Awesome" Tonga stun Samoa
Rallying cry: Nili Latu demanded a full-blooded performance from Tonga
MONTPELLIER, 16 September - Tonga survived a send-off and two yellow cards to defeat Samoa 19-15 at Stade de la Mosson - their first win over their South Pacific rivals in seven years and a major boost to their chances of making the IRB Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
In what Samoa coach Michael Jones (NZL) described as the best performance he had ever seen from a Tonga team, the Tongans hurled themselves at every breakdown and contested every facet of the match.
"We wanted this one more than Samoa. I said to the boys before the game, 'today you either die or come back to the changing room with nothing'," said Tonga captain Nili Latu.
Despite being down to 13 men for the last five minutes, Tonga nullified Samoa's last desperate attack and then wound down the clock before embracing each other with unrestrained joy at the final whistle.
Tonga repel Samoa's attack with just 13 men
Having trailed for most of the match, Tonga hit the front at the 60 minute mark when inside centre Epeli Taione scored the only try of the match, making amends for his 28th minute yellow card for repeated ruck infringements.
Penalised for a high tackle, Tonga flanker Hale T Pole became the first player to be sent off in an IRB Rugby World Cup match since 1999 - and the 13th overall.
Reserve forward Toma Toke followed him to the sideline just three minutes later on a yellow card for a high tackle, leaving Tonga two men down in the dying stages.
Despite the two-man advantage, Samoa were no more able to put together a cohesive attack than they had for most of the previous 75 minutes.
Samoa "out-passioned and out-muscled"
Tonga were aggressive at the tackle and breakdown, where Jones said his side were "out-passioned and out-muscled".
"The Tongans, when they're in that mood... it doesn't matter which game plan you throw at them, they're going to knock you over, or smash you over," said Jones.
"We acknowledge and commend the Tongans on how they played today. They were awesome. We have to eat humble pie. That's part of this journey we're on."
France post emphatic win
Dream debut: Vincent Clerc scored three tries in his RWC debut
TOULOUSE, 16 September - France have delighted their fans with an 87-10 victory over a 14-man Namibia in Sunday's Pool D match at Le Stade.
It was France's biggest-ever victory in an international, eclipsing their 77-10 win over Fiji in 2001.
In a fitting tribute to Namibia's never-say-die attitude, their centre Bratley Langenhoven crossed for the final try that cut France's winning margin to 77 points in the 13-tries-to-one victory.
Wing Vincent Clerc bagged a hat-trick of tries on his RWC debut, while cult figure Sébastien Chabal and Lionel Nallet each scored two tries for France, who made 12 changes to their starting XV following their 17-12 opening match loss to Argentina.
Irish referee Alain Rolland gave Jacques Nieuwenhuis a red card in the 19th minute after the Namibia number 8 caught Chabal (FRA) around the neck.
Namibia trailed 40-3 at halftime, with their only points coming from fly half Emile Wessels' drop goal in the 10th minute after wing Cédric Heymans had scored France's first try of the tournament three minutes earlier.
The French wasted their opportunities after Nieuwenhuis was sent off but soon clicked into gear, scoring 82 unanswered points before Namibia got their first and only try of the match in the dying seconds.
Chabal scored his tries in the space of five minutes early in the second half before scrum half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, stand-in captain for the rested Raphaël Ibanez, crossed in the 56th minute.
Clerc claimed the next two tries and flanker Thierry Dusautoir crossed four minutes before fulltime to cap a memorable performance by France.
Kirwan ups the tempo
Monday 17 September 2007
Time to face the music: The Japan team trainings have become a musical affair
COLOMIERS, 16 September - In a bid to prepare his players for the passionate Welsh spectators, Japan coach John Kirwan (NZL) has conducted his past two training runs to Japanese pop songs and traditional Welsh music.
"It's a tactic I used in Italy. A few of the boys are having trouble communicating with the noise of the crowd, so we are trying to get them used to it," Kirwan said.
"There were some pretty poor songs today. Our tech guy chose them."
Even though "the tech guy" had chosen such Japanese pop classics as 'Sakura' and 'Hana'.
The Millennium Stadium crowd has a reputation for lifting the home side and the noise that they generate is further enhanced when the roof is closed.
Unfortunately, the continual blaring of the Stade Michel Benichou's speakers had an unwanted side effect, driving away many of the three hundred spectators who had come to see the Japanese team in action.