Alex King has hailed the hard work of Wales’ Rugby World Cup squad and says their quarter-final achievement has been “four months in the making”.
It was towards the end of May that head coach Warren Gatland and his assistants began work with an extended training group.
That came on the back of a dismal Six Nations campaign, where Wales only avoided the wooden spoon by beating Italy in Rome.
Off-field issues in the Welsh professional game such as finances and contractual uncertainty for players, meanwhile, almost led to a full-blown national squad strike ahead of Wales’ Six Nations clash against England.
But the transformation quietly began at Wales’ training base in the Vale of Glamorgan, before punishing camps in Switzerland and Turkey moved preparations to another level.
A record 40-6 victory over Australia confirmed Wales’ place in the last-eight for the fourth World Cup in a row, setting up a probable appointment with Argentina in Marseille on October 14.
“I am just delighted for the lads,” Wales assistant coach and attack specialist King said.
“They have worked so hard – four months in the making. We are now in the quarter-finals, but we want to really focus on Georgia next week to finish top of the group.
“We know how hard that Georgia game is going to be, and then we can see what happens, going forward, after that.
“It was awesome (against Australia), wasn’t it? We knew how important the game was for both countries.
“We scored a really good try early on, and it probably settled a few nerves.
“We then just managed to get control of the game, our set-piece got on top and we managed to keep the scoreboard keep ticking over.
“When you are playing a team that is low on confidence, the game just goes away from them. We were able to establish a good lead and stay in control to the end.”
Two of Wales’ three tries came from impressive creativity, with Gareth Davies scoring the first following captain Jac Morgan’s break, then Gareth Anscombe’s superbly-placed kick into space being finished off by Nick Tompkins.
On Davies’ score, King added: “The guys work hard, and it is nice when one comes off like that.
“It’s hard to break down defences at this level because they’re so well organised, but Gareth Davies did the support line and Jac was superb. It set the tone, really, and gave us a foothold in the game.
“All the teams that are going to go far (in the World Cup) will bring a balance of structured and unstructured (play).
“We realise that it wasn’t perfect, and no game ever is, and realise we have things to build on. But it is a good foundation to build from.
“If there is anything, there is some work in the 22 we need to tidy up on.
“It is one of the hardest places to attack because you have got a front line of 15 defenders.
“I thought Gareth finding space in the back-field for Nick Tompkins was an example of where we can go to with our kick-space.
“There are always things to work on, and we want to get Louis (Rees-Zammit), Josh (Adams), Rio (Dyer) and Liam (Williams) on the ball as much as possible.
“Sometimes a game works out that way, sometimes it doesn’t. But that is the plan.”