RWC 2019: Tonga push France all the way but 23-21 victory sees Les Bleus qualify for quarter-finals

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Alivereti Raka goes over for France's second try.

France secured their place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a 23-21 victory over Tonga at the Kumamoto Stadium.

France will now face a shootout with England next Saturday to determine who will finish top of Pool C.

Virimi Vakatawa and Alivereti Raka went over for tries for France, with Romain Ntamack booting 13 points. Sonatane Takulua, Malietoa Hingano and Zane Kapeli scored the Tonga tries.

Ntamack kicked France into an early lead after Tonga were penalised for offside.

And two minutes later they went over for the opening try when they turned the ball over in their own half before advancing forward and working it wide to Raka, who sent centre Vakatawa in for the score.

Ntamack converted and then missed another shot at goal before France went in for a second try.

Scrum-half Baptiste Serin took a quick tap penalty and fed Raka and he kicked the ball ahead, collected and touched down, with Ntamack converting from out wide to put France 17-0 up.

Tonga got back into the game shortly before the interval with the help of the TMO after Takulua was judged to have grounded the ball amid some fierce French defence.

France thought they had a third try from flanker Charles Ollivon but the crucial pass from Sebastien Vahaamahina was forward.

And Tonga went straight up the other end and got a try of their own through Hingano.

Cooper Vuna’s kick ahead bounced kindly into the hands of Hingano, who gathered and powered over the line and Takulua’s conversion brought them within three points at 17-14.

Ntamack then booted another two penalties to give France some breathing space heading into the final 20 minutes.

Damian Penaud had a try disallowed by the TMO for France after Maxime Medard knocked on in the build-up.

Tonga got a third try right at the death when referee Nic Berry played a penalty advantage and Latiume Fosita kicked wide for flanker Kapeli to gather and score in the corner.

Fosita added the extras but Tonga could not gather the ball from the kick-off and France held on for the victory.

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RWC 2019: New Zealand run in 11 tries as they eventually cut loose against Namibia

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TJ Perenara scored a spectacular late try for the All Blacks.

New Zealand’s power and class eventually shone through as they wore down brave Namibia 71-9 in Tokyo to make it three straight wins at the Rugby World Cup.

Namibia battled and matched the All Blacks early on and New Zealand led only 10-9 after half an hour before stepping up their game to break clear and run in 11 tries as they won the last 50 minutes 61-0.

Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ben Smith all crossed for a pair of tries, with Angus Ta’ava, Joe Moody, Sam Whitelock, Jordie Barrett and TJ Perenara also touching down.

Barrett added eight conversions for a personal haul of 21 points.

Damian Stevens kicked Namibia into an early lead with a penalty for hands in the ruck before New Zealand scored their first try after five minutes.

Barrett’s cross-field kick was collected by Reece to go in on the right and they went over again midway through the half through Lienert-Brown, who stretched clear of the Namibian defence to touch down.

The Welwitschias continued to battle and compete with the All Blacks and came back to within a point through a pair of Stevens penalties.

New Zealand were reduced to 14 men when prop Nepo Laulala was sent to the sin-bin after making contact with the head of JC Greyling in the tackle.

Prop Ta’avao went over under the posts for his first Test try with Barrett converting.

The bonus point was secured when Smith powered over after a dominating scrum when Jack Goodhue popped the ball up to him to send the All Blacks into the break with a 24-9 lead.

New Zealand broke the game open after the interval with seven more tries.

Moody went over on the right after another dominant scrum and Barrett sent over his third conversion.

Lienert-Brown claimed his second try of the game after Barrett weaved his way through a series of Namibian tackles and spun the ball wide for him to touch down.

Reece capped a textbook All Blacks move as they spun the ball wide for the speedy winger to go in.

Captain Whitelock then made it four tries in 16 minutes since half-time when he scored at the base of the upright from another powerful forward surge.

Smith went over for his second try of the game 13 minutes from the end as quick hands kept the ball alive and the full-back crashed over in the corner.

Ofa Tuungafasi became the second New Zealander to be sent to the sin-bin eight minutes from time for a swinging arm to the head in the tackle.

Barrett crossed for the 10th try as New Zealand surged forward after a lineout before Perenara wrapped it up with a stunning effort after picking up a behind the back pass from Brad Weber and surging through three tackles to brilliantly touch down in the corner.

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RWC 2019: Wales lock Jake Ball happy to put "frustrating" catalogue of injuries behind him

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Wales lock Jake Ball has put a “hard and frustrating” catalogue of injuries behind him to become a key Rugby World Cup performer.

The Scarlets forward can painfully recall having a “hole” in his back where a muscle had stopped working due to nerve damage after undergoing shoulder surgery.

And, when a biceps rupture, concussion and torn toe ligaments are added to his injury count in recent times, it underlines the admirable resilience he has shown.

Ball has repeatedly stepped up to the plate for Wales, and particularly in Japan, where his second-row partnership with skipper Alun Wyn Jones has proved an important factor in victories over Georgia and Australia.

“It was just unlucky I guess,” Ball said. “There was nothing I could have done to prevent a lot of things that have happened. I am just enjoying being back and playing regularly.

“The most frustrating thing about my shoulder was that they said it was meant to be a four-month return. Then there was a bit of a complication because I had some nerve damage from the operation.

“That set me back and it was hard for me. There was a point where it just wasn’t getting any stronger.

“I had a hole in my back where the muscle had just stopped working, and at one point I wasn’t sure that was going to get any better.

“I was seeing the nerve specialist and he was saying, ‘Look, this is probably going to take between six and 10 months’. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t see it taking that long,’ but in fairness to him, he was about right.”

Ascot-born Ball qualified for Wales through his father, who hails from Colwyn Bay, and he was a one-time cricketing colleague of the Marsh brothers Mitchell and Shaun after moving to Australia.

As a member of the Western Australia under-19 cricket squad, fast bowler Ball once sent down a delivery which was clocked at 82 miles per hour.

But since arriving at the Scarlets and breaking into Test rugby, he has not looked back, winning 38 caps and becoming an essential part of Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s plans.

“To go for the best part of five years without an injury, which is probably what I had, and I was very durable, playing 80 minutes a game, to then having that patch was very frustrating from a mental side as well,” he added.

“I had patches where I would come back and was just starting to get going again and playing some good rugby, and I would get hit with something else. That was the annoying bit.

“I just tried to use the time wisely, did a lot of gym work and put my head into that. I am not going to lie, it is hard and frustrating.”

Wales resume World Cup action against Fiji next Wednesday, when victory in Oita would secure a quarter-final place.

“The biggest motivation when you are injured is watching people play in that position – that drives you,” Ball said.

“There is no-one at the top level who isn’t competitive and doesn’t want to start. That is your ultimate goal.

“There is a lot of self-belief, a lot of quality in the squad, and it’s an exciting place to be.

“We just have to target these next two games (against Fiji and Uruguay) and make sure we finish top of our pool.”

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