International wrap: Ireland beat Wales, take no. 1 ranking to World Cup

International
AAP
by AAP

Ireland became the world's No.1 ranked team with a 19-10 victory over Wales on Saturday that felt a little more like a World Cup clash than the final warm-up before the tournament begins later this month.

With both sides close to full strength and the intensity dialled up a notch or two on Saturday, there was far more pressure on Ireland's frontline men to perform after their disappointing Six Nations and record 57-15 warm-up rout by England two weeks ago.

Such are the niceties of rugby's ranking system, tries from Rob Kearney, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan mean Ireland will arrive in Japan as the top-ranked side for the first time. The encouraging performance, however, will mean more.

"Today was really, really important to make sure we took a step forward," captain Rory Best, playing at home for the last time ahead of his post-World Cup retirement, said in a pitchside interview amid deafening roars.

"There's still a way to go but that was a very efficient performace against a quality side."

The result also meant Warren Gatland was unable to deny Joe Schmidt a victorious farewell in his final game at the Aviva Stadium, as Schmidt had done to his fellow Kiwi in Cardiff last week with both coaches set to depart after the World Cup.

Ireland, who face a potentially tricky Pool A with Scotland and hosts Japan, begin their campaign against the Scots on September 22.

Wales kick off a day later against Georgia before facing Australia on September 29 in the likely Pool D decider.

RESULT

Ireland 19

Tries: Kearney, Furlong, Ryan

Cons: Sexton 2

Wales 10

Tries: Parkes

Cons: Halfpenny

Pens: Halfpenny

NEW ZEALAND vs TONGA

The All Blacks have announced their Rugby World Cup intentions with a dazzling 14-try performance to rout Tonga 92-7 in Hamilton.

Playing with freedom against hopelessly outclassed opposition, the world champions flexed their attacking muscles ominously on Saturday, notching their biggest winning margin over any team in more than a decade.

Winger George Bridge bagged four tries while fullback Ben Smith and inside centre Ryan Crotty crossed twice each in what was a glorified training run before leaving for the global tournament in Japan.

It was a colourful way for Smith, Crotty and captain Kieran Read - who also scored a try - to end their careers on New Zealand soil. The veteran trio will all take up offshore club contracts after the World Cup.

Tongan skipper Siale Piutau crossed three minutes from the end to ensure the All Blacks wouldn't keep their opponents scoreless for a second straight game, having whitewashed the Wallabies 36-0 three weeks ago.

Up 54-0 at halftime, New Zealand appeared on track to raise a century for most of the game but were held scoreless over the final 15 minutes.

They weren't helped by their own tactic of fielding just 14 men for that period. They didn't replace Crotty, choosing to play under-manned to prepare for that contingency at the World Cup.

Otherwise, the hosts were ruthless, playing with a speed the 15th-ranked Tongans couldn't match.

Steve Hansen's men won't get the same leeway when they face the Springboks in a mouth-watering opening World Cup pool game against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21.

Read was pleased his team stayed grounded throughout.

"It's one of those games where you could have had your eyes on what's coming over the next couple of weeks but I'm really proud of the way we stuck at it," he said.

"It's two weeks until that first big game so it's important we keep building. It's the exciting part now from here on in."

Five-eighth Josh Ioane replaced Beauden Barrett at halftime to make a memorable Test debut.

Ioane's first touch was a kick off claimed by Bridge, who scored just seven seconds after the restart - most probably a world record.

Tonga face England in Sapporo on September 22 and coach Toutai Kefu, the former Wallabies forward, has a mountainous task to get them up to speed.

Injuries forced Kefu to field Siua Maile as his starting hooker. Maile is a full-time Christchurch roofer who had never previously played higher than club rugby.

Piutau said the lessons came thick and fast for his team.

"We knew it would be hard playing a world class team like the ABs. We prepped as well as we could and had a game plan but we got put to the sword."

