Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

2003: 'Danger of World Cups is they mean so much'

Halfback Justin Marshall says there was no questioning the All Blacks' desire to win.
Photo / Getty Images
Halfback Justin Marshall says there was no questioning the All Blacks' desire to win. Photo / Getty Images

Justin Marshall remembers the 2003 World Cup like it was yesterday, particularly the bizarre lead-in to the tournament when New Zealand lost their co-hosting rights.

The All Blacks went from the high of expecting some of the tournament to be played in New Zealand to playing the whole event in Australia and for the most part in Melbourne.

"It was all a bit of a letdown," he says.

"Playing in our own backyard was going to be massive and then we were dealt the next-best. Once the decision was made though, there was not a great deal of talk about it amongst the squad. We just got on with it.

"The All Blacks had been surfing towards a high, we'd only lost a few tests and drawn one in the two years leading into the tournament. In the immediate run-in to the World Cup we had put 50 points on both the Springboks and Wallabies in their own backyards."

There had been some heated public debate about the omission of some big-name players - in particular Christian Cullen and Andrew Mehrtens - but in the 2003 lead-up to the tournament, the All Blacks had lost just one test, to England.

The squad felt comfortable with their buildup and preparation. They were playing well, the backline was in form from Carlos Spencer to Tana Umaga and Doug Howlett.

Marshall could not see any reason why the All Blacks could not win the tournament. They were well prepared and were dominating other teams.

"The only doubt about us was up front, if we came up against the English tight five. Their forwards were good, they had a solid halfback and Jonny Wilkinson to kick the goals. They were bland, predictable but very effective.

"They were the only team we felt we were susceptible to, because they could suffocate sides.

"The Wallabies and Springboks could not live with the speed and power of our game. We had shown that during the year so we were not too worried about them."

The All Blacks had lost to England in horrible weather in Wellington. Marshall felt he was one of the culprits, tearing a hamstring when he was going to score and England were down to 13 men.

The All Blacks took the blow, but also absorbed lessons out of that defeat. They felt if they were patient they could cope with England at the World Cup.

"The danger of the World Cups though is that they mean so much, there is so much pressure and expectation, that sides get a bit introverted and do not play with the same verve. The ultimate price is defeat."

Conservative sides suffocate their opponents, they have low error rates and feed from their rivals' mistakes.

The Wallabies had not been playing well and the All Blacks had them under the pump for the first 10 minutes of the semifinal.

They had a try disallowed, a decision Marshall felt would have turned the screw on the Wallabies had it gone the other way.

"All the demons from the Tri Nations would then have come back to haunt them. We were a better team, we had a better balance, though they had good players like [George] Gregan, [Joe] Roff and [Stirling] Mortlock.

"The intercept threw us on our head. Mortlock read it superbly and pulled off the hero-or-villain move. As we gathered under the posts there was not a lot being said.

"We had been so dominant and then thought 'bloody hell'. It gave the Wallabies that spark of belief and they started to play better than they had in a couple of years. They showed what they could do and we struggled to get the ball off them.

"My recollections were even more painful. George Smith hit me late and broke my ribs. I gutsed it out until halftime but I was not right. I tried to run but the pain was too much and I could not go on.

"I'd had a strong tournament, I was in the form of my life and I was gutted when I had to stay off."

He was trying to balance his personal wishes against the team needs but knew he was a burden and was not going back.

He remembered seeing a gap, taking a couple of steps as he tried to accelerate before the pain kicked in and he passed the ball. Marshall knew then he was a passenger.

"At least I didn't have to endure the 'four more years' taunt Gregan delivered to Byron Kelleher," he says wryly.

Much later, Marshall asked Gregan how the Wallabies won and he had no real explanation. He agreed the All Blacks were the better side and should have won the tournament, but on that November night, the Wallabies got the rub of the green and gold.

"But that's the reason you are an athlete," Marshall says.

