Wales head to the World Cup with the omens against them, drawn in a so-called "group of death" alongside defending champions South Africa and potential South Seas banana skins Fiji and Samoa.
First up for Warren Gatland's men is a game against Pool D favourites South Africa in Wellington, followed by Samoa in Hamilton, and Namibia in New Plymouth. The group phase ends with an ominous-looking match-up against Fiji.
It was the Fijians who broke Welsh hearts at the last World Cup in 2007, pipping then-coach Gareth Jenkins' men 38-34 in the western French city of Nantes.
Wales also famously lost to Samoa in the 1991 World Cup on home turf, and with Samoa having recently beaten Australia, and a whole clutch of the South Sea Islanders plying their trade in top leagues the world over, Wales will certainly have their work cut out.
"It certainly comes as no surprise that they can turn over teams on their day," No. 8 Ryan Jones said of Samoa's victory over the Wallabies.
"We know what to expect from them and similarly from Fiji and if there is any side that doesn't need to be told about the dangers of underestimating either of them then it is Wales.
"However, I've always been a big believer that past games count for nothing and that any side can win on any given day.
"Obviously that works both ways, which Samoa have shown, but we will prepare well and then, when we get to New Zealand, it will be about what happens on the pitch and nothing else will matter when that whistle goes," he added.
The run-in to the World Cup has been anything but smooth sailing for the Welsh, injuries on the pitch compounding serious breaches of the squad's code of conduct off it.
Erstwhile captain and hooker Matthew Rees will miss the tournament for an operation on a niggling neck injury, handing Gatland, himself once a hooker, a real headache in the front row.
Also injured is Gavin Henson, the mercurial utility back who is currently without a club after hopping from Ospreys to Saracens and then departing Toulon acrimoniously after just two games and a punch-up with teammates.
Henson, whose obvious talent is sometimes shielded by his urge to seek out publicity no matter the cost, dislocated a bone in his wrist and looks set to miss out on a third World Cup.
Scrumhalf Mike Phillips also made the news for all the wrong reasons, filmed being wrestled to the ground by a bouncer at a fast food restaurant in the early hours of the morning.
A week's ban and he is now reinstated in a squad that returned from two sessions in Poland using cryothemic chambers - and looking fit.
In the warm-up games, Wales were pipped 23-19 by England and then reversed their fortunes with a 19-9 victory at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, before dominating Argentina for a 28-13 win.
There is no denying that the Welsh have some class players, the likes of utility back James Hook, centre Jamie Roberts and the up-and-coming George North lighting up the backs.
Phillips is one of the leading No. 9s in the world on his day, while Sam Warburton has emerged from Martyn Williams' shadow at Cardiff Blues and the Wales set-up to become an outstanding openside flank and leader.
Warburton leads a rejuvenated pack alongside young teammates Dan Lydiate (flank) and Tongan-born Toby Faletau (No. 8), with old hands Ryan Jones and Alun Wyn Jones always a calming and influential presence.
The weakness will likely come in the front row. Rees is out and first-choice props Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins have been battling serious injury.
It will be a big ask of their replacements to step up a level and see if Wales can improve on their best ever showing in a World Cup, when they finished third in the inaugural edition in 1987.
Wales coach since Gareth Jenkins' departure after the Red Dragons bombed out of the last World Cup at the group stage, the Hamilton-born Gatland faces an emotional return to the country of his birth. The 47-year-old played 17 times for the midweek All Blacks team and even featured in a Waikato side that beat a touring Wales team in 1988. Since taking over as Wales coach, Gatland has insisted on organising an impressive series of November internationals against the Tri-Nations teams in a bid to toughen up his team. But consistency is a major problem and with a success rate of 44 percent in 32 games at the helm, Gatland knows that all stops will have to be pulled out to improve that ratio.
Sam Warburton - backrow
The Cardiff-born Warburton has emerged from mentor Martyn Williams' shadow at both the Blues and the Wales set-up. A strong, dynamic player on the park comfortable with ball in hand, the 22-year-old has also established himself as a proven leader and was given Gatland's nod of approval by receiving the captain's armband during Wales' warm-up games.
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