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Wales want home advantage

Tue, 04 Dec 2012 07:25
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Australia face the prospect of having to play 2015 World Cup pool matches against England at Twickenham and Wales in Cardiff.

Monday's draw saw 2015 hosts England drawn alongside Wales and Australia in a tough Pool A dubbed the "group of death" by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre, with only two sides from each of the four pools going through to the quarter-finals.

Cardiff's 75,000 capacity Millennium Stadium was included in England's original bid document as a tournament venue, but since then there has been intense debate as to how many pool games Wales should play at their home ground.

England may not be at Twickenham, where they beat world champions New Zealand 38-21 on Saturday, for all their pool matches.

But England - and tournament chiefs for that matter - are unlikely to pass up the chance of a match between the Red Roses and the Wallabies being played in front of an 80,000 capacity crowd at 'headquarters'.

It would seem extraordinary were England to play a pool match at a World Cup they are hosting beyond their borders, although something similar did happen in 2007 when hosts France beat New Zealand in a World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff.

However, tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 (ER2015) refused to rule out Monday the possibility that England may have to travel to Cardiff for a key pool clash.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) chief executive Roger Lewis, speaking at the draw, said: "It is very important to remember that Wales was included in England's bid for matches in the Millennium Stadium.

"What was pencilled in (for the Millennium Stadium) was eight games and the Welsh government and Cardiff city council would provide financial support to the tune of £1.4 million ($2.25 million).

"We would be very welcoming hosts. The discussions will now begin.

"I think they (England) would embrace the opportunity to play in the finest rugby stadium in the world."

The Millennium Stadium is one of 17 venues on the 'long list' of venues for the 2015 World Cup and the final schedule is not expected to be announced by ER2015 until March.

"At this point I am not ruling anything out and I am not ruling anything in," ER2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans said Monday.

England captain Chris Robshaw, whose team were roared on to victory Saturday against New Zealand by a Twickenham crowd whose rousing rendition of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot', their unofficial anthem, drowned out the All Blacks' pre-match 'haka', understandably wanted to retain home advantage.

"Of course we want to be at Twickenham and have home advantage - 80,000 people shouting you on and cheering you on," Robshaw said.

"We speak about the power of the nation behind us and we definitely felt it on Saturday," the flank added.

Australia are unlikely to feel daunted by the prospect of playing at either Twickenham or the Millennium Stadium.

Last month the Wallabies beat England 20-14 at Twickenham and Saturday saw them complete their end-of-year Test tour with a 14-12 win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium, albeit courtesy of Kurtley Beale's last minute try.

Australia also won the first of their two World Cup titles at Twickenham, beating England 12-6 in the 1991 final, and the second at the Millennium Stadium, where they defeated France 35-12 in the climax of the 1999 edition.

Saturday's success in Cardiff was Australia's eighth straight win over Wales and fourth in a row at the Millennium Stadium.

AFP

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