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Nervous times for Kiwis as fearless Wales relish semi

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Tom Fordyce | 08:16 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

Auckland, North Island

We can quantify so many of the key variables in rugby - points, tackles, turnovers, possession, penalties. But in these last few frantic hours before this weekend's World Cup semi-finals, the great rogue factor is suddenly alive in the Auckland air: confidence.

Supporters of all four nations have been pouring into town since Wednesday, almost all of them with beaming smiles on their chops to go with the pint pots in their hands. The exceptions are those wearing black shirts, the ones who, by those statistics that can be stacked up, should be the happiest of all.

New Zealand is nervous. New Zealand is worried. New Zealand is starting to think the whole horrible World Cup nightmare might be about to happen all over again.

The knock-out stages are traditionally a bad time for All Blacks fans, the point where four years of world domination come crashing down in a flurry of intercepted passes, dramatic injuries to key men and moments of heart-breaking brilliance from opposition backs.

You'd think it would feel better this time, playing on home soil, facing a side they've beaten in eight of the last 10 head-to-heads and at a ground where that team hasn't beaten them since 1986.

That would be to misjudge the Kiwi rugby psyche. This is worse - far, far worse.

If losing to Australia in the Sydney semi of 2003 felt bad, and the defeat by Australia in Dublin back in 1991 stank to the stars, just imagine this: losing to the Wallabies - coached by a Kiwi, Robbie Deans, and with Kiwi-born and raised Quade Cooper pulling the strings - in their own backyard, at a tournament they are paying for and cannot, whatever happens, avoid if it all goes wrong.

The message from the fans for the New Zealand team is clear. Photo: Getty

It's been the doomsday scenario on every New Zealander's mind ever since they won the Cup's hosting rights.

"It's almost the perfect storm," says Bill Williams, from the national rugby museum in New Plymouth. "And look what happened to the blokes in that.

"Australia are our biggest threat. By the time kick-off time comes round on Sunday, there'll be a lot of very anxious people in this country.

"I can't even face watching it in a bar, in case we go out. I'd rather commit suicide quietly at home."

If that sounds extreme, it's the same jittery story everywhere you go asking.

"If we lose, it would be black armbands time," says Nicki, working the official All Blacks store on Queen Street in the middle of Auckland. "We've been waiting for this moment for eight years.

"I was living in London in 1991, and the Aussies were insufferable. It's almost unthinkable that they could beat us again. It would kill the party stone dead."

What of those on the front line? "The English language would have to grow some new words to describe how I'd feel," the chap at the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra, the heart of enemy territory, tells me. "I'm not meant to talk to you about this, but you'd have to invent some new syllables."

The contrast with the other camps is marked. Four teams might have a chance of making the final, but only one is expected to.

The Aussies are relaxed and punchy, buoyed by their remarkable wriggle past the Springboks in last weekend's quarter-finals. Cooper brushes away the awkward questions in news conferences far more successfully that he has escaped opposition tacklers so far, revelling in his role as public enemy number one and teasing the native newsmen with tales of his Kiwi grandmother in the Northland town of Kaikohe.

"She sends me a lot of text messages that all her friends from her local bowls club are right behind me," he grins, "so that gives you a very heart-warming boost of confidence."

The French should be feeling as twitchy as their hosts. This is their sixth semi-final in seven World Cups, their fifth on the bounce, but they have lost three of them. No team has ever won the trophy after losing in the pool stages, and France went down twice.

Compared to the civil war of a few weeks ago, however, there is now an atmosphere of relative calm, with skipper Thierry Dusatoir even enjoying a little dig at the old enemy when remembering the semi-final defeat of 2007: "Then, we had beaten the best team in the world, the All Blacks, who had been undefeated in years and who were the big favourites. This time, we have beaten England, so it's a little different."

And Wales? While nerves may be clanging back home, the squad out here are smiling, joking, and - get this, England - talking about their biggest match in 24 years with a genuine sense of excitement.

"The younger guys like George (North) and Toby (Faletau) don't talk about pressure, they talk about excitement and how they love playing on the big stage," says captain Sam Warburton.

"It wasn't so long ago that they were in school watching the massive games. That is why they are playing with no fear."

If only it were so uncomplicated for the hosts. Until you've travelled round New Zealand, it's hard to appreciate quite how caught up the country is in the 24-year quest to regain the Webb-Ellis trophy.

In the cities, almost every shop or business you stroll past has a huge sign in the window exhorting the team to victory. Billboards across Auckland have been taken over by the big companies blaring out how they're backing the boys.

Out in the sticks, silver fern flags are everywhere - hanging on garden fences, flapping from the roofs of trucks and cars, festooned around verandas and café windows.
The support is almost overwhelming. So too is the pressure and expectation that goes with it. Front pages of newspapers have been dominated by the state of Richie McCaw's foot.

