Chris Ashton nudges over the line to save England's blushes at Eden Park  [GALLO/GETTY]

England scraped past old rivals Scotland and into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals 16-12 with a dramatic late try on Saturday as Pacific minnows Tonga stunned France in one of the tournament's great upsets.

England trailed for most of the game at Eden Park before Jonny Wilkinson regained his kicking form and sparkling wing Chris Ashton popped up for the winning score with just two minutes to go.

The scrambled victory sets up a last-eight clash with chastened France, who go through despite a nightmare 19-14 loss to Tonga which goes down as their worst ever result on the sport's biggest stage.

France enjoyed a slim early lead but they were on the back foot from Sukanaivalu Hufanga's first-half try, as fly-half Kurt Morath kicked four penalties to ensure a famous win.

"Never has qualification tasted as bitter as this," admitted French coach Marc Lievremont.

Australia also reached the quarter-finals by beating Russia 68-22, but at the cost of yet another injury as Drew Mitchell pulled a hamstring and looked likely to be out for the tournament.

And New Zealand were rocked by the twin injury withdrawals of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, with one report saying a team source feared the star fly-half could miss the rest of the World Cup.

Early lead

In wet, blustery Auckland, Scotland kept England pinned back in the first half and they went into the break 9-3 up thanks to two penalties and a Dan Parks drop goal.

But England slowly turned up the heat in the second half as Wilkinson landed a penalty and a long-range drop goal before Ashton scampered over for the winning score, his sixth try in three games.

Scotland, who have never failed to reach the quarter-finals, are left relying on lowly Georgia springing a big upset on Argentina in Pool B's final game on Sunday.

"It's tough to take. We knew it would take an extraordinary effort to beat England today but once again we slipped at crucial times," said Scotland captain Alastair Kellock.

"I'm gutted, gutted."

Earlier Australia ran in 10 tries against Russia but their injury curse struck again as Mitchell pulled up with a hamstring injury.

"It doesn't look good. It looks like it will end his tournament so that's a misfortune for him and us," said coach Robbie Deans.

Injury-riddled Australia were already fielding a patched-up side with heavyweight backrower Radike Samo playing on the wing and two hookers and two scrumhalves on the bench to make up the numbers.

Mitchell was one of a raft of injury woes on Saturday as South Africa's Frans Steyn was "95 percent" certain to return home with a shoulder problem and New Zealand's McCaw and Carter were both ruled out of their game with Canada.

McCaw withdrew with a flare-up in his long-standing foot problem while Carter was being assessed after a groin injury suffered during kicking practice. An update on his condition will be released on Sunday.

Rant

Meanwhile the Samoan player who compared the World Cup to "slavery" was at the centre of another row when he accused a referee of being racist and biased in an expletive-filled Twitter rant.

Tonga pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament with their win over France [GALLO/GETTY]

Centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono launched an angry tirade against Welsh referee Nigel Owens and the International Rugby Board (IRB) after Samoa's 13-5 loss to South Africa, which ended their quarter-final hopes.

Owens' Facebook page was also defaced by irate and offensive messages among more than 300 comments posted by members of the public after the game.

Sapolu Fuimaono, who mentioned that he was drinking and appeared to announce his international retirement, claimed Samoa was the victim of a conspiracy and directed fire at Owens after several other contributors criticised the referee.

"Get s.a into next round. The plan was obvious. Can't wait 2 meet irb members in public," tweeted the 30-year-old.

But Samoan fullback Paul Williams escaped a ban for striking after a disciplinary hearing held following his red card in their battling defeat to South Africa.

Source: AFP