Dan Biggar feels that the future is bright for Wales after his Test career drew to a close following an agonising Rugby World Cup exit.

Wales fly-half Biggar bowed out at Stade Velodrome as hopes of reaching a third World Cup semi-final in the last four tournaments were ended by Argentina.

Biggar, who turns 34 on Monday, won 112 caps during a 15-year career at the top.

He also scored more than 600 points for Wales and was the team’s tactical controller, but Argentina ensured no fairy-tale finish for him, posting a 29-17 victory that took them to Paris and a semi-final appointment with New Zealand on Friday.

Biggar, though, is enthused by the squad he leaves behind, with head coach Warren Gatland having already started an impressive transformation process following last season’s Six Nations misery.

Wales only avoided the wooden spoon by beating Italy in Rome as their campaign played out against a back-drop of contractual and financial uncertainty in Welsh professional rugby that almost led to a players’ strike prior to facing England in Cardiff.

But an unbeaten march through their World Cup pool – it included a record 40-6 win against Australia – and 19 points collected from a possible 20 highlighted an impressive revival.

The tournament also saw further progression for players like Biggar’s expected fly-half successor Sam Costelow, squad co-captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake and Exeter forwards Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza.

And there were those who did not make the final 33-strong World Cup group – centre Max Llewellyn, wing Tom Rogers, prop Keiron Assiratti, plus locks Ben Carter and Teddy Williams, among others – that give further cause for optimism.

“If you had offered this five months ago, we would have snapped your hand off,” Biggar said.

“This young group have driven standards and pushed us to keep going.

“I have got no doubt they will achieve some really good things if they keep the squad together and allow boys like Sam Costelow some time in that 10 seat and allow him to drive it and make it his team.

“I sat Sam down and told him to make this team his own going forward. I told him ‘my time is over – this is your time, so make it count’.

“I am sure he will because he is a huge talent with a bit of genuine X-factor about him. He can develop into a real leader.

“A strong core of young players will have learned so much from this experience, and they will know that they have got the talent to rub shoulders with the best of the best. I really think the future is bright for Welsh rugby.

“Hopefully people will remember me for being passionate and caring about every moment.

“I am going to miss it. I didn’t think I would be particularly emotional – I almost thought I would be relieved – but there is definitely a bit of sadness.

“I am definitely going to miss it in the months and years to come.

“I think it will be raw for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, but when I reflect back on my career hopefully I will be fairly pleased with what I have done.”

With Gatland in the early phase of a five-year contract during a second stint as Wales boss, attention will soon turn to this season’s Six Nations, while Wales also have a fixture against the Barbarians on November 4.

Japan-bound backs Liam Williams and Gareth Anscombe will not be available for the Six Nations, and it remains to be seen if any players follow Biggar into international retirement.

Gatland added: “You have got to take learnings. How do we develop and improve as a squad?

“I am incredibly proud of the work these players and the whole staff have put in. We have made some really good strides.

“We need to continue on that path. We don’t want to be going backwards, and that is a good challenge for us to accept and make sure we continue to keep improving.”

Wales wing Josh Adams believes that World Cup co-captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake will be “massive figureheads” during the build-up to Australia 2027.

The dust has yet to on Wales’ World Cup campaign in France, which was ended by quarter-final opponents Argentina.

And while the immediate reaction is one of major disappointment that Wales could not reach a third semi-final in the last four tournaments, a new generation of talent is emerging.

Morgan, 23, and 24-year-old Lake are at the forefront, having shone at their first World Cup through leadership and performances.

“We have two young captains in Dewi and Jac, and they have led us incredibly well and are a huge voice for us,” Adams said.

“I have enjoyed playing under them and for those two especially, there are massive careers ahead for them.

“They will no doubt be in the next four-year (World Cup) cycle and they will be massive figureheads for a lot of young lads in this team moving forward.

“I am sure they will drive the standards up even higher.”

Lake, meanwhile, has vowed that crestfallen Wales will kick on following the Argentina loss, which came after an unbeaten pool phase that delivered victories over Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal.

Wales face the Barbarians in Cardiff on November 4, then play opening Six Nations opponents Scotland three months later.

“Emotions go up and down, but it is tough to take,” Lake said.

“We were not given a lot of hope from people coming into this tournament. A lot of people said we were not going to get out of the group.

“We will learn a lot from this and a lot of boys are at their first World Cup.

“You don’t learn a lot from winning constantly. Learning comes from losing games and seeing where you can get better and where you went wrong. These are the type of games that build character.

“A loss in a World Cup quarter-final with tears streaming down your face, that is a feeling you never want again. We will kick on from here.”