McCaw will play on Sunday despite ongoing concerns with a foot injury. Picture: AFP/Getty

The current crop of All Blacks stars have sounded almost wistful this week. "I wish all that support could put points on the board for us," said centre Conrad Smith, "but unfortunately it doesn't. We've been loving it, but obviously it adds a bit to the intensity."
What steer do the cold hard stats give us?

France's long-term form against Wales suggests they start as favourites. While the overall record could barely be closer - Wales have won 43 of their 88 meetings, France 42 - Les Bleus have won 10 of the past 13 matches.

Eleven of France's starting line-up on Saturday played in the last contest against Wales, the 28-9 win in this year's Six Nations. Ten of Wales' starting line-up played too.

Against that stands the Welsh form of the last month. Nothing Warburton and his brave boys have done in New Zealand suggests history hurts them at all.

As for the Aussies - well, while the All Blacks have all the history - 96 wins to 41, with five draws - the Wallabies have the most recent edge, winning two of the last three matches.

"It's the biggest game a lot of my team have played in, quite frankly," says All Blacks coach Graham Henry, with disarming honestly. "The guys have been a bit quieter than normal, probably because it's such a huge game."

If the Kiwi camp is quiet, the host city is not. There is barely a hotel room available for miles, while the bars lining Viaduct Harbour are bursting at the pumps.

If the locals don't seem to mind the commotion, there is one phrase none of them want to hear come Sunday night.

Four more years? It would feel like forever.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    can just imagine it now beat australia, joyous celebrations then blowing it in the final, typical nz at the wc

  • Comment number 2.

    No team has ever won the trophy after losing in the pool stages, and France went down twice


    also sfter noticing this, after all that nz scare mongering surely its in the bag for them then?

  • Comment number 3.

    New Zealand vs France final, and France will come from behind to win.
    The fans will be New Zealand's downfall, all happy and joyful through the tournament but in the final it will turn to nerves and the players will feel double the pressure and choke.

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't think NZ choked in 1991 or 2003. Australia for me were the best side in the world in 1991. And 2003, Australia on their day could be equal to them. I think the general point of their 2003 campaign was that the All Blacks were only side in the world at the time that could seriously worry Woodward's England side.

    As for the result of Sunday's game? I think the All Blacks will win this time round.

  • Comment number 5.

    magicDarkshadow

    i think in 2003 the reason it was considered a choke was a few months before that semi between aus-nz in the tri nations nz had put 50 up against aus in australia(also 50 against sa in sa in the same tri nations) so that semi was considered a formality

  • Comment number 6.

    How very dangerous to assume that, if they beat Australia, the ABs are home and dry. Particularly if Wales win the other semi, I would say the result is far from certain.

    As for choking, well, in 2007 they choked, no question. 2003 they were a little disappointing against Australia, but choke would be a strong way of putting it. Of course, they almost literally choked in 1995, but that was hardly their fault! The choker charge will only stick if they fail this time around - surely the All Blacks are bigger than one injured player?

  • Comment number 7.

    I would desperately like to see a NZ - Wales final (Which Wales would win..), but I fear it will be Oz - Wales, and OZ to win. I'm An Englishman, but I feel as nervous for Wales as I would for England. I've never seen Wales play so brilliantly. They deserve to win it. GO WALES!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Not enough men in the New Zealand starting lineup have moustache's, their pack would definatly benefit from a couple of handlebars.

  • Comment number 9.

    Isn't it funny that 3 of the 4 teams in the semi-finals have lost at least once int he competition already. In theory - the 2 finalists come come from teams that have already lost 3 matches between them.

    In a way it would be a bit of a travisty if France and Australia were contesting the final. I would love to see New Zealand win it as I think the competition will be slightly tainted if a team already defeated wins the competition.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Choking is a very strong word and has been mistakenly associated with the New Zealand team in the past few RWC's. It appears that simply not winning is often equated with the label choking. Apart from the rugby issue (prob. not being fair to the teams that have defeated them) choking should only be used when a sudden and unexpected decline in performance is due to an anxiety response. Paradoxically, it may occur when performers want the win too much! Thinking too much about well-learned skills can disrupt their smooth execution, for example. So if sub-optimal performance isn't a litmus test for choking what is? Persistent unforced errors, communication breakdown, lack of emotional control and missing easy kicks at goal, would all be good indicators. If New Zealand lose to Australia, this weekend, it won't necessarily mean they choked. How either team loses will tell the real story.

  • Comment number 12.

    COME ON FRANCE!!! Despite them beating us in the quarters, i would absoloutely love to see them smash the welsh. Who ever wins the Nz Oz game, will go on to win it, the southern hemisphere are much better than the north at this time. COME ON YOU BLUES

  • Comment number 13.

