|Welsh backs celebrate|
Shane Williams and Gareth Thomas
In 2003 Canada was in a decline as the professional era had well and truely kicked in with those who had exposire to professional rugby being significantly advantaged. Wales was a slow learner, but the tournament of Australia 2003 proved to be the lauching pad and since then the team has been significantly better than at any time since the creation of the Rugby World Cup. The two sides met at the then called, Telstra Dome in Melbourne on the first weekend of pool play to play their first match of the tournament. It was a match that people did not really know what to expect. Wales were favorites, but not by so much. The Welsh had finished last in the Six Nations that year, including losing to Italy in Rome. While Canada seemingly had almost as many notable players as Wales did. As the tournament progressed, however, Wales proved to be a strong side, leading England in the Quarter Final and giving New Zealand a series run for its money.
It all started, however, in Melbourne and Canada were there not to make up the number but to win. The North Americans were there looking for victory and scored the first points of the match with a dropgoal to Bob Ross and they were given a great opportunitity to capitalize shortly there after as Welsh captain, Colin Charvis was yellow carded for a late charge. Wales, however, not only withstood the one man advantage that the Canadians had but they were even able to score a try with Charvis off the field and added another to close out the firsthalf. The match was far from over at the interval but Wales all but ended it in the secondhalf with three further tries to start the tournament in style. Canada did manage a trywith prop Kevin Tkachuk scoring in the secondhalf. But it was too little too late as Wales completed a 41-10 victory.
The match highlighted another of the failures of the tournament - crowd sizes. Less than half of the tickets were sold for the Wales vs Canada match with an official crowd of 24,874 present for the match in Melbourne. The venue hosted seven matches but five of them were poor turnouts, including the two Quarter Finals played in Melbourne. The two that were well attended were Australia vs Ireland and England vs Samoa. While seven matches were allocated to Melbourne, lss than half as many were hosted by the likes of Adelaide, Gosford, Townsville and Wollongong. All are smaller cities with smaller stadiums but all did well in their matches during the tournament. It is another indication of the ARU´s interest in putting money ahead of rugby as pointed out in the review of Australia vs Argentina at the same tournament. This match between Wales and Canada would have been better at a venue such as Adelaide or Wollongong. Both only hosted two games and neither did so the weekend of this match.