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Top tackler stat 'just my job' says Welsh lock

SPOTLIGHT: His tally might not have matched Thierry Dusautoir’s match record of 38, but Wales lock Will Rowlands’ 27 tackles were crucial in the nail-biting win over Fiji in both sides’ World Cup opener.

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Wales beat Fiji 32-26 at the weekend to take a massive step on their journey towards ensuring a top-two Pool D finish to advance to the knock-out phase of the tournament.

French flank Dusautoir recorded his incredible stat against New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff.

He brought Richie McCaw to ground no less than eight times and only three of the starting All Blacks XV escaped his clutches as the French pulled off one of the most memorable victories in World Cup history.

Rowlands, however, was keen to play down his own efforts which, he admitted, had left him feeling “stiff” the next morning.

“I’m always a bit stiff after a game, especially a night game, I don’t sleep very well,” said the London-born lock, who qualifies for Wales through his Welsh-born father.

“I always find it a bit weird when the number of tackles becomes the headline because you defend in a system. Guys run at you and you tackle them.

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“It’s nice people say nice things but I just see it as me doing my job for the team.”

Indeed, Rowlands wasn’t the only one with a high tackle count as Wales racked up a World Cup record of 254 tackles over the 80 minutes, withstanding a late Fijian comeback with some gritty defence.

Rowlands said the win over the South Sea Islanders had been just the tonic for a Wales side that arrived at the World Cup with Warren Gatland back at the helm for a second time after Wayne Pivac was sacked.

– Fantastic five points –

“Five points against the Fijians is fantastic for us,” the 31-year-old said in reference to the four points for the win plus a bonus point for having scored four tries.

“We’d gone into the World Cup feeling pretty confident. We’d done some good work and we’re in a good place going into the games physically.

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“It was a big first game for us to play Fiji. They’re a dangerous team and the group is evenly poised.

“To get a win is fantastic and now we focus on the next game with Portugal this weekend and we’ll try and do the same again.”

Rowlands was initially on Wasps’ books in the English Premiership before signing for the Newport-based Dragons.

But with the regional game in Wales up in the air earlier this year, Rowlands signed to play with Racing 92 in the French Top 14 after the end of the World Cup.

And so far, his impressions of France have not disappointed.

“I’ve loved the first couple of weeks here. The excitement around the World Cup everywhere you go in France is amazing,” he said.

“It’s been a really amazing experience so far and made me very excited to play a bit more rugby in France in the next few years.”

Rowlands will remain eligible for Wales having picked up his 25th cap during the pre-World cup warm-up games, 25 being the readjusted number of appearances needed for international selection should you play outside Wales.

His time in France is also the lock’s first working under Gatland, who led Wales to three Six Nations Grand Slam titles and two World Cup semi-finals (2011, 2019) in his first tenure from 2007-19.

“This is my first experience of working with ‘Gats’ and I think that’s definitely one of the things I’ve felt in the group, that there is a big confidence in his plan and the coaches in general,” Rowlands said.

“It instils a confidence and belief in the group when we play at our best.”

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