Rugby World Cup: Milestones motivation in unloved decider

By Dylan Cleaver

Wales field strong lineup as Deans takes a punt in Sharpe's 100th

The Wallabies are determined that Nathan Sharpe's landmark 100th test will not be a flop. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The Wallabies are determined that Nathan Sharpe's landmark 100th test will not be a flop. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It might be the game no team ever wants to be part of, but Australia and Wales at least have no shortage of motivation.

Wales have complained long and loud about the injustice of last weekend's 8-9 semifinal loss to France.

They believe the rugby world has been robbed of a final between the two best teams at the Rugby World Cup.

They have complained about the hollow feeling in the camp this week, but now the only thing hollow will be their words if they are beaten by the struggling Wallabies.

While Warren Gatland has named the strongest side he can muster - the only argument would be Alun Wyn Jones for Bradley Davies at lock - there is an experimental feel to the Wallaby starting forward pack.

There is no Stephen Moore, Rocky Elsom, Ben Alexander, Sekope Kepu or Dan Vickerman. The latter is carrying a knock from the team's bruising encounter against New Zealand on Sunday, but even if he was fighting fit the likelihood is he would have made way for Nathan Sharpe.

The 33-year-old lock has been a tower of strength since making his debut in 2002 and tonight his teammates are determined that his landmark 100th test is not a flop.

"He is one of the most liked people that I've ever played with, he's a guy that I've certainly looked up to in my career," said captain James Horwill.

"He deserves a win in his 100th test match. We're going to go out there and make sure that we give him a performance that's worthy of a guy who's played 100 tests for his country."

His thoughts were echoed by flanker David Pocock, fresh off his shortlisting for IRB Player of the Year.

"He's had a huge influence on my rugby," he said. "He was there when I started at the Force and the past few seasons at the Wallabies as well. He's a guy that everyone looks up to, not just literally, but also as a guy with an amount of principle and who is a real leader on and off the field.

"He's someone you feel pretty comfortable going to with your problems. He always has time for you. I think it's that attitude and that inclusiveness of everyone that's made him the respected player he is."

They are nice testimonials for a popular teammate, but rugby can be brutally unsentimental.

The Welsh could give two hoots about Sharpe's exalted status within the Wallabies. They've got a popular player of their own - Shane Williams - who is playing his final World Cup match and, probably, the penultimate test of his illustrious career.

The team that wins this test will likely be the team that can cast aside the fact that they're playing for rugby's booby prize and treat it like any other, full-blooded test.

"Obviously both teams were disappointed after the weekend," Horwill said. "The beauty about this game is you get a chance to right some wrongs from last weekend and finish the tournament on a positive note."

AUSTRALIA v WALES

Eden Park, Friday, 8.30pm

Referee: Wayne Barnes

AUSTRALIA
Kurtley Beale
James O'Connor
A. Ashley-Cooper
Berrick Barnes
Digby Ioane
Quade Cooper
Will Genia
Ben McCalman
David Pocock
S. Higginbotham
Nathan Sharpe
James Horwill (c)
Salesi Ma'afu
Tatafu Polota-Nau
James Slipper
Reserves: Saia Fainga'a, Ben Alexander, Rob simmons, Radike Samo, Luke Burgess, Anthony Fainga'a, Rob Horne.

WALES
Leigh Halfpenny
George North
Jonathan Davies
Jamie Roberts
Shane Williams
James Hook
Mike Phillips
Ryan Jones
Toby Faletau
Danny Lydiate
Luke Charteris
Bradley Davies
Paul James
Huw Bennett
Gethin Jenkins (c)
Reserves: Lloyd Burns, Ryan Bevington, Alun Wyn Jones, Andy Powell, Lloyd Williams, Stephen Jones, Scott Williams.

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 29 Jul 2014 12:47:24 Processing Time: 1453ms