One player no longer part of Wales’ plans is fly-half Dan Biggar, who has retired from Test rugby after winning 112 caps and scoring more than 600 points.

Whether any of his colleagues follow him into international retirement remains to be seen, but Toulon star Biggar’s 15-year impact on Wales has proved significant.

Lake added: “Any time you lose a figure like that it is a tough loss. He has given his time in Welsh rugby, he is a (caps) centurion, a Lions tourist, a leader, he has been unbelievable in a Lions and Wales jersey.

“What he has given to Wales with the sacrifices, he has taken hits like no other 10 I have seen in world rugby and a lot of people would agree with that.

“In terms of his leadership and speaking after games, we will miss him and I think he will miss us as well.

“He has been an unbelievable ambassador for Welsh rugby and has inspired a lot of people old and young.”

Warren Gatland felt the change in referee knocked Wales off their stride as they crashed out of the World Cup with a 29-17 quarter-final defeat to Argentina in Marseille.

South African official Jaco Peyper hobbled off with a calf injury after Wales had scored their first try in the 15th minute, taking a 7-0 lead in a match they had dominated.

But with Karl Dickson replacing Peyper their ascendency slipped away and Argentina came on strong in the second half with tries from Joel Sclavi and Nicolas Sanchez sweeping them into the last four.

Head coach Gatland was full of praise for the Pumas’ performance but also felt events had conspired against Wales.

“It probably didn’t help with the referee getting injured. That was a little bit disruptive in terms of the game,” said Gatland, who confirmed his commitment to remaining in charge of Wales until the 2027 World Cup.

“We were 10-0 up and were thinking that if we take a few of the opportunities that were presented to us. Unfortunately we gave away a couple of soft penalties.

“It does throw you off. We were comfortable with Jaco Peyper and the relationship we have with him in terms of his control of the game.

“It’s nothing against Karl but you do a lot of analysis through what referees tend to be tough on and what they are looking for.

“We hadn’t prepared for the change. Sometimes that happens in a game and you just have to deal with it. That is the way Test match rugby goes sometimes.”

A controversial refereeing decision saw Guido Petti hit Nick Tompkins in the head with his shoulder in the third quarter but Dickson and TMO Marius Jonker ruled there was no foul play.

It was explained that because the tackle had been called, Tompkins was falling and Petti entered legally while bent at the waist, there was no offence. Argentina went over from the same period of play to stretch their lead.

“It would be interesting to see what happens in terms of the feedback from the panel,” Gatland said.

“He (Dickson) felt that Nick has dropped his height and he said it wasn’t foul play. I would need to go back and look at it, but it was probably at least a penalty situation.

“Sometimes those things happen in a game in big moments and can swing things. That is just the way it is.”

Dan Biggar’s final match for Wales ended in disappointment with the fly-half eventually departing in the second half having taken a bang to the chest early on, possibly exacerbating a pectoral muscle injury he had been carrying.

“Dan has been a great servant for Welsh rugby. He has been through some incredible highs and some lows as well. To see him come into the side and mature and develop as a player, that has been pretty special,” Gatland said.

Argentina were transformed from the team routed 27-10 by 14-man England in their group opener and head coach Michael Cheika insisted the lessons of that defeat had been learned.

“We knew that first game would be rough for us and we learned a lot from it because we had a lot of World Cup first timers,” Cheika said.

“There hasn’t been a radical turnaround, we’ve just built from what we’ve learned. The progress hasn’t been lineal, but all that work we put in as a foundation has paid off.

“We’re starting to get a bit of flow and one thing this team has always had is lots of flow. We just didn’t handle the occasion against England well.”

Wales manager Rob Page has promised to “ignore the noise” amid reports that his job could be in jeopardy.

It was reported on Saturday morning – little more than 24 hours before Wales’ vital Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia in Cardiff – that Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney had wanted former Sunderland and Ipswich manager and TV pundit Roy Keane to replace Page following June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.

Page signed a four-year deal in September 2022, but Mooney confirmed this week that the manager’s position would be reviewed next month if Wales did not qualify for Euro 2024 automatically.

Wales are currently fourth in Group D and need to win their final three games against Croatia, Armenia and Turkey to realistically secure a top-two place and avoid the play-offs in March.

Page responded to the speculation over his future at his pre-match press conference for the Croatia game, saying: “We’ve got to ignore all the noise. It is noise and that’s it, so we try to protect the players as much as we can.

“I have not spoken to the chief executive at all, so I could not tell you whether it is true or not (that he is to be replaced).

“All I have to focus on is, before the World Cup I signed a four-year deal and the long-term plan for me is to start introducing young players into the group.

“We are in a transition period and we have said this time and time again. We have lost big players like Joe Allen and Gareth Bale. Not just for what they bring us on the pitch, but also the value they add in the changing room.

