Just as Fiji are wondering how they can be ranked ninth in the world and not be included in the 12-team World League, so too must Wales be wondering how they can sit third in the rankings and yet have convinced so few people they are a possible World Cup winner later this year.

Fiji had the more compelling reason to feel hard done by last week, but Wales too could rightly feel aggrieved that they beat England and still no one has them pegged as a genuine World Cup contender.

Wales have won a record 12 tests in succession and are the only unbeaten team in the Six Nations. They are a good side. An excellent side maybe but is anyone outside of Wales viewing them as a potential winner in Japan later this year?

Undoubtedly not. New Zealand, Ireland and England, yes. All three are capable of winning the World Cup.


South Africa, probably given the way they can play when they get everything right and as mad as it may seem, there will be some money invested in the Wallabies, who despite their flaws and lack of form in recent seasons, are the sort of team many still feel could suddenly come good and surprise everyone.

But Wales remain strangely ignored and if there is a reason for that it's because no one can see them beating the All Blacks. And that's the key to being taken seriously at a World Cup – arrive there with a proven or strongly suspected ability to beat the All Blacks.

It's entirely possible to win a World Cup without facing the All Blacks as the winners in 2007, 2003 and 1999 all proved, but the odds are stacked such that it is more probable that the All Blacks are going to stand between the Webb Ellis Cup and any serious challenger.

Hence, pre-tournament favouritism tags are only slapped on those teams that are deemed, for whatever reason, to have it in them to beat New Zealand.

Wales haven't managed to do that since the 1950s whereas Ireland, England, South Africa and Australia have all done it in recent times and appear entirely capable – even Australia – of being able to do it again at the World Cup.

Wales as good as they are and as well as they are playing, don't convince as being good enough to beat the All Blacks. It's a harsh assessment but there's no compelling reason to see them as capable of doing it.

They can absolutely get close. They have done that many times in the last two decades, but they have never been able to find the killer blow.

In 2004 they had the All Blacks on the ropes. A young New Zealand team being captained by Richie McCaw for the first time were punch drunk and vulnerable in Cardiff.


Wales had them where they wanted them but in the final 10 minutes, belief slipped and the moment passed. They didn't have the mental edge they needed to hold on for the full 80 minutes.

In 2009 they were in the fight again but it was the same old Wales that found a way to lose. The All Blacks sneaked home 19-12 and they knew by the final whistle that they had been let off – that Wales didn't have a fifth gear to surge in the final quarter.

Wales for all that they have advanced in the last decade haven't made that last step which is finding the inner resolve to beat the All Blacks. They can manage it against the Springboks, the Wallabies, England and Ireland but so far they haven't made it to the final frontier of actually looking at a scoreboard that says they have beaten the All Blacks.

England have that self-belief and killer instinct to finish what they start. Ireland, who spent more than 100 years looking for it, found it in Chicago in 2016 and showed last year they still have it.

The Springboks have always had it and the Wallabies may have lacked scrummaging props and decision-making first-fives over the years, but they have never lacked confidence in their ability.

Wales, though, seem destined to never quite make their mark. They appear to have a mental block about the All Blacks and if fate should have it that the World Cup final this year is between New Zealand and Wales, would anyone back the latter?

It's easy enough to imagine Wales making the final but winning it against New Zealand..?

Almost no one can see that happening and that's why Wales can beat England and then have the media speculate that coach Warren Gatland's reward for masterminding a clever tactical win, is to now be the front runner to succeed Eddie Jones.

That kind of says it all: that the world's media see Gatland as being in an audition for the England job. That after 12 years of turning Wales into a vastly improved team he'll be ready and indeed deserving of a better, bigger job coaching England.