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Why Wales will be kicking themselves for missing their chance for glory at the 2011 Rugby World Cup

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Wales fan sheds a tear when the team loses the rugby world cup semi-final against France

Wales fan sheds a tear when the team loses the rugby world cup semi-final against France

BY JOHN GUBBA

In the cold light of day Wales’ 2011 Rugby World Cup record reads four wins and three defeats, after the 21-18 deafeat by Australia in the Third Place Final.

The proud Welsh who battled so bravely against adversity will point to the narrow margins of defeat – beaten by a single point by both South Africa in the Group stage and then France in the semi-final.  But the truth is that there was something missing from Warren Gatland’s side. And it wasn’t just their skipper after the match-changing red card for Sam Warburton against the French.

In all three defeats for Wales it was a story of crucial kicks that could have won them the game.

This time it was James Hook who squandered the points that should have beaten Australia. In the semis Stephen Jones hit the post with the conversion which would have snatched the lead, and Leigh Halfpenny then came up just short with a long-range penalty at the death. And against defending world champions South Africa Wales were infamously denied by Hook’s first-half penalty which narrowly cleared the posts but was wrongly ruled a miss.

The harsh reality is that Wales came up short because they just weren’t good enough.

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Wales the toast of New Zealand guaranteed home support in Rugby World Cup third place final

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Wales Rugby World Cup 2011 team

Wales Rugby World Cup 2011 team

BY JOHN GUBBA

When Wales take on Australia in the the third place final at the Rugby World Cup it will be all about ending this marathon tournament with a taste of glory

Any suggestion that this is a game no one wants to take part in is just disrespectful to the sport, the players and both nations.

It will be no consolation for missing out on the final they so deserved to reach, but you can bet your last dollar that this is a game the proud Welshmen desperately want to win.

Wales have won so many admirers for their outstanding contribution to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. And host nation New Zealand would absolutely love to see them overpower the Wallabies.

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All Blacks claim date with destiny by crushing Wallabies – but only by beating France in the final will pride be restored

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When Ma’a Nonu galloped through to touch down a beautiful try set up be the genius of Israel Dagg, it was a moment of pure magic that sent New Zealand on their way to an outstanding semi-final victory over Australia. The host nation celebrated as though they had won the tournament – and no one in their right mind will back against the All Blacks finishing off the job in next Sunday’s final against France. But only when the deed is done can the real party begin.

Anything but an All Black victory in the Final is impossible to imagine on the evidence of the two semi-finals.  That glorious early try by Nonu was one of the stand-out moments of the entire tournament and the majesty of the forward play that squeezed the life out of the Wallabies answered all the doubters who feared the All Blacks would choke again on the biggest stage in world rugby. This was the biggest test of all against their fiercest rivals.

New Zealand vs France. Rugby World Cup 2011 Final

2011 Rugby World Cup Final - a repeat of 1987

After France held on against the 14-men of Wales in the previous day’s semi-final ruined by the controversial red card for Welsh skipper Sam Warburton, most observers regarded the Southern Hemisphere showdown as the final in all but name. But there is no room for complacency in sport – and the All Blacks know they dare not fail again.

Since winning the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 when they beat France in the Final, the All Blacks have failed to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy and back up their claims to be the world’s leading rugby national. It is a failure that has earned New Zealand the reputation of being the biggest chokers in sport. But you will get long odds on France beating the hosts this time.

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Irish upset for the Wallabies is priceless for the Rugby World Cup

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Irish eyes smiling after one of their country's greatest wins in the Rugby World Cup

Irish eyes smiling after one of their country's greatest wins in the Rugby World Cup

 

The Official Tribute to Rory Underwood - click to buy

The Official Tribute to Rory Underwood - click to buy

BY JOHN GUBBA

Ireland’s stunning 15-6 win over Australia is just what the Rugby World Cup needed. And it is no more than the Irish deserved for producing a magnificent performance at Eden Park.

There is nothing more boring in sport than knowing who is going to win every match in the opening stages of a major tournament. And while we have had a few close calls for the favourites so far, this was the first upset. Where Wales failed to take their chance of upsetting South Africa in a thrilling 17-16 defeat last weekend, not helped by being denied a penalty that clearly went over the posts, there was no way the Irish were going to let the Wallabies off the hook.

Jumping for joy! Irish fans celebrate

Jumping for joy! Irish fans celebrate

Intriguingly, if Ireland can now win Pool D they will expect to play either Wales or Samoa in the quarter-finals and that will give them a great chance of reaching the final four for the first time.

Two penalties and a drop goal from Jonathan Sexton and another two penalties from Ronan O’Gara proved decisive as the Irish pack, and their scrum in particular, secured the of the great wins in the history of Irish sport.

“It was the performance we knew we had in us,” said jubilant Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, who was thrilled with his team’s performance and the amazing support of the traveling fans.  But the skipper insisted: “It’s just half the job done. As much as we’ll enjoy this, let’s not lose sight there are two more games.”

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