“We’ve seen the talent we’ve got coming through. We’re developing these young players and it’s going to take time.

“I get the frustration. We want to win games of football but there’s got to be a bit of perspective. I’m doing what’s best for the FAW, not myself. By introducing these young players, it is better for Wales in the future.”

Three members of Page’s coaching staff – Alan Knill, Ian Mitchell and Tony Roberts – took the unusual step of attending the press conference at the back of the room in an apparent show of unity.

“It’s a great gesture from the staff, not something I was ready for but I really appreciate it,” said a visibly-emotional Page.

“We are really close and everyone is pushing in the right direction. I wish the supporters and you guys (the media) could see what we’ve got in that changing room. It’s incredible. The staff here means a lot.

“We’re in an industry where everyone wants to win games of football. I feel the frustration as well but the bigger picture is we have a plan to introduce younger players for the future.

“I can’t worry about the business side of it, cost-cutting and all that. I’ve got a job to do as a football coach to get them in the right place, physically and mentally, to win games of football.”

Mooney told BBC Wales on Wednesday that a “serious review” would take place on Page’s position after the Armenia and Turkey games next month when “everything will be settled”.

Wales captain Ben Davies was critical of Mooney’s comments, saying: “It’s not helpful. We don’t want noise coming from within the organisation. We hope that everybody is on the same page.

“It is disappointing to hear, but as far we are concerned it’s not our focus. Our focus is the game against Croatia.”

Asked specifically about Page, Davies said: “We’re very supportive of the manager. It’s professional every day and everyone wants to come on camp.

“Having a manager always behind you and giving you support breeds loyalty and he deserves our support now.

“We’re a tight-knit group and I think that part of the reason we’ve had the success we’ve had over the years is because we all stick together.”

Wales defender Chris Mepham is in contention to start against Croatia, despite being out for a month with a hamstring injury.

Wales meet Croatia in a vital Euro 2024 qualifier at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday night.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five of the main talking points as Wales seek to keep their automatic qualification hopes alive.

Perfect finish needed

Turkey’s shock win in Croatia on Thursday has really thrown a spanner in the works. Wales had expected to be in a three-way fight with Turkey and Armenia for the second qualifying spot behind top speeds Croatia. Overtaking Croatia now looks like being Wales’ target, but a top-two spot only appears achievable by winning on Sunday and also beating Armenia and Turkey in their final group games next month.

Cardiff fortress

In a week when the UK and Ireland won the right to host Euro 2028 and the prospect of Wales returning to play at the Principality Stadium came into sharp focus, much has been made of making home advantage count at the Cardiff City Stadium. Wales have enjoyed some big nights there in the past, but that was often when Gareth Bale was in full flow and making the difference. A sell-out crowd will turn up in anticipation that Wales can make the stadium a fortress in the post-Bale era.

Moore the merrier

Kieffer Moore’s return to the fold is a big boost for Wales. Moore missed the last two Euro qualifiers after being sent off against Armenia in June. The 6ft 5in striker has had little game time at Bournemouth but Moore was in fine fettle during his 45-minute run-out against Gibraltar on Wednesday. Moore scored twice in the 4-0 friendly win to take his Wales goals tally to 12.

Creaking Croatia?

Croatia suffered their first-ever home defeat in a Euro qualifier against Turkey. But was it a one-off or something more meaningful? The 2018 World Cup finalists and 2022 semi-finalists are used to breezing through qualification but, having let two points slip against Wales at home, this campaign has been more challenging. Time might finally be catching up on midfield magician Luka Modric, 38 last month, while injuries to Tottenham winger Ivan Perisic and Hoffenheim forward Andrej Kramaric have hurt them.

Wales win overdue

Wales have proved accommodating opponents for Croatia, who they have yet to beat in seven attempts. Croatia have won four times with Wales’ best moments coming in three 1-1 draws. Simon Davies scored in a 2002 Varazdin friendly, Bale netted in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Cardiff, and Nathan Broadhead’s stoppage-time equaliser cheered Wales at the start of this campaign in March.

Daniel James insists Wales have not given up hope of automatic Euro 2024 qualification despite the blow of Turkey beating Croatia on Thursday.

Turkey’s shock 1-0 win in Osijek has left Wales with a mammoth task to claim a top-two place in Group D.

Wales realistically need to win their final three group games – starting against Croatia in Cardiff on Sunday – to secure automatic qualification for next summer’s Euro finals and avoid going into the play-offs in March.

“The players have spoken a little bit about it (the Turkey result) but not too much,” James told the PA news agency.

“You always hope results go your way, but you can’t concentrate on hoping other teams lose.

