Before the match, thousands of Aussie and French supporters launched the first wave of an all-day drinking assault on Cardiff's pubs. They received significant help from the their local Welsh hosts, whose team had been defeated by Australia in the quarterfinals two weeks before, and from the legions of fans for defeated semifinalists South Africa and New Zealand. New Zealand had been the red-hot pre-tournament favorites, but they fell to France a week earlier.

Once NZ went down, prompting the resignation of coach John Hart, and causing such a tsunami of criticism back home that it threatened to destroy the reelection campaign of Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, the Australians were installed as clear favorites over an erratic French team that had had been unanimously dismissed by the media before scoring 33 unanswered points against the NZ All Blacks. Surely, said the now contrite press, they couldn't repeat that feat against the Wallabies? The Aussie fans certainly didn't think so. "Two world cups in just one year," they chanted before the game had even begun (the other being the crown Australia won in cricket earlier this summer), and they were right.

As Wallaby captain John Eales accepted the William Webb Ellis trophy from Queen Elizabeth, we were spared one further piece of sporting political intrigue: Just a few hours before, the Australian people had narrowly voted against kicking her out as head of state and becoming a republic. How she would have congratulated diehard republican Eales, then, is anyone's guess.

Contributors: Allen Barra, Howard Z. Unger, Matthew Yeomans
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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