Sunday 27th October 2019 will be a day etched in the memory of Wales rugby supporters forever. The Battle of Yokohama was lost as South Africa knocked us out at the Rugby World Cup semi-final yet again.
The ramifications and fall-out from the defeat are far and wide, with people keen to assess the performance and tactics, or perceived lack of them, the players who may never play again in a World Cup or at all for Wales, and of course the fact that Warren Gatland’s era as head coach is coming to an end.
My interest has been peaked by the issue of how we should be feeling having been knocked out at this stage of the tournament though, and why we should be feeling it.
As Jerome Garces blew the final whistle I was gutted. Proper gutted. And I’m not even that fussed about Team Wales!
However, I felt an overwhelming amount of pride in the players.
Now I always have empathy for rugby players, a respect for going out on the field and putting their bodies on the line for 80 minutes. Especially when it comes to representing your country on the biggest stage against some huge and physical South African men, I will always nod to the efforts of those who pull on the jersey.
Add to that the fact that this group of have worked towards this World Cup for the best part of two years, completing successful summer and autumn series in 2018 and winning the Grand Slam before claiming the number one spot in the world rankings just a few months ago, and they have achieved a lot.
My main source of pride though, and this is what seems is up for debate, is that we have achieved all of that as one of the smallest tier one countries.
Now this isn’t an excuse for losing, far from it, it is simply a fact that we are a small country, with a smaller population and fewer registered rugby players than the majority of other tier one teams.
We have to punch above our weight in terms of resources and playing numbers, specifically as rugby union is second to football in terms of popularity in Wales, although I’m not getting into the national sport debate now.
Unfortunately a number of people on social media have attempted to decry this point, mainly English people it must be said, but actually I think the debate about being proud should be more about mindset rather than size as we are indisputably small.
The mindset is an interesting one as although we are small, we currently have an incredibly talented squad of players that, as I’ve mentioned, have achieved a lot.
There’s a suggestion that we should come down on the side of angry. Let down by a team that could, and arguably should, have been the first Wales team to make the Rugby World Cup Final.
New Zealand, the closest country in size to ours who, on paper, do also punch above their weight although to a slightly lesser degree than us, are furious about not making the Final having been knocked out by England.
Questions will be asked of the All Blacks and the post-mortem will likely continue for some time, meanwhile in Wales it was more about self-pity than anything in the Monday morning press, as we lick our wounds ahead of the third-place play-off.
Perhaps we do need a mindset shift, replicating the winning mentality that the team have had on the pitch in supporters and the media, to shake that tag of a small country doing well.
For now though, I don’t see a problem with being proud but disappointed.