“We’ve gone into every game believing that we can win and it (qualification) is still in our hands.

“Croatia lost the other night but they’re a great team that’s been to the semis and finals of World Cups. You can’t underestimate them at all.

“We had a start in this group that wasn’t up to our standards, but we trust ourselves to go into this game with heads held high.”

Although James points out that he is “no big verbal leader” almost as quickly as he bursts down the pitch, the 25-year-old winger now has senior status within Rob Page’s squad.

James won his 46th cap in the 4-0 friendly victory against Gibraltar on Wednesday after coming on as an early substitute for the injured Wes Burns.

He made two goals and hit the post with a ferocious shot from outside the box to build on his fine early-season form at Leeds.

James, speaking at the Wales training camp to celebrate the wave of free McDonald’s Fun Football sessions in the country this autumn, said: “I still feel that age of 19 or 20 when I first came into the set-up.

“But I do feel like one of the senior boys now. The way we sit in the dining room I’m at a more senior table.

“You see boys in there now about 20 and it feels a bit crazy. It’s the same at club level where we’ve got a lot of youngsters.

“I wouldn’t say I was a massive talker in the dressing room. I let the other boys do that and concentrate on my own game.

“But you’ve got to try and set that example on the pitch by working hard and showing what you can do. I always give 100 per cent to help take the team forward.”

James has certainly done that on his return to Leeds following a frustrating loan spell at Fulham last season.

The former Manchester United player made only five Premier League starts in West London and has had to rebuild confidence in the Sky Bet Championship following Leeds’ relegation from the top flight.

James said: “Fulham was a good learning curve for me and I don’t regret it at all.

“I didn’t play as much as I wanted to but, because it happened so late in the window on deadline day, it takes a while to settle and find somewhere to live.

“You’ve got children as well and the first two or three months were very hard. The World Cup was coming up and it’s always hard to settle in pretty quick.”

On his return to Leeds, where he has been joined by Wales teammates Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon, James said: “It’s great to be back. As soon as I got back in the summer I just wanted to play and show that I was there to stay and work hard.

“We had a little bit of a tricky start, but we’ve had a good run of games and we’ve just got to keep pushing.

“It’s always harder when you haven’t played many minutes, not just physically but mentally as well.

“You need to get into the rhythm of games and I’ve got that at Leeds now. I’m feeling fit and ready and, when that happens, everything comes naturally.”

:: Daniel James was speaking at a special fun football session at the Wales training camp to celebrate the wave of free McDonald’s Fun Football sessions in Wales this autumn. McDonald’s Fun Football is the UK’s largest grassroots participation programme for 5-11 year-olds. Find your nearest free session at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football

Ben Davies has urged Wales to summon up the spirit of reaching the World Cup to beat Croatia and keep their European Championship qualification hopes alive.

Turkey’s shock win in Croatia on Thursday night damaged Welsh prospects of claiming a top-two place in Group D.

Wales must now realistically beat top seeds Croatia in Cardiff on Sunday and finish with wins over Armenia and Turkey next month to qualify for Euro 2024.

By doing so, Wales would qualify for a third successive major tournament – two European Championships either side of the 2022 World Cup.

“We know the situation we’re in and it’s definitely going to be challenging,” said Tottenham defender Davies, who will be wearing the Wales armband in the absence of injured captain Aaron Ramsey.

“We’ve shown in the past at Cardiff that against good teams we can win games. It’s the same mentality again that we go into it believing anything’s possible.

“The two World Cup qualifiers (play-offs against Austria and Ukraine) were big pressure moments for this team.

“Arguably people would say they were better sides than us, but we showed that we’re more than capable of making our home in Cardiff a fortress and making it difficult for the opposition.

“We’ve played some of the best teams in Europe there – like Belgium and the Netherlands – and we’ve put good performances in. Playing at home gives us that something special.”

Wales have not beaten Croatia in seven games between the two nations.

There have been three 1-1 draws, including the March meeting in Split when Nathan Broadhead equalised with virtually the last kick of the match to get Wales’ Euro campaign off to a promising start.

Davies said: “They’re a great footballing nation that have had great results over the last 10, 15, 20 years.

“They’re a team stacked with quality players playing at the highest level. We know it’s going to be a hard game, but we believe it’s one we can get something out of.

“It’s a huge opportunity playing at home. If we can get three points, then it will put us in a better situation going into next month.”

Wales warmed up for their Croatia task by sweeping aside friendly opponents Gibraltar 4-0 in Wrexham on Wednesday.

It was Wales’ third consecutive clean sheet following shut-outs against South Korea and Latvia last month, the first time the Dragons have achieved that for nearly three years.

Number one goalkeeper Danny Ward said: “We got back to what we do best in the last camp, being defensively sound.


