Wales v Ireland quarter-final is too close to call, says Shaun Edwards
Wales defensive coach Shaun Edwards believes Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against Ireland is too close to call.
Both teams enter the knockout stages on the back of comprehensive victories.
Ireland, who came into the World Cup having lost all four warm-up matches, defeated Italy 36-6 to claim top spot in Pool C after gaining an upset win over Australia earlier in the tournament and beating the United States and Russia.
Wales ran in nine tries in their 66-0 rout of a disappointing Fiji side to add to earlier victories over Namibia and Samoa which came after a narrow loss to South Africa.
"It's a 50-50 game," Edwards said of the quarter-final in Wellington. "It's pretty hard to pick the winner. They are two teams that have run into a bit of form, relatively injury-free."
"The Irish, after being criticised for their pre-World Cup form, are obviously running into some very strong form themselves."
"Before I came here I spoke to Ian McGeechan about Rugby World Cup and Sir Ian said you can build momentum within a World Cup and I think both teams are doing that."
Wales' performance against Fiji was noted as much for the defensive effort in keeping the Pacific Islanders scoreless as it was for the attacking prowess of Jamie Roberts and George North.
"I was pleased with the lads because of their attitude really," said Edwards. "The lads were really disappointed that we didn't get a nil against Namibia (81-7)."
"There was an interception try that we gave away unfortunately and Stephen Jones has held his hand up and apologised."
"It's very unusual to get a zero nowadays in rugby. To get a zero you have to shoot out to a quite convincing first-half lead otherwise people go for penalties."
"Fiji battled on to the end and did their best, but our line held strong until the end of the game ... and we got some really good tackling practice in."
"But we needed that coming in against Ireland because they are going to pose much more of a threat than Fiji did."
There has been a lot of talk heading into the knockout stages about the styles of rugby most suited to winning sudden-death matches. Many believe the more conservative pressure-building game plans of teams such as South Africa and England, who force sides into conceding penalties that can be kicked, can be more effective than the more expansive rugby played by sides such as Wales, Australia and New Zealand.
"Let's hope that tries are the deciding factor of the (quarter-final) game. But the reality is often goal-kicking plays a really big part in winning World Cups," admitted Edwards.
"If you look at the last few World Cup winners they've always had a high-percentage goal kicker."
"(Wales skills coach) Neil Jenkins has been working unbelievably hard with all our kickers to make sure we're in the high percentage."
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