Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 20 News List

All eyes look to World Cup finale

AP , SYDNEY

Australia's Morgan Turinui takes a tumble during a team surfing trip to Coffs Harbour, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

England took the day off, Australia hit the training paddock and one of rugby's most illustrious players officially called it quits.

A day after beating France 24-7 in a Rugby World Cup semifinal, England had a recovery day at its training base in the harborside Sydney suburb of Manly while Australia, England's opponents in the final on Saturday, had its first workout after upsetting New Zealand on Saturday.

Fabien Galthie, the French captain and 34-year-old scrumhalf, said Monday at a news conference that he would not play in the third-place match against New Zealand on Thursday.

He had already announced this World Cup would mark his retirement. Galthie's swansong came in the loss to England, thus ending a career that saw him play in four World Cups and become France's most capped player with 64 internationals.

He led France to the 2002 Six Nations championship and was named the International Rugby Board's player of the year.

French coach Bernard Laporte foreshadowed Galthie's move when he asked everyone at the post-match press conference on Sunday to stand and thank Galthie for his contribution to international rugby.

"We were told by Fabien that he does not wish to play Thursday, and we of course accept his decision," French manager Jo Maso said.

Australia trained in blustery, cloudy conditions at its Coffs Harbour training base halfway up the New South Wales state coast. It along with England will name its team Wednesday before flying back to Sydney ahead of Saturday's final.

South Africa's Andre Watson will referee the match, his second straight championship match at the World Cup. He was the referee for the 1999 title in Cardiff when Australia beat France 35-12.

England's Chris White will take charge of the third-place playoff on Thursday.

New Zealand coach John Mitchell says the game for third place has meaning to the All Blacks.

"It's part of the tournament, we have to deal with that situation," Mitchell said yesterday.

"We'll have to recover and get over this disappointment very quickly, I suppose we won't get over it entirely and our attitude will have to be 100 percent come Thursday."

New Zealand, which lost 22-10 to Australia in a semifinal Saturday, will be without scrumhalf Justin Marshall and prop Kees Meeuws for the third-place match, team officials said yesterday.

Marshall, who came off the field following a strong tackle from George Smith of Australia, has a fractured rib. Meeuws, who also limped off the field in the second half, has a torn calf muscle.

In New Zealand, it appears as if the country is getting used to All Black failure.

The day after irate headline writers branded them "World Chumps" and "Chokers" following their loss to Australia, the All Blacks were being treated almost tenderly.

"Heartbreak for battered Blacks" said the national capital's daily Dominion Post yesterday. "It's only a game."

Another on sports coverage read: "Our cup is empty -- again."

In previous years the South Pacific nation's stock exchange has plunged along with the All Blacks' fortunes but yesterday the market generally held steady and even rose slightly.

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