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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
John Eales - 1999
John Eales receives the World Cup trophy from the Queen
Eales and the Wallabies proved too strong for France in the final
On 6 November 1999, John Eales became the second Australian captain to win the World Cup.

The former Wallaby lock received the ultimate prize from Her Majesty the Queen in front of a 78,000-strong crowd at the Millennium Stadium after 35-12 win against France.

Eales recalls how his side became the first country to win the tournament twice, overcoming South Africa in the tense semi-final on their way.

As one of the leading contenders and captain, did you feel pressure going into the tournament?

You do feel a bit of pressure going into the tournament but we were used to with competitions so just ensured we were ready for it and prepared to cope with it.

There was a fair expectation back at home but we had a lot of expectation ourselves. But that was even more the case for the All Blacks.

The All Blacks were the favourites, the Springboks were defending champions and England were the great local hope. As it turned out none of those teams made the final - it was us and France.

So the limelight was off us a bit and we were able to prepare quietly and save our best for last.

The pool games helped you. It would be fair to say they were fairly straightforward.

We had no great problem in any of them but it was a relief to get through them, top the group and avoid one of those dreaded midweek play-offs.

So we were pretty confident by the time we took on the Welsh in the quarter-finals. They were showing pretty good form until that stage and we had learned our lessons in the quarter-finals of the 1991 tournament against Ireland.

We made sure we didn't take anything for granted anymore. I remember it was a terribly wet day and a very close contest for the opening half. It's days like that when you have a roof you wonder why the hell they didn't put the top over.

That would have made it a lot better as a spectacle. But we did enough although it wasn't until the end that we began to pull away.

What about the semi-final against South Africa? I guess that was when the tournament really ignited for you.

It was a thrilling contest. There was never more than six points between us at any stage. Both teams threw everything at the game.

Stephen Larkham in action in the semi-final against South Africa
Larkham's boot booked Australia's spot in the final

There were no tries scored but it was still pretty entertaining. There was lashings of drama - guys pulling out beforehand, good breaks throughout the match and players coming within a whisker of a try.

It built to a great climax with us three points ahead in the dying minutes and then we fell foul of Owen Finegan's hand in the ruck.

We knew Jannie de Beer would get the penalty from there. None of us felt 'gutted', we just regrouped and returned to the shed to focus for extra-time.

I was weary and my calves were hurting but everyone was in the same boat. When we got back into the action it was all really tense.

But then Stephen Larkham produced a wonder drop-goal. When he did that there was pure elation, well on my behalf anyway, followed by a realisation we had to get back to it.

They were set to get right back out at us. But we managed to hold them off.

Were you concerned the emotion of the semi-final might have tired you out for the final?

Yeah, we were a bit concerned about it but, on the other hand, it gave us a lot of confidence.

We knew we could give that extra 20 minutes if needed and remain composed however tense things got.

There wasn't much left for us to do physically in the build-up. But the mental focus had to be really strong.

Were you relieved to be playing France in the final rather than New Zealand?

Watching that semi-final we were probably more happy about France getting through the game. There was more cheering for them as we thought they might prove easier opponents.

But then, when we saw how they dismantled the All Blacks, I thought if they can do that to them, they can do it to any team in the world.

We were all a bit concerned now as we knew all about the All Blacks' strengths as we'd been preparing to face them.

What are your recollections of waking up on the day of the final? Did it feel like any Test in the build-up?

I woke up in the morning knowing that my life would go in one of two directions by end of the day. I'd either be a world champion or not. That feeling was a very special time, although not particularly relaxing.

You enjoy the build-up but there is a lot on your mind. You feel a bit of the nerves but the challenge is to control it.

What were your thoughts on the final and when did you finally realise you were going to win it?

It was all a bit of a blur for large stages of it but there were two moments that stuck in the mind.

The first was Ben Tune's try and the second was Owen Finegan's. Once he scored I knew we'd got it.

What are you recollections of lifting the trophy?

Well, straight after the game I turned to anyone who was there just to celebrate and go crazy.

And then I realised I was going to get the trophy from the Queen. I thought "better make sure you don't swear" and after that was just really excited to represent the team and Australian rugby.

I was filled with an immense satisfaction that we had achieved what we wanted to do - goals which had been set by some of us four years ago.

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