"You see it in all types of sport, when you want the underdogs to win. It is like that for the All Blacks, everyone wants to beat them or see them beaten.

"In the two World Cups I was involved in, there was no questioning our desire to win. I could not have wanted it any more, it is the ultimate prize in your sport but sometimes, shit happens."

The record
Beat Italy 70-7
Beat Canada 68-6
Beat Tonga 91-7
Quarter-final: beat South Africa 29-9
Semifinal: lost to Australia 22-10
Third place playoff: beat France 40-13

2003 tournament results
Pool A
October 10, at Telstra Stadium, Sydney: Australia 24 (Wendell Sailor, Joe Roff tries; Elton Flatley con, 4 pen) Argentina 8 (Ignacio Corleto try; Manuel Contepomi pen). Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand).

October 11, at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford: Ireland 45 (Shane Horgan, Keith Wood, Denis Hickie 2, Victor Costello tries; David Humphreys 3 con, 4 pen; Ronan O'Gara con) Romania 17 (penalty try, Valentin Mafteil tries; Ionut Tofan con, pen; Mihai Vioreanu con). Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

October 14, at Bluetongue Stadium: Argentina 67 (Frederico Mendez, Pablo Bouza 2, Juan Fernandez Miranda, 2 penalty tries, Martin Gaitan 3, Nicolas Fernandez Miranda tries; Gonzalo Quesada 7 con, pen) Namibia 14 (Du Preez Grobier, Hakkies Husselman tries; Emile Wessels 2 con). Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).

October 18, at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane: Australia 90 (Flatley, Mat Rogers 3, Matt Burke 2, Stephen Larkham 2, Stirling Mortlock, Roff, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri, George Smith tries; Flatley 11 con, pen) Romania 8 (Petrisor Toderasc try; Tofan pen). Referee: Pablo De Luca (Argentina).

October 19, at Aussie Stadium, Sydney: Ireland 64 (Alan Quinlan 2, Girvan Dempsey, Hickie, Marcos Horan, Eric Miller 2, Guy Easterby, Horgan, John Kelly tries; O'Gara 7 con) Namibia 7 (Corne Powell try; Wessels con). Referee: Andrew Cole (Australia).

October 22, at Aussie Stadium: Argentina 50 (Gaitan, Juan Martin Hernandez 2, Manuel Contepomi, N Fernandez Miranda, Bouza 2 tries; J Fernandez Miranda 4 con, pen; Quesada 2 con) Romania 3 (Tofan pen). Referee: Chris White (England).

October 25, at Adelaide Oval: Australia 142 (Chris Latham 5, David Lyons, Mortlock, Tuqiri 3, penalty try, Rogers 2, Jeremy Paul, Giteau 3, Nathan Grey, Morgan Turinui 2, Burke, John Roe tries; Rogers 16 con) Namibia 0. Referee: Joel Jutge (France).

October 26, at Adelaide Oval: Ireland 16 (Quinlan try; Humphreys con, pen; O'Gara 2 pen) Argentina 15 (Quesada 3 pen, drop goal; Corleto drop goal). Referee: Andre Watson (South Africa).

October 30, at Launceston, Tasmania: Romania 37 (Augustin Petrichei, Lucian Sirbu, George Chiriac, Ioan Teodorescu, Cristian Sauan tries; Tofan 3 con, 2 pen) Namibia 7 (Eben Isaacs try; Wessels con). Referee: Peter Marshall (Australia).

November 1, at Telstra Dome, Melbourne: Australia 17 (Smith try; Flatley 3 pen; Gregan drop goal) Ireland 16 (Brian O'Driscoll try; O'Gara con, 2 pen; O'Driscoll drop goal). Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand).

