Australia v Wales, Rugby World Cup, October 21
Lewis hails new golden era for Wales
ESPNscrum Staff
October 18, 2011

Wales are in the midst of their first golden era of the professional period, according to Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis.

Wales will equal their best ever performance in a Rugby World Cup if they beat Australia in the third-place playoff on Friday - matching their final placing in the 1987 World Cup when they also beat Wallabies to third place.

It was so nearly so much more for Wales. Despite being down to 14 men following Sam Warburton's sending off in the 18th minute, Wales almost overcame France in the semi finals. And the level of performances during the tournament, taken alongside Grand Slam victories in 2005 and 2008, has led to Lewis declaring the period as a golden era of Welsh rugby.

"For Welsh rugby this tournament has been a resounding success, it has give us all a great deal of confidence and it has given us far greater pride," he said. "This is probably the first golden era of Welsh rugby in the professional era. If you think about it the Grand Slam in 2005, the Grand Slam in 2008 and here we are in the semi-final of the World Cup. It really is an exciting period."

Wales' success at the World Cup has been largely inspired by a band of young players, led by skipper Warburton. With the likes of George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Rhys Priestland, Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate all capable of featuring in the next two World Cups, Lewis believes the future is very bright for Wales.

"Look at the ages of those players, look at what they have achieved, everyone wants to keep this together," Lewis said. "It has given us a sense that we have such an exciting future ahead of us and in terms of inspiring 8, 9 and 10-year-olds to put on their boots and pick up a ball it has been wonderful.

"As a chief executive I feel really humbled. All credit to these players who are 19 and 20-year-old kids, my two sons are older than that. The challenge now is to put all that energy into taking things forward. The energy has been created by this group of players and it is so powerful that we have now got to harness it and direct the game forward in Wales."

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has already committed to leading the team to the next World Cup in England while the Welsh Rugby Union are also eager to tie-up a new contract for assistant coach Shaun Edwards.

"The next four years is going to be so exciting for this group of players and the coaching team," he said. "After what they have achieved here and all the hard work they have put in over the last few years they have now got it all ahead of them.

"I have signed a deal with the players through to July 2016 before we came, so we're the only team in the world game that has signed up all its players through to the next World Cup."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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