“That was vital after the summer we had (4-2 and 2-0 defeats to Armenia and Turkey) and we’ve taken that into this camp.”

Ward has yet to play for Leicester this season after losing his first-team place at the Sky Bet Championship club, but the 30-year-old insists that is not an issue while he is on Wales duty.

He said: “It’s different for a goalkeeper as opposed to an outfield player.

“It’s not so much about rhythm, more about bearings, knowing where you are on the pitch, distances, getting up to speed if you like.

“That normally doesn’t take too long for our position thankfully.”

Wales Under-21s boss Matty Jones paid tribute to his side’s never-say-die spirit after they salvaged a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic in Ostrov.

Substitute Cian Ashford scored the equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time to extend his side’s unbeaten start to their European Championship qualifying campaign to three games.

“It genuinely feels like a win and you have to give the boys credit for sticking to the plan and fighting for their lives,” Jones told Wales’ social media accounts.

“I always felt we were in there and it is a huge credit to the players and staff for sticking together and finding a way.

“We’ve spoken a lot about that in this campaign. It’s the winning mentality we always want to keep promoting, and we’re going away celebrating because it actually feels like a win.”

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar will banish any thoughts of Test rugby retirement when he lines up in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.

The 33-year-old wins his 112th cap at Stade Velodrome – and it will be a final Wales appearance if Argentina triumph.

Biggar announced in August that he will step away from the international arena he has graced for the past 15 years, post-World Cup.

But Wales have their sights set on going deep into the tournament and he has no intention of reaching journey’s end just yet.

“For me, I am not thinking about anything, I don’t want this to be my last day as a rugby player for Wales. Hopefully, it will be the case I have another two weeks,” Biggar said.

“For those of us who will be finishing after the World Cup there will be a bit of extra pressure, but it is also a huge motivation.

“I definitely don’t want my last day as a Welsh rugby player to be losing a quarter-final.

“We have worked as hard as we possibly can all week, doing everything we possibly can as a team and individuals to make sure we go out on a high rather than a disappointing end.”

Wales have reached a fourth successive World Cup quarter-final, with Biggar returning to action after recovering from a pectoral muscle strain suffered early in the record 40-6 victory over Australia three weeks ago.

Biggar went off after just 12 minutes, and he added: “Initially, I thought it was going to be really difficult, but we have managed to heal up okay.

“Basically, I have just been with the physios pretty much every day for the last two-and-a-half weeks and getting myself back for this. It was one which I really didn’t want to miss.

“I am just really lucky, I suppose, lucky and grateful to be preparing for a game tomorrow. It was one of those where I thought it would have been such a shame to have ended it that way.

“It is important to say it’s not about myself or anybody else leaving the team tomorrow, it is about making sure that we stay on because the belief and the confidence we’ve got in the group now is really high.”

Biggar’s game management and goalkicking will see him have a key role to play against the Pumas when Wales target a third semi-final in the last four World Cups.

“We have spoken all week about not being ready to go home yet,” he said.

“It is funny how time changes because probably three, four or five months ago if somebody had said we were going to win our pool and be in a really strong position to get to a semi-final, people would have thought you were talking absolute madness.

“So it just shows how much confidence and belief we have had as a group as the weeks have gone by and spent more time together.

“We noticed as the weeks have gone on that the support for us from back home has grown and grown, and the belief has grown.

“We are hoping to have a load of Welsh fans in here (Stade Velodrome) tomorrow. Loads of families and friends are coming to the game – I’ve got 13 people staying in my house in Toulon!

“We know we are playing a very, very tough team tomorrow.

“They have probably got a little bit more to come than what they’ve shown in the pool stages, we probably know that they are going to be right up for this tomorrow and we know how difficult it is going to be.

“I think a lot of people in Wales just think we’ve got to turn up tomorrow to get the job done. We have spoken all week about how that is the absolute opposite of what our mindset is.

“We are going to have to play a lot better than probably what we have done in the pool stages to win. Hopefully we can deliver a really good performance and make this World Cup even more special than it already has been.”

Warren Gatland says it would be “a huge achievement” if Wales reach their third Rugby World Cup semi-final in the last four tournaments by beating Argentina on Saturday.

Gatland’s team face the Pumas in Marseille after dominating a pool that some thought they might not qualify from following a dismal Six Nations campaign last season.

Four successive wins and 19 points collected saw them leave sides like Fiji and Australia in their slipstream to set up the Pumas clash at Stade Velodrome.

“It would be our third semi-final, and then in 2015 we were leading South Africa for 75 minutes (in the quarter-finals) and conceded at the end,” Gatland said. “Reflecting on that, we would be pretty proud.