    I think you're lost Bilo.
    I'm a down-in-the-dumps Englishman but am truly thrilled at the prospect of an NZ v Wales final. 2 great genuine rugby nations going head to head for the sports' ultimate prize.
    At school we would watch NZ and Wales games from the 70's and early 80's as part of our coaching routine. Glourious rugby.
    It's all about the guys who take to the field this weekend remembering where they come from and why they are there, focus on the job in hand and play with passion. NZ-historically the opponent that would stirke fear into any side regardless of on paper form, it's about who they are.
    Wales, playing out of their skins, some wonderfully powerful and highly skilled rugby. I'd love to see it happen. Could Wales even win it?....Course they could....it's who THEY are.

  • Comment number 14.

    @9

    That's like saying the football World Cup was tainted by Spain winning (after losing their opening game).

    Knockout competition in any sport is a test of both skill and bottle and who can perform when the pressure is really on.

  • Comment number 15.

    Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953 (which means almost nothing today) so I don't understand why people think that Wales will be capable of beating them in the final should they both get there. Its just not going to happen. The final is effectivley the semi-final between New Zealand and Australia. France admittedly would have an outside chance of causing an upset but it's almost definitley going to be a Southern Hemisphere winner. There's a reason why they've won every world cup bar one!

  • Comment number 16.

    Both these semi finals could be excellent game, I hope they are!

    France v Australia for me in the final!

  • Comment number 17.

    @Girthy-Trees, please remind which Northern Hemisphere team that was!

  • Comment number 18.

    I don't necessarily think that the Aus-NZ game is effectively the final. Australia haven't looked very convincing, and Wales and France would both have a good shot at beating them. If NZ get to the final, I think they'll be too strong for either.

  • Comment number 19.

    Seems a lot like India and the Cricket World Cup earlier this year!

    Hadn't won it since 1983 and the same following that New Zealand has for rugby, only about 100 times the population (at least)

  • Comment number 20.

    No true Englishman would want to see Australia win anything, except against the French. So here's hoping for a Wales v New Zealand final.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ #15 - saying that Wales have no chance of beating NZ because they've not done so since 1953 is like saying that I have not crashed a car for 20 years and so there is no chance of me hitting that tree that I am heading towards...

    Sporting history is for sports pundits. Sporting results depend on the actions on the day, and history is only relevant if it affects the mindset of the players. On current evidence, if it comes down to a Wales v NZ final (and I really hope that it does) then NZ will take no comfort from that history and Wales will not be intimidated by it, so we are back to current form an nothing else - and on that basis a Wales v NZ final would be a great match and anyone's game.

  • Comment number 22.

    Tom,

    The national rugby museum is in Palmerston North, not New Plymouth. Lived there for a year and apart from the 2005 lions game that was about all it had going for it, unless you're interested in wind-farms. Other than that, excellent article.

    Also to those arguing that NZ aren't chokers, NZ have choked numerous times. When the overwhelming favourites based on recent results and ability fail to win, that is choking. Here's hoping for a Wales v NZ final and a mass clear-out of the RFU/England coaching set-up.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ #21 - So what your saying is past results mean nothing and therefore if it was a Wales V New Zealand final they should both go off at evens? You wouldn't be a very successful bookmaker!

    Somehow I do think New Zealand would take comfort from the fact that they stuffed Wales three times in 2010, the squads haven't changed that much since then!

  • Comment number 24.

    I think all is not as it appears with New Zealand. They are not invincible. Even if Dan Carter was not injured, and even if Ritchie McCaw was not carrying (what I think is) a serious foot injury, they would still not be invincible. The thing with them has always been a psychological edge over their opponents, possibly stemming from the Haka. So, if a side is willing to take the war to them head on, they too will be shown to have feet of clay, like anybody else.
    Nevertheless, I think McCaw is carying a serious injury and it will be shown up during the test with Australia, and Pocock & Co will more than likely do a job at the breakdown. So, I'm afarid I can only see Australia coming through that semi. However, if NZ do manage to scrape through, I think the Northern Hemisphere opponents in the final will be encouraged. If NZ win, I can see them having gotten through at a considerable cost in personnel, meaning NZ wouldn't be the favourites in their own back yard final.
    As for our beloved Wales, I think they could potentially put France to the sword and run in a few tries. I think they can show France this time. Why not? We pretty much witnessed this in 2005 and in 2008, so the potential is most definitely there.

  • Comment number 25.

    girthy_trees
    No one's saying the betting on Wales to beat NZ is 'evens' but you did say "not going to happen" - so would you take 100-1 odds? will bet a £10 right now if you are!

  • Comment number 26.