Pool B
October 11, at Suncorp Stadium: France 61 (Christophe Dominici 2, Imanol Harinordoquy, Yannick Jauzion 3, Raphael Ibanez tries; Frederic Michalak 4 con, 6 pen) Fiji 18 (Apensia Naevo, Rupeni Caucaunibuca tries; Nicky Little con, 2 pen). Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

October 12, at Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville: Scotland 32 (Chris Paterson 2, Stuart Grimes, Simon Taylor, Simon Danielli tries; Paterson con, pen; Gregor Townsend con) Japan 11 (Hirotoki Onozawa try; Keiji Hirose 2 pen). Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia).

October 15, at Suncorp Stadium: Fiji 19 (Naevop try; Little con, 4 pen) United States 18 (Riann van Zyl, Kort Schubert tries; Mike Hercus con, 2 pen). Referee: Joel Jutge (France).

October 18, at Dairy Farmers Stadium: France 51 (Michalak, Aurelien Rougerie 2, Fabien Pelous, Dominici, Jean-Jacques Crenca tries; Michalak 5 con, 3 pen; Gerald Merceron con) Japan 29 (George Konia, Daisuke Ohata tries; Toru Kurihara 2 con, 5 pen). Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

October 20, at Suncorp Stadium: Scotland 39 (Danielli 2, Gavin Kerr, Townsend, Paterson tries; Paterson 4 con, 2 pen) United States 15 (Hercus 5 pen). Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

October 23, at Dairy Farmers Stadium: Fiji 41 (Aisea Tuilevu 2, Norman Ligairi 2, Marika Vunibaka tries; Little 2 con, 4 pen) Japan 13 (Andy Miller try, con, pen, drop goal). Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).

October 25, at Telstra Stadium: France 51 (Serge Betsen, Harinordoquy, Michalak, Fabien Galthie, Nicolas Brusque tries; Michalak 3 con, 4pen, drop goal; Brusque drop goal) Scotland 9 (Paterson 3 pen). Referee: David McHugh (Ireland).

October 27, at Bluetongue Stadium: United States 39 (Hercus, Phillip Eloff, Schubert, van Zyl, Kris Khasigian tries; Hercus 4 con, 2 pen) Japan 26 (Kurihara, Ohata tries; Kurihara 2 con, 4 pen). Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).

October 31, at WIN Stadium, Wollongong: France 41 (Brian Lisenberg 3, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yannick Bru tries; Gerald Merceron 2 con, 3 pen; Dimitri Yachvili drop goal) United States 14 (Hercus, Schubert tries; Hercus 2 con). Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand).

November 1, at Aussie Stadium: Scotland 22 (Tom Smith try; Paterson con, 5 pen) Fiji 20 (Caucaunibuca 2 tries; Little 2 con, 2 pen). Referee: Tony Spreadbury (England).

Pool C
October 11, at Subiaco Oval, Perth: South Africa 72 (Joost van der Westhuizen 3, Joe van Niekerk, Bakkies Botha 2, Thinus Delport, Jaque Fourie, Richard Bands, Danie Rossouw, Hendro Scholtz, Werner Greef tries; Louis Koen 5 con, Derick Hougaard con) Uruguay 6 (Diego Aguirre 2 pen). Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand).

October 12, at Subiaco Oval: England 84 (Mike Tindall, Matt Dawson, Steve Thompson, Neil Back, Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood 2, Mark Regan, Ben Cohen 2, Jason Robinson, Dan Luger tries; Jonny Wilkinson 5 con, 2 pen; Paul Grayson 4 con) Georgia 6 (Malkhaz Urjukashvili, Paliko Jimsheladze pens). Referee: Pablo De Luca (Argentina).

October 15, at Subiaco Oval: Samoa 60 (Maurie Fa'asavalu 2, Brian Lima 2, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Lome Fa'atau, Simon Lemalu, Tanner Vili, Dominic Feaunati, Opeta Palepoi tries; Earl Va'a 3 con; Vili 2 con) Uruguay 13 (Rodrigo Capo, Pablo Lemoine tries; Aguirre pen). Referee: David McHugh (Ireland).

