European powers make progress at World Cup

Wales take positive steps against Samoa while England and France record victories despite looking far from their best.

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A determined Welsh defence prevent a break from Alesana Tuilagi of Samoa [GALLO/GETTY] 

A huge defensive effort helped Wales overcome a bruising Samoan side to edge towards a rugby World Cup quarter-final berth on Sunday, while England struggled to an unconvincing win over Georgia that left coach Martin Johnson fuming.

In Napier, a much-changed France side were forced to deal with wet and windy weather before overcoming Canada 46-19, making it two wins from two in Pool A ahead of their mouth-watering clash with New Zealand on Saturday.

Conditions were much more favourable in Hamilton as Wales produced some entertaining rugby and fierce defence under sunny skies to claim a precious 17-10 victory over Samoa.

Winger Shane Williams scored the decisive try late in the second half with fullback James Hook and flyhalf Rhys Priestland kicking six points each to secure a victory that is likely to see them claim second place in Pool D behind South Africa.

“A few years ago, or 12 months earlier, we might not have won that game”

Wales coach Warren Gatland

Samoa prop Anthony Perenise crossed for a try late in the first half but they were unable to add to their tally in the second period as their burly backs were shut down by the Welsh, who made 142 tackles in the match.

“I thought we showed some great character,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said of his team, who were unfortunate to lose 17-16 to the Springboks in their opening match.

“A few years ago, or 12 months earlier, we might not have won that game.”

While Wales took the plaudits in victory, Six Nations champions England faced criticism after their win in Dunedin as their old problems with discipline were evident again.

Late tries added gloss to the 41-10 victory over a tiring Georgian side, who had little rest time following their loss to Scotland on Wednesday.

Johnson unimpressed

England, the 2003 champions, struggled to gain territory and possession against their second tier opponents leaving manager Martin Johnson frustrated.

“It wasn’t good enough and if we are happy with those standards we’ll go home early,” Johnson warned his side, who gave away 14 penalties.

Some woeful kicking by Georgian flyhalf Merab Kvirikashvili and six tries by England, however, made sure there was no repeat of the upset suffered by Tri-Nations champions Australia at the hands of Ireland on Saturday.

Australia’s loss to Ireland means they face a probable quarter-final against South Africa and, if they survive, a last four encounter with the All Blacks, who spent Sunday visiting earthquake damage in Christchurch on the second day of their stay in the city.

“It wasn’t good enough and if we are happy with those standards we’ll go home early”

England coach Martin Johnson

The All Blacks return to Auckland on Wednesday ahead of their clash with France, who for the second match in a row rallied late to overcome spirited opposition.

Winger Vincent Clerc completed a hat-trick of tries with the final play of the game to secure a bonus point for the French, with scrumhalf Morgan Parra adding 23 points with the boot.

“Difficult first game last week but I’m very proud of the French team, it’s never easy to win against Canada with the rain,” France captain Aurelien Rougerie said.

There are no games on Monday and there may be no more in the tournament for Dominiko Waqaniburotu after the Fijian flanker was cited for a dangerous tackle during his country’s 49-3 World Cup loss to defending champions South Africa on Saturday. 

Japan and Tonga are scheduled to announce their teams for their Pool A clash in Whangarei on Thursday.

Source: Reuters