    Seriously though - from a Welsh point of view this is one of the best (if not the best) chances of not only reaching a world cup final - which I actually expect us to do tomorrow - but winning the world cup outright.

    It all comes down to confidence in ability and not feeling fear/intimidation when you take the park against the best teams (i.e. SA, NZ and Aus). In the last month Ireland have beaten Aus and we've beaten Ireland and fairly comfortably by modern standards. New Zealand are missing the best player in the world and McCaw is no longer the top of the tree any more (most agreeing bam bam is the new king of the scavangers!).

    I'm not saying I expect Wales to win the WC but if ever there was a chance now is it and let's not forget the importance of momentum going into a game - and we certainly have that!

  • Comment number 27.

    The good old 'choking' debate. The most satisfing result from NZ winning this tournament would be never having to debate that one again (or at least until SA show up for the next cricket world cup I suppose).

  • Comment number 28.

    Agree with #6

    91 and 2003 NZ were not the best side there so wouldn't call it choking and 95 NZ was easily the best team but unfortunate circumstances. 99 and 07 it was choking!

    Can't wait for Sunday, c'mon the AB's!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    I saw Dan Carter last week eating a knobbly bobbly, he was more than confident of New Zealand winning this world cup (even without him)
    And yes, i did compliment him on his good choice of frozen snack.

  • Comment number 30.

    New Zealand look impressive so far but again they have had a relatively easy path to the semi-finals, whereas the other 3 have had to battle their way there. Could this and their key injuries mean they will lose their consistency? Hope so as I would prefer Australia as a Welshman!

    Speaking of which, some of the support coming from the other Home Nations to Wales is truly humbling. We thank you for your support and I have confidence our boys in red can do us all proud. Nervous, but quietly confident I think is the mood here in South Wales.

    COME ON WALES!! :)

  • Comment number 31.

    The great thing about NZ-Aus clashes is they often produce massive come backs for one-side or the other. No team will feel safe until the final whistle. I hope there are a few tries.

    The forecast is for rain isn't it? Neither team have great tactical kicking but NZ's pick 'n go game could be quite handy...

  • Comment number 32.

    I am a Kiwi living in England and you have summed up perfectly the feelings of trepidation I have had since the World Cup draw. The only thing different is I was expecting South Africa to be the architects of our downfall, rather than the Aussies. I will support Wales on Saturday in what is likely to be a cracking game - then try and get as far away from a TV set as I can on Sunday.

  • Comment number 33.

    OK, let's face it, Bill has only been won twice by the truly top team, ABs in 87 and England in 03. Whether the ABs lose now in the semi against their arch rivals or Wales in the final doesn't matter - they WILL lose. It is symptomatic of southern hemisphere rugby, specifically with New Zealand, they cannot play knock-out rugby. Come on yee Taffs!!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    You'd have to say out of the remaining 4 teams New Zealand probably deserve to win the most as they're the only side not to lose a game so far. It's never sat easy with me the prospect of a team winning the cup despite losing a game, even when it was England's shot in 2007. That said Australia have beaten New Zealand plenty of times before at World Cups, equally France seem to have this mystifying ability to beat New Zealand at times they shouldn't and whilst Wales haven't beaten New Zealand since 1953 and never in World Cups they looked good against Ireland and there is always a first time. So plenty for them to be worried about.

  • Comment number 35.

    It is symptomatic of southern hemisphere rugby, specifically with New Zealand, they cannot play knock-out rugby. Come on yee Taffs!!!!


    despite the fact the southern hemisphere has accounted for 5 out of the 6 wc winners so far

  • Comment number 36.

    @LastKing 34
    Yes, but say if Wales beat France in Semi ( big if) and beat All Blacks final (huge if) surely they would have lost one game each, so no problem :-) Like the Ireland game for Wales, I think this is another 50:50 job. Wales could easily win... but also easily lose. Don't think I've been this nervous since...well, last weekend. Ymlaen Cymru!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    Really looking forward to the matches. Wales will definitely take France. After the French's narrow win over limp, lamentable England and their two previous group stage defeats, everyone seems to be talking them up but I just don't see it. They haven't been impressive in the tournie and their last match represented, to me, as a high a calibre performance that they are currently capable of. Using Parra at 10 shows desperation and, while (too) much was made of Harinordiquay's return, I still don't think they have enough.
    Wales on the other hand are firing; pushed SA to the brink and have carried on playing excellent rugby. I'm not going into details on their performances as it's all been said before. They're at the top of their game and playing with momentum, belief & confidence - it's great to see. I genuinely can't see it going any other way; the French will be toast come breakfast time.

