The last Wales side to play in a Rugby World Cup semi-final: Where are they now?

Most are still involved in rugby in various guises

Wales at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. (Image: Jeanfrancois Beausejoir - Wikimedia Commons)

by Tom Pritchard

WALES will compete in a Rugby World Cup semi-final for the first time since 2011 when they face South Africa in Yokohama on Sunday.

After a memorable campaign in New Zealand, Warren Gatland’s side were edged out 9-8 by France in Auckland after Sam Warburton was sent off for a tip tackle on wing Vincent Clerc.

We’ve taken a look at the side that played at Eden Park that day, with as many as five players who featured against Les Blues in line to be in the match day squad against the Springboks this weekend.

15. Leigh Halfpenny

Embed from Getty Images

The Scarlets full-back is part of the current squad out in Japan, and has been tipped by some to start at full-back on Sunday.

Halfpenny, who has scored 731 points in his 84 internationals, scored two tries during the tournament and featured in six of Wales’ seven games.

The 30-year-old was playing for Cardiff Blues at the time, before going on to join French side Toulon, where he won three European Cup titles, and is now playing for 2017/18 Pro 12 winners Scarlets.

14. George North

Embed from Getty Images

Another player who is likely to play a part against South Africa, North burst onto the world scene at the age of just 19 after impressing with the Scarlets in his debut season in 2010.

He scored three tries in the 2011 World Cup, and has gone on to play over 100 times for Northampton Saints, as well as featuring three times for the British and Irish Lions.

The wing, 27, is currently with the Ospreys, where he has scored seven tries in 14 appearances for the Liberty Stadium outfit.

13. Jonathan Davies

Embed from Getty Images

As important for Wales in 2019 as he was in 2011, Wales are hoping that the 31-year-old Scarlets centre – perhaps the finest in his position in world rugby – will recover from the knee injury which kept him out of the quarter-final win over France.

Davies touched down for three scores in his seven appearances, and formed a rock-solid midfield partnership with Jamie Roberts in 2011.

One of Wales’ most influential players in attack and defence, he has made a total of 79 appearances for his country since making his debut back in 2009.

12. Jamie Roberts

Embed from Getty Images

The 32-year-old has been one of the foremost players of Gatland’s reign, playing 94 times for Wales and being the key exponent of the ‘Warrenball’ tactic, which involved the centre carrying the ball hard and straight in a simple, but effective way of getting over the gain line.

Roberts – a qualified doctor who is currently studying Medical Science at Queens College, Cambridge – last played for Wales in 2016 when they beat Scotland in the Six Nations Championship in Cardiff.

The three-time British and Irish Lion is combining his studies with playing for Gallagher Premiership outfit Bath.

11. Shane Williams 

Embed from Getty Images

After a glittering international career which saw him retire as Wales’ all-time record try-scorer with 58, Williams finally hung up his boots in 2017 after coming out of retirement to play for local side Amman United.

The former Ospreys winger who, at just 5 foot 7 inches in height, showed that the game is one for all sizes, scored 1,235 points in his 15-year career – equal to 247 tries.

After initially saying that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2011 World Cup, Williams played against Australia in December of 2011, scoring a try with the final touch of his international career in a 24-18 defeat to the Wallabies.

The 42-year-old now works as a television pundit and commentator, and is currently in Japan working for ITV.

10. James Hook

Embed from Getty Images

The utility back contributed 23 points and was selected to start ahead of Stephen Jones in the semi-final.

Hook, now 34, has had a distinguished career on the international stage, playing 81 times for Wales. The former Neath man was perhaps denied more game time because of his ability to cover multiple positions in the back line, rather than nailing down one position.

He returned to the Ospreys in 2017 after departing for Perpignan in 2011, before joining Gloucester three years later, accumulating over 1,000 points in his time away from the Liberty Stadium.

9. Mike Phillips

Embed from Getty Images

One of the key figures of Wales’ run to the last four in 2011, Phillips will rightly go down as one of Wales’ greatest players of all time.

