Gregan driven by RWC heartache

George Gregan says the pain of losing in the World Cup final in 2003 was the reason he delayed his retirement.

An extra-time drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson denied Australia their second world title.

“Who’s to say, if you could wind it back and he doesn’t kick that goal, I probably wouldn’t be here,” said Gregan. “I probably would have played another year and then seen how I was. When you come just short it’s a big motivating factor.”

Gregan will become the first Australian to play in four World Cups and is also set to pass the record held by Michael Lynagh, David Campese and John Eales (all 15) for the most World Cup matches played by an Australian.

Meanwhile Gregan’s men received a warm welcome in their first training run in Montpellier. Nine thousand people turned up at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir to watch a sharp session.

“Everyone was saying ‘What’s going on here?’ and then afterwards it felt like we played a game,” utility back Staniforth said. “Waltzing Matilda was playing and we were thanking the crowd.”

Flyhalf Stephen Larkham was equally taken by the response of the French.

“They’ve taken us under their wing and I suppose we’re their second team in the competition now,” he said. “It was amazing, fantastic. All the guys got a buzz out of that. We were lined up in the corridor before we ran out and everyone was getting nervous.

“And afterwards it was like we won a game.”