    Aus v NZ is way too close to call. I've got a feeling the Kiwis will come up short and the Aussies will nick it as they have what it takes to un-pick the hosts.
    The All Blacks had looked in crushing form earlier on but I was not convinced by their win over Argentina. That match showed what a huge loss Carter is to them as there was a lack of fluidity, despite the brilliance of Weepu, that has only heaped more pressure on the home side. I just think (and like) that Australia play with more craft as opposed to the Kiwi graft and as long as Quade Cooper doesn't get himself tied up in knots like he did a few times against SA, they can prevail.
    But with the tie so finely balanced (imho) it may well come down to one or two key moments, like Mortlock's opportunist try in the 2003 semi.

    If Australia do get through, and I hope they do, I also think Wales would have a far better chance to win against them than over NZ.

  • Comment number 38.

    Australia have had their fair share of luck last week ...... its time for them to go home!

  • Comment number 39.

    Would love to see a Northern Hemisphere winner at least drag it back it 5-2 unfortuntely just can't see it.

    The Southern sides are just too strong for he sides left in it.

  • Comment number 40.

    While it's dangerous to assume that NZ will win on Saturday, it's even more dangerous to state that if they do beat Aus, that the tournament is theirs. I think Wales will pose more of an issue than the French would in a potential final against the All Blacks, especially so given the youth of their team, and the knowledge that there will be many WC's after this for the majority of the Welsh squad. It is common knowledge that taking NZ on in an arm wrestle is suicidal, and so don't be shocked to see Aus and then whoever NZ play in the final (provided they make it) put some air on the ball.

    And in passing, it would be so very French for them to win the WC from this position (having lost twice and been totally written off)

  • Comment number 41.

    COME ON FRANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    From an England supporter.

  • Comment number 42.

    I do think that the inclusion of James Hook is a positive for Wales. Priestland has been superb, but Hook will bring a bit more of the unexpected...as long as he mixes it with enough distribution to Roberts and Davies?

  • Comment number 43.

    A bit of a lottery really. Given the ineptitude of the ref in the Aus v SA game, this world cup winner will be determined by the calls made/not made by the ref. Hope that the IRB gets its act together for the next rwc.

  • Comment number 44.

    The 2007 world cup was indeed a dark day for All Black fans, not only because we lost to the French but also the manner in which we lost it....the French scored in the 69th minute to a forward pass with just over 10 mins to go. I fail to see how that counts as choking, as some of the contributors to this blog have suggested.

    I also don't think any right minded kiwi thinks that we have this world cup in the bag. We've learnt over the years not to get ahead of ourselves!

  • Comment number 45.

    I have a horrible feeling (being English) that Australia could do this. France Vs Wales is too close to call and, as always with France, it will depend on who turns up. All Blacks Vs Aus I see as less complicated. The ABs have not looked convincing so far, they sure have the potential but they just seem out of sorts and the way Aus defended last week I see them as favourites, they seem to have the nudge on this AB squad. As for England - well we're rubbish at the moment. I am a massive MJ fan but we have not gone anywhere in his 3 years in charge - what are we playing at?? I can see a 4th place finish in the 6 nations unless something drastic happens. Good luck Wales - I like the way Gatland has sorted out their issues and done so quietly but effectively - maybe he could pop across the boarder next ! LOL!

  • Comment number 46.

    An Ex-Pom, here but a pitch-black Kiwi. Near neighbour of Warren Gatland, too.
    Am I being so one-eyed that I can see both Wales and NZ winning comfortably in the semis?

  • Comment number 47.

    Both semis too close to call, which is what makes this tournament so enthralling.

    Let's hope we're not talking about the refs on Monday.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have to say I thought there would have been more blogs about wales team around now(know there was a few earlier in the week) any way to discuss this one...I feel that if Pocock does a number on McCaw, and that could happen if info re his foot injury is right, then Australia will win..it will be all be about the breakdown..my gut says ABs to win and win the whole RWC ...as for Wales v France, too close to call, heart would say Wales but gut says France as they will keep it tight, starve the welsh of the ball and kick drop goals/penalties at every opportunity, which means wales will then have to chase the game, and no I do not see wales getting off the a flying start.ABs v France final me thinks and hopes!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Allez Les Bleus!!! Come on France.... pleeeease smash those silly Wales people. AB's to win, they deserve it. Having said that I wouldn't mind if Australia or France win either...ANYONE BUT THE WALES!

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm expecting New Zealand to win this tournament. Home advantage does seem to count for a lot in rugby. Rugbydata.com suggests that Australia haven't won in New Zealand since August 2001, a period which includes a sequence of thirteen matches. As in 1987 when they were last (co-)hosts, New Zealand have scored thirty-odd points to date in each match, and not many teams lose from that position (Romania scored 24 against Scotland). Australia won the Tri-Nations this summer by winning in South Africa, a feat that New Zealand failed to achieve.

