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Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 21:59 GMT

Rugby comes first on 'Republican Day'

John Eales: Reported to be a loyal republican

As Australia prepares to take to the field for the Rugby World Cup final, citizens back home have voted no to severing ties with Britain and become a republic.

BBC Wales's Ashleigh Crowter: "If you are an Australian, this is a very big weekend"
Australian team captain John Eales, reported to be a loyal republican, is set for an intriguing meeting with the Queen after the final.

Her Majesty will either offer her congratulations or commiserations to the versatile Eales, who has steered his side ably through the competition.

A national celebrity back home, Eales is a very public republican.

He nonetheless remained diplomatic about the issue that has divided his homeland.

[ image: Australians voted against a republic at the ballot boxes]
Australians voted against a republic at the ballot boxes
"I would be very honoured to accept the trophy from anyone, even the Queen," he said.

"She is a very respected figure right around the world.

"It is an honour to play here in the final and to receive the trophy from the Queen would be great."

Celebrities have weighed in on both sides of the debate.

Artist Rolf Harris, movie star Mel Gibson and author and TV presenter Clive James are monarchists.

Actresses Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and feminist Germaine Greer are republicans.

Cardiff is full Australian fans expecting to see their team presented with the Webb Ellis Trophy at BST 1630 on Saturday.

One rugby fan in Cardiff light heartedly summed up the occasion: "Her Royal Highness might have something in the back of her mind when she hands the boys the trophy!"

Republican Brenda MacKay, 32, from New South Wales, said the result was the worst news she had heard since travelling to Britain to watch last weekend's semi-final game with South Africa.

Miss MacKay said: "This is terrible news - I really thought the people of Australia were going to seize this opportunity.

Sean Cassidy, 23, from Sydney, said: "I would have been happy to see the end of the monarchy for Australia but it wasn't to be so I have to accept the result of the referendum.

"I can't really understand why we have to cling on to the Queen like this, but you can't argue with the vote.

"Hopefully, the guys in the team will not be affected by the result and they will just concentrate on giving Australians some pride."

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