However, we feared the worst, when in the 13th minute, Dan Biggar, star and master of the team, hit in the chest, had to give up his place to Anscombe, aligned a week earlier with the Welsh reserve and uncomfortable against Portugal.

The fear was heightened when the substitute opener missed his first penalty shoot-out, in the ropes of any striker on the international stage.

"Yet that's where we saw his experience and his mentality, appreciated Yann Delaigue, former halfback of the France team. Three minutes after his failure, it was he who asked to try a similar penalty again and he put it in. He has assumed his responsibilities. It shows the confidence he has in himself."

"rusty against Portugal"

Anscombe's recital was then able to begin. The Suntory Sungoliaths opener in Japan added five more penalties, a conversion on Nick Tompkins' try and a drop to top it off.

Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe with his child after the win over Australia during the 2023 Rugby World Cup at Parc OL in Decines-Charpieu near Lyon, France September 24, 2023 © Francis BOMPARD / AFP

"He was a bit rusty against Portugal," coach Warren Gatland said after the game. But we chose him for his experience and he controlled the game well. (...) It's great to see him score so well. But I think he made some really good decisions as well."

Delaigue agrees: "He perfectly animated the game of his team as well. He's more than a goalscorer, he's a playmaker, an experienced player. Against Australia, he exuded confidence."

As proof, this action in the Australian 22 meters in the 48th minute, where with a small kick over the defense, he offered the second Welsh try to his center Tompkins.

With his performance, the New Zealand-born Anscombe, with whom he won the World Juniors in 2011, symbolizes the Welsh revival during the World Cup.

The average age of the group is far from the oldest of the teams present in France, but Warren Gatland has operated a clever mix of experienced players and promising youngsters.

In the position of opener for example, he has his holder, Biggar, 33, a luxury replacement Anscombe, 32 and Sam Costelow, 22, opener of the Scarlets who embodies the future of the XV du Poireau.

Gatland, master of preparation

"It's a mature team," Delaigue agrees. But where Gatland is very strong is that it was thought to be on the decline. But he prepared it perfectly, as at every World Cup, by the way."

Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe hits a penalty during the win over Australia during the 2023 Rugby World Cup at Parc OL in Decines-Charpieu near Lyon, France September 24, 2023 © Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

With his traditional pre-world camps in Switzerland and Turkey, the New Zealand coach has rehabilitated his thirty-year-old players. Taulupe Faletau, George North, Will Rowlands and the others arrived in France with their twenty-year-old legs.

"They are very competitive, thinks Delaigue, but I would still put a caveat: their pool is the easiest. Australia were catastrophic and Fiji, who are a great team, are not the All Blacks or Ireland."

Still. With Anscombe and his "best old", Wales are the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition.

In Marseille, he will probably face England or Argentina who seem quite within his reach to reach the semi-finals. Unthinkable just a few months ago, when the Welsh finished in a pitiful penultimate place at the Six Nations Tournament.

It seems far away, the time when, last February, Ken Owens, then captain of the team - forfeit for the World Cup - lamented that Wales is the "laughing stock of world rugby".

The old Welsh don't make anyone laugh anymore.

© 2023 AFP