October 18, at Subiaco Oval: England 25 (Greenwood try; Wilkinson con, 4 pen, 2 drop goals) South Africa 6 (Koen 2 pen). Referee: Peter Marshall (Australia).

October 19, at Subiaco Oval: Samoa 46 (Tagicakibau. Va'a, Semo Sititi, Steven So'oialo, Feaunati, Lima tries; Va'a 5 con, 2 pen) Georgia 9 (Jimsheladze 2 pen, drop goal). Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

October 24, at Aussie Stadium: South Africa 46 (Rossouw 2, Derick Hoiugaard, van Niekerk, Fourie, Botha, Schalk Burger tries; Hougaard 4 con, pen) Georgia 19 (David Dadunashvili try; Jimsheladze con, 3 pen; Merab Kvirikashvili pen). Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia).

October 26, at Telstra Dome: England 35 (Back, penalty try, Iain Balshaw, Phil Vickery tries; Wilkinson 3 con, 2 pen, drop goal) Samoa 22 (Sititi try; Va'a con, 5 pen). Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

October 28, at Aussie Stadium: Uruguay 24 (Alfonso Cardoso, Diego Lamelas, Nicolas Brignoni tries; Aguirre 2 con; Juan Menchaca con pen) Georgia 12 (Urjukashvili pen, Kvirikashvili 3 pen). Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand).

November 1, at Suncorp Stadium: South Africa 60 (van Niekerk, Jorrie Muller, Hougaard, Juan Smith, Ashwin Willemse, Fourie, van der Westhuyzen, Neil de Kock tries; Hougaard 5 con, pen, drop goal; Koen 2 con) Samoa 10 (Palepoi try; Va'a con, pen). Referee: Chris White (England).

November 2, at Suncorp Stadium: England 111 (Lewis Moody, Josh Lewsey 5, Balshaw 2, Mike Catt 2, Andy Gomarsall 2, Luger, Stuart Abbott, Robinson 2, Greenwood tries; Grayson 11 con; Catt 2 con) Uruguay 13 (Lemoine try; Menchaca con, 2 pen). Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).

Pool D
October 11, at Telstra Dome: New Zealand 70 (Brad Thorne, Rueben Thorne, Doug Howlett 2, Carlos Spencer 2, Joe Rokocoko 2, Justin Marshall, Dan Carter, Leon MacDonald tries; Carter 6 con; Spencer pen) Italy 7 (Matthew Phillips try; Gert Peens con). Referee: Andrew Cole (Australia).

October 12, at Telstra Dome: Wales 41 (Sonny Parker, Gareth Cooper, Mark Jones, Colin Charvis, Gareth Thomas tries; Iestyn Harris 5 con, 2 pen) Canada 10 (Kevin Tkachuk try; James Pritchard con; Bob Ross pen). Referee: Chris White (England).

October 15, at Canberra Stadium: Italy 36 (Manuel Dallan, Denis Dallan 2 tries; Rima Wakarua 3 con, 5 pen) Tonga 12 (John Payne, Tevita Tu'ifua tries; Sateki Tu'ipulotu con). Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).

October 17, at Telstra Dome: New Zealand 68 (Caleb Ralph 2, Rodney So'oialo 2, Mils Muliaina 4, Kees Meeuws, Ma'a Nonu tries; Carter 9 con) Canada 6 (Jared Barker 2 pen). Referee: Tony Spreadbury (England).

October 19, at Canberra Stadium: Wales 27 (Cooper, Martyn Williams tries; Stephen Jones con, 4 pen; Williams drop goal) Tonga 20 (Pierre Hola, Benhur Kivalu, Heamani Lavaka tries; Hola con, pen). Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand).

October 21, at Canberra Stadium: Italy 19 (Sergio Perisse try; Wakarua con, 4 pen) Canada 14 (Quentin Fyffe try; Barker 3 pen). Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand).

