Australia v Wales, Rugby World Cup, October 21
Horwill tips hat to Wales
October 20, 2011
Stephen Jones has no intention of calling time on his international career just yet © Getty Images
Wallabies captain James Horwill has lavished praise on Wales on the eve of their Rugby World Cup third-place play-off clash in Auckland.
Only New Zealand have scored more points in the tournament than the Welsh, who have endeared themselves to the locals with their attractive brand of running rugby. Indeed, many Kiwis are disappointed that their beloved All Blacks will not be tackling Wales in the final, with Warren Gatland's men having suffered an agonising 9-8 defeat by France after playing over three quarters of the game with just 14 men following the controversial dismissal of their captain, Sam Warburton.
And Horwill, whose side saw their hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup dashed by the hosts last weekend, can understand why Wales have prove such a hit in New Zealand.
"They like to play an expansive game of rugby, which they have shown at this tournament," he said. "They've played some fantastic rugby this whole tournament, and their defensive structures, the way they go about things, is some of the best this tournament has had."
The Wallabies lacked incision in their semi-final loss to the All Blacks and Horwill is hoping that the return of first-choice fullback Kurtley Beale from injury will help them rediscover their attacking edge.
"Kurtley is held in high regard by all the players, and also he gives that second playmaker for Quade [Cooper] because he's played a lot at 10 in his time," the lock said.
"He can step into that first receiver role and help out there. He gives some good voice and obviously he's got that x-factor that you can't coach. He can create something from nothing."
Meanwhile, Horwill is delighted that Nathan Sharpe will also be in the starting line-up at Eden Park as his fellow lock is poised to become a Test centurion.
"For a guy like Sharpie, who's been a part of this team and 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," Horwill said. "He deserves a win in his 100th Test match, and it's a big occasion.
"We are going to go out there and make sure that we give him a performance that is worthy of a guy who has played 100 Tests for his country."
There has been the suggestion that 'Bronze Final' is of little real interest to either side but Horwill is expecting a fiercely competitive encounter.
"Obviously, both teams were disappointed after the weekend," he said. "But 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."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.