The scrum-half touched down for a score in the 22-10 quarter-final win against Ireland, and crossed for the only try in the semi-final.

After coming out of retirement to help an injury-hit Scarlets while they were on tour in South Africa in 2017, Phillips has now settled in Dubai where has started a family and set up his own rugby academy.

1. Gethin Jenkins

Embed from Getty Images

The former loose-head – whose caps record was recently broken by Alun Wyn Jones – created one of the moments of the 2011 World Cup with a magnificent solo effort against Namibia in the pool stages.

Referred to as one of the best to have ever played in his position, Jenkins featured on 129 occasions for Wales, not to mention his five appearances in three Lions tours.

The 38-year-old called it a day on November 4, 2018, with his final game coming in Cardiff Blues’ win against Zebre at the Arms Park, where he attempted to convert a try with the last play of the game.

He is now passing on his knowledge working as defence coach for Indigo Premiership side Cardiff RFC.

2. Huw Bennett

Embed from Getty Images

The former hooker impressed throughout the competition with his accurate line-out throwing and workmanlike performances, which saw him make 44 tackles in total.

The 36-year-old brought his playing days to an end in 2013 while at French side Lyon, before joining the Welsh national team in 2014 as assistant fitness coach.

He is still in the role today, working with the team as they look to reach a maiden World Cup final.

3. Adam Jones

Embed from Getty Images

The 95-cap loose-head was the cornerstone of the Wales scrum which provided the backs with quality ball throughout the tournament.

Another player who can lay claim to being one of Wales’ all-time greats, Jones made exactly 100 international appearances, playing five times for the Lions in their 2009 and 2013 tours to South Africa and Australia.

The former Ospreys front-rower is now on the coaching staff at Harlequins, where he played 30 times before announcing his retirement from the game.

4. Luke Charteris

Embed from Getty Images

Standing at over two metres tall, Charteris made a name for himself with his ability to cause major disruption at mauls with his octopus-like arms.

The former Dragons lock was Wales’ second highest tackle maker at the tournament with 76, and his all-round game earned him numerous plaudits.

After leaving the Newport side in 2012, he would go on to play for Perpignan, Racing 92 and Bath, where he is now working as a line-out guru as part of a new-look coaching team.

5. Alun Wyn Jones

Embed from Getty Images

The inspirational leader, who is now just eight caps away from becoming the most capped Test player of all-time, is hoping to become the first Wales captain to get his hands on the Webb Ellis Cup.

Jones played in all seven of Wales’ games in New Zealand, scoring a try and making 46 tackles.

The 34-year-old, who has played 238 times for the Ospreys, was at the fulcrum of Wales’ 14-match unbeaten run that was finally ended in August.

Should Gatland’s side create history in Japan, Jones is sure to be regarded as the country’s greatest captain and, possibly, player.

6. Dan Lydiate

Embed from Getty Images

Lydiate’s infamous chop-tackling technique was highly effective for Wales, proven by the 58 tackles he made in his five tournament appearances.

In his prime, the flanker was regarded as one of Wales’ most indispensable players, however injuries have stunted his progress in recent times.

After a spell in France with Racing 92, Lydiate returned to Wales in 2014 to sign for the Ospreys, his current side, for whom he has made 42 appearances for.

7. Sam Warburton

Embed from Getty Images

A fine leader of his country, Warburton played some of his best rugby in 2011 before his infamous sending off signalled the end of Wales’ memorable campaign.

The 31-year-old flanker, one of the most potent players at the breakdown of his generation, announced his unexpected retirement from all forms of rugby in July 2018 after multiple injuries.

Warburton holds the record for most Wales caps as captain (49), and now works as a television pundit and columnist, as well as being a patron for the charity Velindre.

8. Taulupe Faletau

Embed from Getty Images

Another of Wales’ top performers in 2011, all-action number eight Faletau topped the tackle charts with a mammoth 83.

The Bath back-rower is one of the world’s premier players in his position, and was particularly excellent at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

He has suffered with injuries in recent years, breaking his arm twice, and was forced to miss the current World Cup after breaking his collar bone in training.