RESULT

New Zealand 92

Tries: Bridge 4, B Smith 2, Crotty 2, Reece, Taylor, Read, Perenara, Todd, Savea

Cons: B Barrett 7, J Ioane 4

Tonga 7

Tries: Piutau

Cons: Takulua

JAPAN vs SOUTH AFRICA

A hat-trick of tries from Makazole Mapimpi has led South Africa to a comfortable 41-7 victory over Japan in their final World Cup warm-up match, laying down a tournament marker and gaining revenge for defeat four years ago.

Japan's famous 34-32 victory at the 2015 World Cup had dominated the build-up to Friday's clash but the hosts were never in the contest as South Africa pounced on sloppy handling and play at the breakdown.

Ahead of the World Cup opener against old rivals New Zealand on September 21, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, who named a strong side, was pleased with the test provided by the Japanese.

"We played against a very strong Japanese team, which we wanted to play against before we played against the All Blacks and we got exactly what we expected," said Erasmus.

"Luckily we didn't get a lot of injuries and we think now this puts us on the right track before we play the All Blacks in two weeks' time."

After losing key winger Kenki Fukuoka to a calf injury early on, Japan's start got even worse when Cheslin Kolbe showed some quick feet to dart past Yu Tamura and open the scoring on seven minutes.

South Africa dominated the aerial battle throughout the game and it was after another poor Japanese clearance that allowed Mapimpi to stroll in for his first try on 22 minutes.

"High kicks - they won that battle in the air," conceded Japan boss Jamie Joseph.

"Their outside backs are very good aerially, they are very skilful and very big, very dynamic in the air."

Mapimpi's second came shortly after half an hour, off the back of another strong Springboks scrum and a neat midfield move straight from the training ground.

Handre Pollard added three from a penalty to give South Africa a 22-point lead going into the break.

Japan came flying out in the second half, but a resilient Springbok defence held on and they eventually cleared their lines before Mapimpi scored his third on 53 minutes, burning the Japanese defence with his speed.

RESULT

Japan 7

Tries: Matsushima

Cons: Tamura

South Africa 41

Tries: Mapimpi 3, Kolbe 2, Jantjies

Cons: Pollard 2, Steyn 2

Pens: Pollard

ENGLAND vs ITALY

A mix and match England team have overcame a patchy start to run in four second-half tries and finish their Rugby World Cup preparations with a healthy 37-0 victory over Italy at Newcastle United's St James' Park.

With various new combinations and several key men sitting out the game on Friday, England were restricted to three Owen Farrell penalties in the first half as Italy defended with gusto and even threatened a try on a couple of occasions.

It was one-way traffic in the second half though as Ben Youngs opened the floodgates five minutes after the restart.

Joe Marchant, impressive replacement prop Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson all then added good tries to send England to Japan on a high following three wins and a narrow defeat by Wales in their warm-up campaign.

England fly out to Japan on Sunday, beginning their campaign against Tonga on September 22, and will travel in good heart with wins against Wales, Ireland and Italy under their belt - along with a narrow defeat by Warren Gatland's Welsh side.

England thrashed Italy 57-14 in the Six Nations in March and have now won all 26 of the teams' meetings - this one though being the first time they have kept them scoreless.

There was not much for the Italians to take from the game, where they competed bravely but were just outclassed in too many areas, particularly when England threw some heavyweight replacements into the fray.

His team start in the World Cup against Namibia, but with New Zealand and South Africa also in their pool, their chances of making the quarter-finals for the first time look extremely slim.

On Friday they certainly upped the intensity from when they were brushed aside by France a week ago and, combined with handling errors and over-elaboration by England, restricted the hosts to a 9-0 halftime lead and few scoring chances.

The frustrated Newcastle crowd finally got a try to cheer after Genge blasted through to set up scrumhalf Youngs for something of a "quarterback sneak" five minutes after the restart.

Centre Marchant, who is not in the World Cup squad, showed a great burst of acceleration to blast through for the second - and with Henry Slade still injured, he could yet play a part in Japan.

England's attacking rolling maul has been generally ineffective over the last few weeks but they got it right in the 67th minute to force Genge over for his first international try.