    New Zealand were comfortably the best team in Pools A and B combined, while using South Africa rather than Ireland as a yardstick, Wales and Australia appear to be roughly on a par. How Wales and Australia (from the other half of the draw)compare with New Zealand will become apparent when the semi-finals are played.

    Apart from 1991 when Australia eliminated New Zealand in a Northern Hemisphere tournament, New Zealand have either won as host nation or been eliminated by a team from the hemisphere in which the tournament has been held.

    France is my pick in the other semi-final (they have had their Tonga moment), but this is Wales's best opportunity in a long time, and if any country is ripping up the formbook it is Wales...

  • Comment number 51.

    Oh, I wish I could share the same emotions like Kiwis, Aussies, French and Welsh. I'm Polish I will never be able to enjoy Polish national team competing at the highest level of rugby. I think people in rugby nations are not fully aware how happy they are as they can experience so many emotions related to the most powerful and spectacular sport event on Earth. Even if NZ loses to Australia and Kiwis will be disapponted to the limit it will show how much they love rugby union and how deep this game is rooted in the nation's identity. This is all but negative. I will support Austalia where union is less popular than league. Hopefully we will se Aussies and France in the very final.

  • Comment number 52.

    NZ chokers tab? If they don't make it to their home final and/or they don't win it

    COME ON WALES!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    @famousnumbernine wrote:

    Allez Les Bleus!!! ..... Blah blah blah ... ANYONE BUT THE WALES!

    Is this revenge for the "Anyone but England" campaigns during the last few Fitba World Cups?

    It doesn't really have the same ring to it.

  • Comment number 54.

    Good luck to Wales this morning! May I just comment - that I really hope the Welsh fans who regularly lambast the England fans as arrogant notice the fact that we have just about all admitted that England are rubbish at the moment (no arrogance there!) and we have all supported Wales since our exit - to the point where the PM has the Welsh flag flying at number 10. Not much arrogance there either. Maybe we aren't that arrogant after all eh?!?!? Anyway...on to today...COME ON WALES!!!!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    Ave, All Balcks, Ave...!. You should think about every match before the finals and win them all. I am here in Deep country in sri-lanka, with my friends are with internet on with BBC live sports, to see you win today's match and the finals. Please, Don't give us heart breaks, like you did last time. You got to win, Me and my community is with you and all new zealanders to see win the world cup. after all, you had an earth quake, this is the opportunity to get your country and your fans back on track. Long Live All Blacks, and you will always live in hour hearts. But Give us a reason to celebrate and have some beer for next four years.

  • Comment number 56.

    Let the refereeing debate begin!

  • Comment number 57.

    I think it's the general view that whoever wins the match between AUS v NZ will go on to win the World Cup. Both Aus and NZ haven't had too much problem playing France in the past. AUS put 60 points passed France in Paris last time they both met and ran riot.

    Not sure the NH is going to see the Ellis trophy for a while!

  • Comment number 58.

    So a 15 man side plays 60 mins against 14 men. But they play not to win. Instead, theyre playing to make sure they don't lose. Apparently that's rugby.

    Sympathies to Wales.

  • Comment number 59.

    Just wanted to say real tough luck on the Welsh. I believe they deserved to win. I'm an England supporter living in France. So I wanted the French to win (sorry). But the Welsh were magnificent. Credit to your nation, the sport and this tournament. Might not sound like consolation, but plenty to be really proud of.

  • Comment number 60.

    Even with their numerical disadvantage Wales had opportunities to rectify the 'injustice'. A penalty kick here, a conversion there...

  • Comment number 61.

    I am a french fan. Yes Wales was the best side... but France won.
    It happened so many times for France.
    Yes Warburton deserved a red card & frankly, there is no trouble with Rolland's decision from my point, the only one to blame is Warburton.
    All my respect to the best NH team which is Wales during that tournement.
    I hope France will win that WC to its third RWC final. France-AB as final will be a cracker.

  • Comment number 62.

    lots of comments are going against the referee. Is the decision right or not I hope the referee will explain his decision. However a big part of welsh defeate is due to the fact that they were very bad with the kicking they missed 3 penalties and one conversion. If the French had scores lots of tries ....maybe! the French game was very poor just defending, they will to play a far more better next week otherwise they will be smashed

  • Comment number 63.

    Rightly or wrongly the French won this contest, i hope the blasting of the ref (who according to most pundits actually applied the letter of the law as amended in 2010) doesn't take away from the good rugby that Wales have played, and they should after reflection look forward to the 6 nations. I'm actually English and ashamed at the way we played and hope that we also move forward pretty dam quick.

  • Comment number 64.

