World Cup Preview: 3rd Place Play-Off

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Tomorrow’s Bronze Final will be contested by two sides desperate to leave New Zealand on a high after the pain of semi-final defeat at the hands of France and the All Blacks. Both Wales and Australia will be missing key players through injury (and one through suspension) after a long and highly physical World Cup campaign. Here’s how the teams are shaping up…

Wales

Wales may well have the bigger mental hurdle to overcome in Auckland tomorrow night after their highly controversial exit to the French on Saturday. Many felt the dismissal of their captain in the 18th minute for a dangerous tip tackle was unjust and only warranted a yellow card, but referee Alain Rolland claimed his decision was exactly to the letter of the law and sent the Welsh skipper off immediately.

Wales struggled on valiantly with 14 men and still created chances, looking threatening in attack as they have done for the entirety of the tournament. Still, the odds were stacked high against them and the god of fate didn’t appear to be smiling on Eden Park when a late penalty which would have ensured victory went inches under the bar.

The Welsh coach, Warren Gatland, has reshuffled his pack and will start with PUMA big guns Ryan Jones at 8 and Paul James at tighthead with Shane Williams on the wing, in what could very well be his last appearance in the red jersey. Expecting another record crowd to watch the game at the Millennium Stadium, Wales will no doubt hope for a repeat of the 1987 Bronze Final in which they beat the Wallabies by one point in a thrilling 22-21 victory to claim their best ever finish at a World Cup.

Australia

The Wallabies will not only be recovering mentally, but also physically after their brutal semi-final against New Zealand in which they were outplayed in most areas of the field. Australia will field a slightly less experienced front row to the Welsh and will rely on a great backline that has been strengthened by the return of their first choice full back and the always dangerous James O’Connor on the wing, who has scored 44 points in the competition so far.

Both sides have promised to play the sort of attacking rugby that has propelled them to the final stages of the tournament, so we could be in for an absolute classic!!

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