Wales hope experience will count in World Cup semi-final

Tokyo (AFP) –


Wales are hoping the experience of "must-win" Test rugby in their squad will make the difference for the Six Nations champions when they take on South Africa in the World Cup semi-final Sunday.

Wales have never reached the final and are bidding to become only the second northern-hemisphere team to be crowned world champions.

And attack coach Stephen Jones said this was a "whole different squad" to the Welsh team that lost in a nailbiting 9-8 semi-final to France in 2011.

"If you look at our squad, we've got a far more experienced squad this time around. Guys who have been on (British and Irish) Lions trips as well and won important games in those series," Jones told reporters.

"If you look at this group, they've been through a lot of must-win matches. Grand Slams as well. So we're well-blessed in that department in the sense the guys are used to tough knock-out rugby," added Jones.

Wing George North said this semi-final had "a better feeling about it" than the 2011 match against France where Wales went in as "a bit of an unknown".

"This time, it feels like we've earned our place."

Rugby Championship winners South Africa have twice lifted the Webb Ellis Cup -- in 1995 and 2007 -- and are hoping that the 12-year pattern between trophies will continue.

But Wales have had the better of recent encounters between the two sides, winning the last four Tests -- after losing all but two of the first 31 fixtures.

However, they lost 23-19 to South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, with current Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard kicking 18 points.

Jones said he was expecting a kick-heavy game based around forward domination, with Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus again naming a replacements' bench including six huge forwards and two backs.

"It's a very, very physical game every time you play South Africa," he said.

"We expect the ball to be kicked a huge amount to us. It's making sure we deal with that threat and when we have the ball, being smart with it," said Jones.

He stressed that centre Jonathan Davies, who is returning from injury, was "100-percent fit and raring to go" to continue his midfield partnership with Hadleigh Parkes.

And while the loss of Liam Williams was "disappointing," Jones again pointed to the experience that replacement Leigh Halfpenny would bring to the match.

"We've got Leigh Halfpenny with 85 caps, two Lions tours, played in the semi-final of a World Cup. He's a wonderful player. Brings a different dimension to the back line," said Jones.

The winners on Sunday face either defending champions New Zealand or England -- who play later Saturday -- in the final on November 2, also in Yokohama.