Rugby World Cup 2011
Byrne talks up Wales
ESPNscrum Staff
October 3, 2011

Lee Byrne says that Wales are in "great shape" ahead of the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup and the fullback believes that Warren Gatland's side are capable of going on to lift the trophy.

The Welsh opened their campaign with a narrow defeat by reigning champions South Africa but ultimately cruised into the quarter-finals after subsequent victories over Samoa, Namibia and Fiji. Next up is Ireland this weekend and while Byrne is in no doubt about the threat posed by a side which has already beaten Australia, the Ospreys ace believes Wales can come out on top.

Indeed, when asked if Wales can go all the way, Byrne replied: "I would probably say so. We know Ireland played very well to beat Australia, and we will give them respect, but we will give it our best to try to go as far or further than any Welsh team has done in the World Cup.

"The hard work has been done. We're in great shape for the knockout rounds after coming through a difficult pool.

"We are here for another week, but we want to stay for longer. The boys are really enjoying being at the tournament and we have got high ambitions. We are confident about our prospects against Ireland. It's just a case of seeing what happens on the day."

Wales certainly seem to be improving with each passing game, with youngsters such as Leigh Halfpenny and George North really coming into their own. Indeed, Byrne believes that the latter could end up as one of the stars of the tournament.

"George has now scored nine tries in 11 internationals, which says it all," he said. "He has got something special. He's big, physical and is also exceptionally quick. His passing and skills are good as well, so he's got it all really. George has played more games for Wales than the Scarlets, which is incredible when you think about it."

Byrne has also taken great heart out of Wales' performance in Sunday's 66-0 demolition of Fiji in Hamilton, a result which sealed their place in the last eight.

"I enjoyed the win and the points we scored, but to stop Fiji from getting anything was more pleasing. Our defence coach Shaun Edwards was delighted with the shut-out," he said.

"We weren't really too worried about Fiji. We knew our fitness would tell in the end and we could rely on it. From the start we were fitter than Fiji. We fronted up to them in the forwards and they didn't like it, spilling the ball a bit.

"We knew how much they liked to run the ball, so to keep them to zero has really sent a message out to the rest of the world about the strength of our defence. I am sure Ireland would have been watching us, and we will see them in the quarters."

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