    A cracking match that Wales would have won by half time - with 15 men. They did their country and the game of rugby proud and have shown the rest of the world how this game can be played in the professional era. Unfortunately, both teams were let down by Monsieur Roland's lack of 'nous' (If Halfpenny's kick had gone over, it would have been a travesty for France, as Charteris was obviously the player playing the ball on the ground!). It has been said that Roland is one of those refs that apparently think the crowd is there to watch them officiate. That said, he is human and should be allowed to make mistakes but why oh why such a shocker in a semi!?

    As Martyn Williams said on the beeb, "he (Roland) needed to have more empathy with the game" - quite so. Instead, he spoiled the enjoyment of millions of rugby fans by making the game a more stodgy affair. Still, Wales have done their best to rise the above the mediocrity of the refereeing we have seen in this RWC (eg Bryce Lawrence's very poor performance last week - teh Welsh know how the South Africans feel now).
    Now, by the letter of the law, Sam W's tackle was an offence that could have been awarded with a red. But as they say, "rules are for the blind obedience of fools and for the guidance of wise men". If Roland had given him a yellow, no-one would have much to argue about but the ref didn't the see the big picture and so made himself to look rather foolish. Mark Cueto is right to mention that it is not the first time this has happened by Mr R. I am reminded of Max Boyce's old song, The Entertainer:

    I am an entertainer,
    and I sing for charity.
    For Oxfam and for Shelter,
    for those worse off than me.
    Bangladesh, Barnardos Homes,
    and though I don't get paid,
    It does one good to do some work
    for things like Christian Aid.

    But of all the concerts that I've done
    for the homeless overseas,
    The one I did that pleased me most
    was not for refugees.
    Was for a home in Ireland
    that stands amongst the trees -
    The Sunshine Home in Dublin
    .......for blind Irish referees!

    - Max Boyce

  • Comment number 65.

    Cometh the hour, cometh the man: Aaron Cruden is no stranger to challenge and adversity - http://bit.ly/ri5Rsz

  • Comment number 66.

    Rubbish decision, a yellow card but definitely not a red. I agree with Pienaar, use the technology.

    Wales still should have won that game. France were out on their feet in the last 20, which is shameful against a 14 man team.

    Unless, they're holding something back (which would surprise me), France will be on the end of a 20 point drubbing next week, whoever wins tomorrow.

  • Comment number 67.

    Why an IRISH referee was chosen for this game beggars belief.did'nt the organisers know that a very good WELSH side had sent the IRISH home a week earlier. so no malice there then by this so called GOOD REF. ALAIN ROLAND sounds a bit FRENCH to me that name .he even speaks fluent FRENCH you could hear him talking to FRENCH players during the game .then you have WAYNE BARNES running the line. you know the ref who should have gone to SPECSAVERS before the S AFRICA game then you have KAPLAN on the other side maybe enough said

  • Comment number 68.

    I love to watch both teams, but I'll be rooting for the Kiwis this time. New Zealand's had a rotten time of it recently - massive earthquakes, a major mining accident, now the oil spill just off her coast. Her people deserve a boost - and a win tomorrow would give it to them. Hope the match lives up to its promises!

  • Comment number 69.

    There is a myth here in the northern-hemisphere that NZ are nervous about playing Australia or anyone in fact. Now the reality of the matter is, NZ have the better side on paper, whether it is Wales, Australia SA etc, etc. What it will be down to is CAN NZ grind. Forget the Argentinian game which the press up here made NZ to look ragged and on the rocks, when in actual fact NZ ground that game out, won comfortably, were never in doubt of losing that game. Also CARTER is not the only All-Black, the entire team boasts quality strength and depth throughout. It seems that if the media up here can put the All-Blacks down they will, which leads me to believe I am wondering if they actually know anything about rugby?. As for the France Vs Wales game, Wales were robbed bigtime, been there done that, it is the way it goes unfortunately, and lets face it Wales were talked up to nearly All-Blacks standards, did not quite work out and sorry but NZ are the better side still. I think whoever wins out of Australia and NZ will win the WC anyway, so it will be pay back to the French and they know it.

  • Comment number 70.

    Wales were slowly building momentum until the sending off. They still enjoyed territory, possession and field position for the rest of the game. What they lacked was accuracy - because they were trying so hard to compensate not only for the loss of Warburton but also the injury loss of Jones.

    In other words, they played all the rugby in semi 1. Fra? They played anti-rugby. Not their fault. They were just going about collecting the win. Deeply disappointing because of the impact the referee had on the game. Completely wrecked it as a spectacle.

    Following the letter of the law, of course Warburton committed a serious tackle offence. Did it warrant a red card? In my view, no. Yes, he lifted Clerc, but he wasn't holding him when he went to ground - and he certainly wasn't driving Clerc into the ground as with a classic spear tackle. So lackng in intent. He should have got a yellow card and 10 mins off for a reckless tackle.