October 24, at Suncorp Stadium: New Zealand 91 (Daniel Braid, Carter, Corey Flynn, Ralph 2, Spencer, Meeuws, penalty try, Muliaina 2, MacDonald, Howlett 2 tries; MacDonald 12 con; Spencer con) Tonga 7 (Hola try; Tu'ipulotu con). Referee: Pablo De Luca (Argentina).

October 25, at Canberra Stadium: Wales 27 (Mark Jones, Parker, Dafydd Jones tries; Harris 3 con, 2 pen) Italy 15 (Wakarua 5 pen). Referee: Andrew Cole (Australia).

October 29, at WIN Stadium: Canada 24 (Sean Fauth, Aaron Abrams tries; Pritchard con; Ross 4 pen) Tonga 7 (Kivalu try; Hola con). Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

November 2, at Telstra Stadium: New Zealand 53 (Rokocoko 2, MacDonald, Ali Williams, Howlett 2, Spencer, Aaron Mauger tries; MacDonald 5 con, pen) Wales 37 (Mark Taylor, Parker, Colin Charvis, Shane Williams tries; Jones 4 con, 3 pen). Referee: Andrew Watson (South Africa).

Quarter-finals
November 8, at Telstra Dome: New Zealand 29 (MacDonald, Keven Mealamu, Rokocoko tries; MacDonald con, 3 pen; Mauger drop goal) South Africa 9 (Hougaard 3 pen). Referee: Tony Spreadbury (England).

November 8, at Suncorp Stadium: Australia 33 (Mortlock, Gregan, Lyons tries; Flatley 3 con, 4 pen) Scotland 16 (Robbie Russell try; Paterson con, 2 pen, drop goal). Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).

November 9, at Telstra Dome: France 43 (Olivier Magne, Dominici, Harinordoquy, Crenca tries; Michalak 4 con, 5 pen) Ireland 21 (Kevin Maggs, O'Driscoll 2 tries; Humphreys 3 con). Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

November 9, at Suncorp Stadium: England 28 (Greenwood try; Wilkinson con, 6 pen, drop goal) Wales 17 (Stephen Jones, Charvis, Martyn Williams tries; Harris con). Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

Semifinals
November 15, at Telstra Stadium: Australia 22 (Mortlock try; Flatley con, 5 pen) New Zealand 10 (Rueben Thorne try; MacDonald con, pen). Referee: Chris White (England).

November 16, at Telstra Stadium: England 24 (Wilkinson 5 pen, 3 drop goals) France 7 (Betsen try; Michalak con). Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand).

Third place play-offs
November 20, at Telstra Stadium: New Zealand 40 (Chris Jack, Howlett, Rokocoko, Brad Thorne, Muliaina, Marty Hola tries; MacDonald con; Carter 4 con) France 13 (Pepito Elhorga try; Dimitri Yachvili con, pen, drop goal). Referee: Chris White (England).

Final
November 22, at Telstra Stadium: England 20 (Robinson try; Wilkinson 4 pen, drop goal) Australia 17 (Tuqiri try; Flatley 4 pen) after extra time. Referee: Andrew Watson (South Africa).

2003
Video: Great World Cup moments - 2003

How we won it: England - A bloody-minded band of brothers

Setting the scene: Mitchell at the helm as England rises

Tournament action: Four more years - the tournament goes on

Tournament star: Martin Johnson - Hard leader of the pack

ABs memories: 'Danger of World Cups is they mean so much'

2007
Video:Great World Cup moments - 2003

How we won it: South Africa - Python applies squeeze

Setting the scene: Henry gets his (first) go at the title

Ref's contentious calls leave nation seething

Tournament action: Boks hold nerve in a Cup of big upsets

Tournament star: Agustin Pichot - Skipper who shamed IRB

ABs memories: 'It was like slow strangulation'

2011
Looking ahead:High stakes in road to redemption

Hold heads high whatever the result

World Cup highlights

The greatest upsets

The greatest RWC tries

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