“I have always spoken about how much I have enjoyed the World Cup preparations.

“It is the only time you get to feel like you are a club side in getting that detail done. You feel like you have made a huge amount of progress.

“After all the challenges during the Six Nations, with the potential (player) strike and the contracts and the money with the Union (Welsh Rugby Union) and regions, as coaches we would joke about what would happen next, what would be the next thing thrown at us?.

“I definitely think there has been a line in the sand drawn under that. If we can make the semi-final it would be a huge achievement for this group of players and coaches, who have done a great job, and the back-room staff have been outstanding.

“I know there are some people and some teams out there who won’t want to face a Wales team when they start playing with confidence and when we start having momentum.

“That is when we are at our most dangerous. We are starting to look that way at the moment.”

Wales have not met Argentina in the World Cup for 24 years, but their recent form against them is impressive, having lost just two of the last 11 Tests.

And while Wales sailed through their group, Argentina lost to 14-man England, unconvincingly beat Samoa and then defeated Japan in what was a quarter-final eliminator.

Gatland added: “We are expecting them to come really hard at us. I don’t think anything changes, and the players are well aware of that.

“We talk about being on the edge mentally and you can’t be there at the top of that every single week, so it is how close you can get to it.

“We’ve had a couple of games already where we feel we have been really on the edge in a positive way, and a couple of games where we have been off two or three per cent, so it is how close you can get to that 100 per cent mental peak.

“I am expecting that will be right up there from that physical challenge that will come at us.”

Wales show one change from the side that beat Fiji and Australia, with Tommy Reffell called up to the back-row and Aaron Wainwright switching from blindside flanker to number eight instead of broken arm victim Taulupe Faletau.

Centre George North, meanwhile, will become the first Wales player to feature in four World Cup quarter-finals.

“It is an unbelievable achievement, especially when you realise it after how much hard work all of the boys in every team have to do for a World Cup – it is years in the undertaking,” North’s midfield partner, Nick Tompkins, said.

“So, for him to do it four times is pretty impressive. I am not sure I would be able to do that.

“It speaks volumes for the determination and kind of bloke he is. He is on the best form he has been on for a long, long time.”

Wales will target a third Rugby World Cup semi-final appearance in the last four tournaments when they tackle Argentina on Saturday.

The quarter-final clash in Marseille comes after Wales collected 19 points from a possible 20 to dominate the pool.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points heading into the game.

Wales in the driving seat

It would have been fanciful seven months ago to identify Wales as possible World Cup semi-finalists, given a miserable Six Nations campaign that saw them win one game.

Head coach Warren Gatland has turned things around, though, masterminding an unbeaten group phase that produced key victories over Fiji and Australia.

In contrast, Argentina found it tough going, losing to 14-man England before posting an unimpressive win against Samoa and then qualifying as Pool D runners-up.

It is a first World Cup meeting between Wales and the Pumas since 1999, with Gatland’s team firm favourites.

Faletau loss a huge blow

Wales’ victory over Georgia last weekend was clouded by number eight Taulupe Faletau suffering a broken arm that ruled him out of the tournament.

With 104 caps to his name and a consistent ability to hit world-class standards, his absence cannot be sugar-coated, even if Wales have enviable back-row strength.

Big players produce big performances in big games, and few Wales players have delivered such quality so regularly than Faletau during his 12-year Test career.

The shows goes on, but one of its star performers has left the stage.

Form and history favours Wales

Former Wales flanker Richard Webster once said that rugby is a sport played on grass, not paper, but form and history strongly supports a Wales victory on Saturday.

Four successive wins since losing their final World Cup warm-up match to South Africa represents a longest unbeaten run for more than two years, while Gatland has a 100 per cent record as Wales boss against the Pumas of played six, won six.

Argentina have beaten Wales only twice in the last 11 meetings, and their World Cup performances so far do not suggest an immediate turnaround in fortunes.

Biggar to boss the show?

Biggar is back at fly-half after recovering from a pectoral muscle injury suffered against Australia almost three weeks ago, with his leadership and game-management vital to Wales successfully negotiating their quarter-final hurdle.

The 33-year-old, who has won 111 caps, will retire from international rugby after the World Cup, and he is likely to be front and centre in Marseille as Wales target a triumph that would take them on the road to Paris for the tournament’s final fortnight.

His influence cannot be understated.

Jac Morgan – captain marvel

While Wales’ cap centurions like Biggar, Faletau and George North – who makes a Welsh record fourth World Cup quarter-final appearance – have all made their presence felt in France, the relatively inexperienced Morgan has also operated at an impressive level on a consistent basis.

Squad co-captain with hooker Dewi Lake, 23-year-old Morgan led Wales superbly in key pool-stage victories over Fiji and Australia, while his performances warranted the rave reviews they received.