    So, game over. End of story. But judgng by the look in the eye of Gatland in the post-match interview, it's not the end of Wales. Expect them to shine over the next 4 years. Congratulations on a WC well played.

  • Comment number 71.

    Anyone who didn't think that was red card is deluded - probably due to overwhelming disappointment - Warburton has been fantastic but that was a moment's madness that could have broken the player's neck - If Rolland had been given the chance to review it on the screen, it would only have verified what he knew already - also Stephen Jones sitting three metres back for the DG showed he didn't have the bottle - classic charge down territory, and basically saying to his team-mates "don't throw it to me - I haven't got the bottle to try it"....the shame of it....DGs win big rugby matches, I should know, I'm English

  • Comment number 72.

    New Zealand v Australia: the average scoreline of the last six games played between the two teams in New Zealand is 29-13 to the home team (all victories). The scoreline of the last game played on 6th August this year was 30-14. Hard to make a case for Australia tomorrow on recent form...

  • Comment number 73.

    I didn't expect my pre-match post (47) to be so spectacularly prescient: what a pity that the match will be remembered for a refereeing decision. At least most people now seem to realise that the red card was technically correct, even though we might have preferred that Rolland had exercised some discretion.

    The criticism of him for speaking in French to the French is frankly ridiculous. When a ref whose first language isn't English addresses the England team in English, does that render him pre-disposed to them? Of course not.

    Oh well, at least we have Mr Joubert tomorrow. Unlikely to have any reffing controversy there then...

  • Comment number 74.

    What a shame this WC is threatening to be remembered for negatives: an ill-disciplined Eng; a contrite Manu Samoa who's had to kowtow to IRB injustice; and a Ref who decided to issue some iron fist discipline on the form team of the WC. Here's hoping the Wallabies and ABs turn it on with some brilliant rugby to wipe all that away.

  • Comment number 75.

    A lot have been said about the Wallabies successes in past rugby WC meetings and until recently- the Tri- Nation final game. While some - if not all- of these bygone games could have gone either way, they would have no bearing about the outcome of tomorrow's game.
    Who will win tomorrow? The team that' s more composed and take it's chances. May the better team win.

  • Comment number 76.

    Weathers here in Auckland expected to be the same as yesterday. Showers. So expect a slippery ball game.

    This match will either be a 10-15 point blowout or a 1-2 point nailbiter. Irrespective of the weather, both sides are tryscoring teams. Yes, they'll take the shots at goal when they're available. But first instinct will be to chase tries.

    IMO the 7's battle will cancel each other out. Both sides will have their fair share of ball. But the ABs midfield is stronger, so Nonu, with Kaino and Read - NZ have more go forward options from mauls and rucks. In terms of the back three, both teams are quite even, although Aust will feel the loss of Beale. Nevertheless their broken play attack is blunted.

    The AB scrum is very strong but they will have to temper that power because of the referees. If they're drawn into resets and unsettled engages then it'll get messy and probably result in penalties.

    A lot's already been said about Weepu/Cruden and Genia/Cooper. Genia has carried Cooper all tournament. Weepu is having to carry his own game plus most of a typical 5/8th game so Cruden can play his natural game. Whichever combination gels better will have an advantage. (and Genia/Cooper are more naturally gifted as a combination than Weepu/Cruden)

    In the end it's going to come down to what's happening in the head. So far this season, NZ has avoided getting caught in the sledging Aust have been dishing out. The first Bledisloe / Tri-N provides the blueprint for how they should approach the game. Clinical, efficient and focused. The second Bledisloe provides Aust with their blueprint for success.

  • Comment number 77.

    Oh and two more factors:

    1. Bench Impact - SBW and Ali Williams will get game time, no question. Whatever happens, both will have a major impact on the outcome.

    2. Coaches' Carry-on - not necessarily between Henry and Deans but more Hansen and Deans. They can't stand each other. What they say to their sides before the whistle blows and at halftime will determine the tone and eventual shape of the game. Hopefully it's played in good spirit and doesn't get ugly

  • Comment number 78.

    67.
    Appreciate that you are not happy about your teams departure, but in blaming the official and accusing him of sour grapes because Wales beat Ireland is moronic.

  • Comment number 79.

  • Comment number 80.

    I just hope that the referee doesn't make the mistake that was made yesterday and send Richie McCaw off in the first 20 minutes, I CANNOT imagine what would happen!!
    Wales v NZ would have made a much better final, we have all been short changed by that (rushed?) decision

  • Comment number 81.

    80.
    We have not be robbed of anything whatsoever. Yes Wales and have been playing with enterprise and had they made the final against Au or NZ would have kept the same approach.
    Samoa played with great spirit and enterprise, but like Wales they failed to win.

 

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