Rugby Union

Sam Warburton aware that Wales need to beat Southern Hemisphere giants

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Sam Warburton's club career has been under the spotlight recently, but the Wales captain understands his country needs to step up if they want to challenge for next year's Rugby World Cup.

Wales haven't had a memorable year, failing to retain their Six Nations title and unable to secure the treble after losing to both England and Ireland over the five-week period.

After this, Warren Gatland's men went on a summer tour to South Africa where they suffered two straight defeats to the team ranked second in world.

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Warburton honestly

But the 25-year-old is remaining optimistic heading into an important year, with the flanker making it abundantly clear how himself and his colleagues have come close to beating a top-three nation but need to do better against such quality opposition.

"To be brutally honest, we haven’t been quite good enough," Warburton said.

"Wales can’t consider themselves contenders for the World Cup unless they beat one of the southern hemisphere sides.

"We are the only home nation not to have managed it in recent years. That is something we have to rectify. We need to get that monkey off our backs.

"We’ve been close, very close four or five times against Australia. But close is not good enough. You can’t claim you are unlucky five times."

Gatland's men haven't fulfilled their potential of late, with 2013 ending with a close defeat to Australia at the Millennium Stadium.

Wales positives

Wales are a fantastic team and on their day are unbeatable, especially at the Millennium Stadium. Their 2013 triumphs showed this when England were demolished in Cardiff by Gatland's men who went on to win the Six Nations title.

The only problem Wales have is not being able to step up their game to beat the likes of New Zealand and South Africa - they have only won one game out of 23 matches against the Springboks, and three out of 27 against the All Blacks.

This a trend that really needs to change. However, with the likes of George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert all maturing as players the future looks bright for Wales.

World Cup

Warburton also focused his attention on the Rugby World Cup. With neighbours England set to host the event, it is a great opportunity for Gatland's dragons to play a pivotal role in knocking out one of the favourites.

Having been drawn in the pool of death with Australia, England, Fiji, and one more team to be announced, it is looking like an uphill struggle from the start, however.

They may be taking on a lower-ranked nation at the start of the tournament, but their last group game will be against Australia at Twickenham.

Even if they finish second in their pool, a match-up awaits against the winner of pool B which is looking likely to be 2007 winners South Africa.

Wales are capable of causing an upset, but they need to make sure they have a good run of games before they take up the challlenge of the 2015 World Cup. Warburton and his men have the quality, they just need consistent performances against the top nations.

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Rugby Union
Sam Warburton
IRB Rugby World Cup
Wales Rugby

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