There is a calm, quiet authority about the Ospreys flanker, who revels in Test rugby’s unforgiving and unrelenting environment.

Warren Gatland says that Wales are not ready to go home and they will embrace the pressure surrounding Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.

Victory over the Pumas in Marseille would see Wales reach a third World Cup semi-final under Gatland.

And while the Wales head coach had short shrift for those complaining about the World Cup draw being conducted in late 2020 – two heavyweight contenders out of France, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa will be eliminated this weekend – his sole focus is on events at Stade Velodrome.

“The quarter-final poses its own challenges and pressures because you are either here until the end of the tournament or you are going home on Monday,” Gatland said.

“Definitely as a squad, we are not ready to go home. It is pressure rugby now in the knockout stages, and that is what we have prepared for.

“You have just got to embrace it (pressure). You cannot hide away from it, and we know within the squad the preparation that has gone into this World Cup.

“We are not surprised where we are. We think we are in pretty good shape from a physical point of view, but also a mental point of view in terms of our preparation.

“If you read or listened to anyone a couple of months ago, there was speculation, people predicting we would not get out of the group.

“We haven’t spoken about underdogs or favourite tags. We are just going through our own processes and working as hard as we can to make sure the preparation is right for Saturday.”

Dan Biggar and Liam Williams have been passed fit to start against Argentina, while centre George North will become the first Welshman to feature in four World Cup quarter-finals.

Biggar had been battling to overcome a chest injury and Williams was a doubt because of a knee problem, but they have been given the all-clear and start at fly-half and full-back, respectively.

There is no place in the matchday 23 for Gareth Anscombe, however, after he was forced to withdraw 45 minutes before kick-off against Georgia last Saturday because of a groin issue.

Taulupe Faletau’s World Cup-ending broken arm sustained in the 43-19 victory over the Georgians has resulted in a reshuffle to the back-row.

Aaron Wainwright moves across from blindside flanker to fill the void at number eight created by Faletau’s injury, while skipper Jac Morgan takes the number six shirt.

Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell, meanwhile, comes in at openside to complete the back-row adjustments.

Asked for his verdict on the perceived lopsided draw – the bottom half features Wales, Argentina, England and Fiji and was based on world rankings in January 2020 – Gatland added: “I would just say to the other teams they should have done better in the last World Cup. That is where the draw came from.

“It is not our fault this happened. You didn’t hear us complaining in 2015 about Fiji, Australia, England and ourselves being in the same pool. We didn’t complain about that.

“You are dealt a hand and you have just got to deal with that.

“I agree with the sentiment that the draw may have been done too early. It has been done too early in the past, and whether the people in control of that next time can put the pools together a bit later, that is up to them.

“We can’t change what has been done. We can only play what’s in front of us. In saying that, I thought our group was the most even.”

Wales have lost only two of their last 11 Tests against Argentina, and while Gatland’s team made an unbeaten march through their group, collecting 19 points from a possible 20, the Pumas struggled.

They lost to 14-man England, found it hard going against Samoa and only secured a last-eight place with a final game victory over Japan.

Gatland said: “They bring that South American mentality, they are very passionate and that is why they have won big games against top teams in the past in the southern hemisphere.

“They don’t give up, they stay in the fight. They are a really tough team to break down and beat, and it is going to be a big challenge for us.”

New Wales cap Regan Poole admits he owes so much to Manchester United after making his international debut on Wednesday night.

Defender Poole seemed destined for stardom in 2015 after leaving Newport aged 17, on the same day United made Anthony Martial football’s most expensive teenager.

But Poole’s first-team action at Old Trafford was restricted to an 89th-minute substitute appearance in a 2016 Champions League tie – a 5-1 win over Danish club Midtjylland, in which England striker Marcus Rashford announced himself with two goals on debut.

Poole would be loaned out to Northampton and Newport before signing for MK Dons, Lincoln and Portsmouth, where he has hit the ground running with three goals in 12 appearances for the Sky Bet League One leaders.

“It’s always been my aim to win that cap,” Poole said after helping Wales to a 4-0 friendly win over Gibraltar in Wrexham, ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia.

“I’m 25 and I’ve had to wait a little while to get it, but hopefully there are many more to come.

“I had the experience of playing for the under-21s a few times and got called up there.

“It went quiet for a little while, but I’ve had a really positive start for my new club and hopefully I can stay in the squad.”

Cardiff-born Poole became Newport’s youngest-ever player in 2014 upon making his debut at the age of 16 and 94 days.

Poole’s performances soon had Premier League scouts flocking to Rodney Parade and he eventually headed for Old Trafford for a £100,000 fee, with attached add-ons taking it to a potential £500,000.

