that includes nine players who are 23 or younger, a couple of interim objectives will keep coach Warren Gatland's side focused.

The last of Wales' three wins over the All Blacks came in 1953 and they have only beaten the Springboks once in 1999 under then-coach Graham Henry. Veteran first-five Stephen Jones says along with securing further Six Nations titles, victories over New Zealand and South Africa are the next steps in the resurgence.

"They're among the final hurdles. We're aware we're pretty close but are not naive enough to believe we're there yet. As a group we would have liked to have achieved more [this time] but Welsh rugby is in great hands with the youngsters coming through. It shouldn't be a problem with the work ethic and the talent on show. They're a different breed."

Jones (34) reached 104 caps during this tournament but faces tough competition to retain his place from James Hook and 24-year-old newcomer Rhys Priestland, who shone before suffering a shoulder injury in the quarter-final.


Gatland stressed Priestland's importance to his enterprising vision: "[The loss to Australia] showed how much we missed Rhys at first-five. He's developed the most as a youngster at 10 in this tournament. His vision, calmness and how he made his centres look good should be commended."

Gatland's selection nous and nurturing touch can't be underestimated either, taking Wales within a missed kick of uncharted territory in the 9-8 semifinal loss to France. Examples include switching 1.92m winger George North to the left wing to mark Ireland aerial expert Tommy Bowe in the quarter-final; plucking 20-year-old Toby Faletau from relative obscurity as a hard-hitting defender with ball-playing skills to bolster the loose forwards; and drilling discipline into his trademark rush defence so they gave away few penalties but held firm, particularly in their own 22.

The wider picture is to win the 2015 World Cup. Gatland is contracted until then and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has committed to getting the majority of players into that bracket - many are signed until 2016.

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis says with the 2005 and 2008 Six Nations secured, they are already entering a golden era which may emulate that of the teams before the First World War and the late 1960s and 1970s. However, that does not include three fourth places in the Six Nations over the past three years. Better results are required to earn legendary status but, under Lewis, the WRU has reduced its debt to an all-time low, increased investment by about 30 per cent and increased revenue by about 27 per cent.

Lewis said they focused first on the Wales team, because "a winning Wales filling the Millennium Stadium drives the machine.

"That is what captures the hearts of the Welsh public."

In 2009, they began to address player depth by opening the centre of excellence just outside Cardiff at Vale of Glamorgan, a base for any player or team that represents Wales, including the reigning Sevens World Cup champions. Having age-grade and academy players train alongside the senior team fuels ambitions.

Three of the current national squad, including Faletau, have graduated from the under-20 side since the centre opened. Gatland said he'll begin planning for 2015 as soon as he returns to Wales.


Only a handful of players will be out of contention for the next Cup when Wales will play most pool matches at home.

- Additional reporting: AP