Will Rowlands played down his defensive heroics in Wales’ thrilling Rugby World Cup victory over Fiji, claiming: “I just see it as my job.”
Wales made a World Cup record 253 tackles in that game, which they won 32-26, with Lock Rowlands taking center stage.
He made 27 tackles and didn’t miss a single one as Wales held on under intense pressure in the closing stages to secure a bonus-point victory in their opening Group C game.
“I always find it a little strange when the number of tackles becomes the headline because you’re defending in a system,” Rowlands said.
“Guys run at you and you attack them. It’s nice when people say nice things, but I just see it as my work for the team.
“Five points against the Fijians is fantastic for us.
“We talked about it today when we reviewed it that we did a lot of the things we wanted to do and in the periods where we were in control we built a nice little lead.
“And then there were parts of the game that we need to look at and focus on that allowed them to get back into the game and set us up for a nervy finish, but game one, five points – very happy.”
“We went into the World Cup pretty confident, did a good job and are going into the games physically well.
“It was a big first game for us against Fiji. They are a dangerous team. Getting a win is fantastic and now we are focused on the next game against Portugal this weekend.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland will announce his starting line-up for Saturday’s Portugal game at the Stade de Nice on Wednesday.
And changes could be made – possibly in double figures – especially given Fiji’s tough challenge and a six-day turnaround between games.
Wales assistant coach Jonathan Thomas said: “You will have seen for yourself what a physical game it was and how many tackles we made. “There are a number of sore spots but there are no concerns about injury .
“The team will be named tomorrow but I think it’s safe to say there will be changes. We have complete confidence in our entire team.
“I think what you saw in the Six Nations and before the three (World Cup) warm-up games gave the players opportunities.
“There were moments in the warm-up games when some players were doing particularly well.
“And that gives you the opportunity to make changes and freshen things up. It’s a six-day turnaround, so it makes sense to make a few changes to the type of game we were playing.”
Players who could make their first start in the tournament include full-back Leigh Halfpenny, winger Rio Dyer, center Mason Grady, scrum-half Tomos Williams, lock Dafydd Jenkins and flanker Dan Lydiate.
Thomas added: “Are we happy with where we are? There is always room for improvement and growth in our game. We’re definitely not getting anywhere.
“Fiji is a team that retains possession particularly well. They are big, strong men with good skills and therefore have the ability to retain possession particularly well.
“We have confidence in our defensive structures. We’re not afraid to play without the ball sometimes.”