| All Blacks lock Ali Williams (right) tries to stop French flyhalf Frederic Michalak in the third-place play-off match at the Olympic Park Stadium in Sydney on Thursday. (AFP)
Sydney: New Zealand gained some consolation for their loss to France in the last World Cup by crushing the Europeans 40-13 in Thursday’s third place play-off.
The All Blacks ran in six tries to one to overwhelm the French in a flat match that lacked any real intensity after the two sides were beaten in last weekend's semi-finals.
Doug Howlett and Mils Muliana scored a try each to finish the tournament with seven apiece, just one short of compatriot Jonah Lomu’s record of eight touchdowns in 1999.
Joe Rokocoko also scored to take his tally for the tournament to six while Chris Jack, Brad Thorn and Marty Holah all crossed for tries.
Right winger Pepito Elhorga scored France’s lone try while scrumhalf Dmitiri Yachvili kicked a conversion, a penalty and a drop goal.
As with the playoffs in the four previous World Cups, both teams tried to throw the ball around but there was no real purpose or conviction to their game.
Although there were some fine tries, the match was littered with errors from both teams as players too often tried to push the final pass and the defence lacked any real power.
Lock Jack opened the scoring when he crossed in the 12th minute after finishing off a break started by Howlett then the Auckland winger scored himself eight minutes later after Mils Muliana split the defence.
Yachvili landed an early penalty, then snapped a drop goal just before the break to send his team to the interval trailing 6-14.
France, who upset New Zealand 43-31 in the 1999 World semi-finals, briefly threatened a comeback when Elhorga combined with his fellow winger David Bory to score under the posts shortly after the re-start and pull back to within a point.
But the All Blacks, who were knocked out of this year’s tournament by Australia 22-10 last weekend, quickly reasserted their control, scoring three tries in seven minutes to run away with the match.
Muliana finished off a sweeping backline move to score his seventh try of the tournament the replacement flanker Holah crashed over from a rolling maul seven minutes from the end.
SA deny reports
South Africa manager Gideon Sam on Thursday denied a newspaper report that the team prepared for the World Cup by training at gunpoint and crawling naked through bushland.
The Sunday Times said the players were humiliated in freezing conditions at a camp before the tournament in Australia.
“Sure, the guys were pushed hard but that is what preparing for battle is about,” Sam said on the South Africa rugby team’s website. “Contrary to what has been written, none of this was carried out at gunpoint.
On another point of clarity, players were not made to leopard crawl naked through the bush.
“The intention was not to embarrass, belittle or break anyone down. At no time was anyone at risk, a medical doctor was in attendance as were a variety of people capable of dealing with any situation.