Watson showed enough in a rare outing at fullback to reassure Jones that he provides a more than capable back-up to or replacement for usual 15 Elliot Daly and capped a good display by bursting into the line for the fourth try as Italy wilted in the face of relentless attacks.

RESULT

England 37

Tries: Youngs, Marchant, Genge, Watson

Cons: Farrell 4

Pens: Farrell 3

Italy 0

SCOTLAND vs GEORGIA

Scotland have stuck six more tries on Georgia in a sloppy 36-9 win at Murrayfield on Friday in their last warmup match for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Scotland beat Georgia 44-10 last weekend in a far better performance in Tbilisi, where Scotland had the result in hand by halftime.

In this return match on Friday, Scotland took more than an hour to secure victory, and three tries in the last 12 minutes put gloss on an outing dotted with errors. Still, it was enough to keep Georgia away from the tryline.

"This week we weren't as accurate," Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said.

"It was pleasing that we did put things right later on ... finishing with a couple of tries made it a nicer win than it probably was."

More worrying for the home side, lock Ben Toolis went off at halftime, his replacement Jonny Gray lasted only a quarter before he left because of a head knock, and flanker Jamie Ritchie also took a head knock and was going to hospital for scans.

Fullback Blair Kinghorn starred in the first half, setting up wing Tommy Seymour who dropped the pass and bombed the first try chance. Instead, the opening try went moments later to scrumhalf Ali Price, who was set up by fellow backs Kinghorn, Darcy Graham and Duncan Taylor.

Kinghorn took the inside pass for the second try from an Adam Hastings chip to Graham, but Hastings couldn't convert both.

Meanwhile, simple mistakes by Scotland gave penalty kicks to Georgia's Tedo Abzhandadze and he landed three to help his side trail only 10-9 at the break.

Both teams were also down a man, after referee Romain Poite tired of the messy scrums and sin-binned opposing props Zander Fagerson and Mikheil Nariashvili.

After halftime, a Hastings break led to a Sam Johnson try.

Georgia wing Zurab Dzneladze was then yellow-carded but Scotland fell into farce and didn't take advantage.

Georgia was tiring though, and bad defence allowed Graham and replacement backs George Horne and Pete Horne to score late tries.

Scotland opens its World Cup campaign against Ireland on September 22 in Yokohama, while Georgia meets Wales the next day in Toyota.

RESULT

Scotland 36

Tries: Price, Kinghorn, Johnson, Graham, G Horne, P Horne

Cons: G Horne 2, Hastings

Georgia 9

Pens: Abzhandadze 3

USA vs CANADA

The United States will head off to the Rugby World Cup with a spring in their collective step after beating Canada for the third time this year, coming from behind to claim a dramatic 20-15 victory in Vancouver.

Eagles winger Martin Iosefo broke a 15-15 tie with a try eight minutes from time to complete the comeback and add another win over their neighbours to those they secured in Seattle and Denver earlier this year.

The Canucks started at a blistering pace with two unanswered tries in the first 16 minutes through halfbacks Gordon McRorie and Peter Nelson and kept the visitors on the backfoot by putting boot to ball.

Flyhalf Will Magie finally got the United States on the scoreboard with a 20th minute penalty and number eight Cam Dolan peeled off a dominant scrum to touch down for a converted try that cut the deficit to 12-10 at the break.

Nelson nailed a long-range penalty at the start of the second half for Canada but U.S hooker Dylan Fawsitt scored off the back of a rolling maul seconds after coming off the bench to tie up the scores with 30 minutes to play.

The United States kept up the pressure but the Canadians held them off with some desperate defence until the last 10 minutes, when the Eagles secured a turnover and moved the ball out wide for Iosefo to race away and score.

The United States play England in their World Cup Pool C opener in Kobe on Sept. 26 with Canada getting their Pool B campaign underway against Italy in Fukuoka earlier the same day.

RESULT

Canada 15

Tries: Nelson, McRorie

Cons: Nelson

Pens: Nelson

USA 20

Tries: Dolan, Fawsitt, Iosefo

Cons: Magie

Pens: Magie