Michael Ware


CNN Domestic: YWT: "It's like a reunion tour for me."

Length: 5:54

LARGE (69.2 MB) ----- SMALL (7 MB)

HALA GORANI: Well, the South of France is a really beautiful place. Have you been?

MICHAEL HOLMES: It is. I have. Many times, beautiful.

GORANI: Good, good.

Anyway, this time rugby fanatics are converging on that part of the country, where some of the World Cup final matches are taking place.

HOLMES: Yes, it should be a bruising battle for the sport's most coveted prize. And CNN's Michael Ware is there.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The sparkling port city of Marseille in the South of France, a holiday destination rich with history. Its narrow streets seem eternally alive and festive. But this weekend Marseilles, is at the epicenter of world rugby. Four of the eight teams still battling to be champions of the 2007 World Cup are gathered here, and the match-ups could not be more compelling.

First, what's certain to be a bruising replay of the 2003 final between two of the game's powerhouses. Reigning championships England, versus the Australian Wallabies, the two-time champions aching to avenge their loss four years ago, to a stunning English field goal in the dying seconds of extra time.

England versus Australia is thought to impact more on the tournament's final outcome -- the winner to play blistering favorites New Zealand or host France next weekend -- but Marseilles' true magic lies with Fiji. The Pacific underdogs charmed all with their surprise victory over Wales to make it into this weekend's knockout final against South Africa.

(off-screen) You're the fairy-tale story of the cup.

ILIE TABUA, COACH, FIJI: It's is. It's amazing, you know. From -- nobody thought we could be there. Everybody said, no, no, Wales was going to be in -- Wales and Australia, you know?

WARE: Only appointed coach six months ago, my former teammate from a provincial side back in Australia, Fijian coach Ilie Tabua. Ilie is one of the international game's most beloved characters. As this 70-year-old stadium fills in coming days with Marseilles expecting 100,000 or more fans to descend upon the city, the great hope is that these two markedly different match ups will remind all of why they call rugby the game they play in heaven. Michael Ware, CNN, Marseilles.


HOLMES: Michael Ware is going to join us now, live.

Michael Ware, as you and I both know you didn't get that nose from playing chess, you got it from playing rugby with some of these Aussies. Give us your unbiased view on the weekend's games. Australia is obviously going to beat England, that's a given. What about the other games?

WARE: Well, certainly that's what we're hoping, Michael, that there will be a Wallaby victory, and take a vengeance for the loss in the last World Cup. But honestly, the big match of this weekend is the game between Pacific underdogs Fiji and South Africa here on Sunday. I mean, they really are the fairy-tale story of this World Cup. No one expected them to make it this far.

And they're coached by Ilie Tabua, a former mate of mine from playing in Queensland days, where yes, I did get my nose broken. And those boys are more than ready to take on the Springboks, one of the mighty powerhouses of international rugby, so they are going to be the game to watch this Sunday, Michael.

GORANI: This is Hala, Michael Ware, I can't ask you a rugby question simply because I don't know enough about it. But I see you in Iraq, of course. What's it like reporting on a completely different story, where for once it's not about drama and wars but about a happy event getting people together?

WARE: Yes, it is. It's quite a change of pace for me, certainly. Put it this way. I'm a lot more comfortable in combat than I am standing here at a pub on the Mediterranean talking about rugby. But, Hala, we are having a great time here. The city is filling up with supporters. It's going to be huge weekend. I'm battening down the hatches as we speak, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Well, have fun, Michael. And, you know, even though I'm the one non-Australian -- wait, Michael has a question for Michael.

HOLMES: I was going to say, what I actually want to know, Michael, is I know that you are shocked that you are actually having to work a bit while you are there. But you are going to get to catch up with your mates. Indulge us a little bit. You know half these blokes, don't you? You played with them?

WARE: Yeah, well, that's exactly right. It's been great here. It's like a reunion tour for me. I mean, the Wallabies coach is my former coach. The Wallabies' forwards coach is my old playmate. The Fijian coach is my mate. So it's been great catching up with everybody.

At teams training yesterday, when the rest of the media were ushered off, the Wallabies allowed us to stick around. We have been spending time with them in the pub, certainly the team management. And on the weekend, win, lose or draw, we are going to be with them at the party afterwards, Michael, it's going to be fantastic. I wish you were here.

HOLMES: Mate, I wish I was there, too. You know him, I know him --

GORANI: I don't wish I was there, actually.

HOLMES: It's going to be untidy. It's going to be ugly.

GORANI: No, but they cover the games and then they go to bed around 8:00, right? That's what happens pretty much?

HOLMES: In their dreams.

GORANI: That's their schedule.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Mick. Have fun.

GORANI: Thanks, Michael.

HOLMES: Oh, dear, that's going to be a mess. I tell you.

For more on the Rugby World Cup, visit our special Fanzone site, cnn.com/rugby. All the latest news about the tournament, profiles of the team. You can even submit a dream team from Rugby World Cups, past and present.

Don't forget the old I-Report, send us your pictures, video, showing us how you're celebrating the tournament and anything you can get on Michael Ware.


GORANI: Anything!

That's it for this hour. I'm Hala Gorani.

HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. This is CNN.