“I was at such a young age when the move came about,” said Poole.

“It was such a shock, but it was something I had to do. I look back on my time there and they improved me so much as a person and as a player.

“I don’t regret it in a way because I had to do it. I loved my time there and I think it’s showing now how much they improved me.

“I was training with such good players and that’s shown in my career.”

On his brief time as a United first-team player, Poole added: “That’s something I look back on with great pride.

“I know it was only one game but I can say that I played for Manchester United and not many people can say that. So I look back on that and think ‘well done’.

“Marcus scored two in that game and then I came on late. He was a good friend of mine at the time and he’s gone on to do such great things.”

Poole is determined to play at the top level again and believes that is possible at Portsmouth.

He said: “I’m loving it down there. We’ve started so brightly and we’re looking for promotion.

“We’re trying to get the football club back to where it belongs. Why can’t we do it at Portsmouth?

“Ipswich are doing really well (in the Championship after going up from League One last season) and if we can get promoted, why not?

“Portsmouth is a Premier League football club and should never be in League One.

“I believe I can play in the Premier League. If you don’t think that, you’re in the wrong sport.”

Marseille and Paris take centre stage when the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals unfold on Saturday and Sunday.

Four intriguing contests see Ireland meeting New Zealand and France tackling reigning world champions South Africa at Stade de France, while Marseille plays host to Wales against Argentina and England taking on Fiji.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key quarter-final talking points.

Warren Gatland has worked his magic

After Wales won a solitary game during last season’s Six Nations, any prospect of them becoming World Cup semi-finalists seven months later could have been described as fanciful in the extreme. But head coach Warren Gatland has come up trumps once again in his second stint at the helm, transforming Wales through an unbeaten four-match run in their pool, collecting 19 points out of a possible 20 and going into Saturday’s clash against the Pumas as firm favourites. It would be Wales’ third semi-final appearance in the last four World Cup campaigns under Gatland if they get there, and Argentina have their work cut out to stop them, especially given patchy form during the group phase when they qualified as Pool D runners-up behind England.

In-form Ireland to banish last-eight curse?

Ireland have topped the world rankings for 15 months and are favourites for Saturday’s mouthwatering Paris showdown with three-time world champions New Zealand. Yet the Irish have never won a World Cup knockout match. Seven times previously they have reached the last eight of the tournament and seven times they have been sent home. The last of those early exits came at the hands of the formidable All Blacks four years ago. Head coach Andy Farrell has masterminded three wins from four meetings since that 46-14 hammering in Tokyo, including a historic tour triumph on New Zealand soil last summer, and instilled great mental resolve in his players. His team will equal the record for consecutive Test wins by a tier one nation (18) by banishing Ireland’s quarter-final curse. However, standing in their way is one of the toughest challenges in world rugby and an All Blacks side intent on revenge.

Pantomime villains England

It will be akin to shooting Bambi if England are to reach the semi-finals due to Fiji’s status as darlings of the World Cup, willed on by neutrals who desire the fairy-tale scenario of a Pacific Islands team progressing into the latter stages of the tournament. Number eight Billy Vunipola has acknowledged his side are “public enemy number one”, but points out that historical anti-English sentiment means they are well versed in fighting against popular opinion. On the favourites’ side is that the vast numbers of red rose fans who have followed their team in France will turn the Stade Velodrome into a home ground. Fiji, after pushing Wales to the limit in their opening match, have struggled to regain such fluency and it could prove a game too far for them.

French flair or Springboks power?

The second of the weekend’s two box-office Paris quarter-finals pits the expectant hosts against the defending champions. Whoever prevails on Sunday will view it as a huge obstacle overcome in their quest to win the tournament. France will have the backing of a frenzied home support sensing an opportunity for their team to claim the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time. Les Bleus have not lost on home soil since Scotland defeated them in Paris behind closed doors in a Six Nations match two-and-a-half years ago. The Springboks – chasing World Cup glory for a fourth time – entered the tournament in scintillating form and began with an impressively comfortable win over Scotland before their momentum was halted slightly by a narrow loss to Ireland in their penultimate pool match. The contrast of French flair and the ferocious physicality of South Africa promises to deliver an epic contest to conclude the weekend spectacular.

Dan Biggar and Liam Williams have been passed fit to start Wales’ World Cup quarter-final against Argentina on Saturday.

Biggar has been struggling with a chest injury and Williams was a doubt because of a knee problem, but they have been given the all-clear for the Stade Velodrome showdown and start at fly-half and full-back respectively.

There is no place in the 23 for Gareth Anscombe, however, after he was forced to withdraw 45 minutes before kick-off against Georgia last Saturday because of a groin issue.

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