New Zealand cruising, England struggling

As the 20 Rugby World Cup nations reach the halfway stage in their struggle for quarter-final places, here is the state of play in the four pools:

POOL A

Dan Biggar brought the so-called ‘Pool of Death’ and the whole World Cup alive with 23 points from the boot that anchored the brilliant Welsh team effort to beat England 28-25 at Twickenham.

That has kept the injury-plagued Wales level with Australia who failed to pick up a bonus point against Fiji, despite scoring 96 points in wins over the Pacific Islanders and Uruguay. But now comes the crunch. Australia play England on Saturday and Wales on October 10.

England are sore after their defeat by Wales but Australia have been forced to send home key forwards Wycliff Palu and Will Skelton after they were injured. The last bruising games in Pool A could deal huge blows to World Cup hopes and even careers.

Standings (played, won, drawn, lost, points for, against, bonus points, total points)

Australia

2 2 0 0 93 16 1 9

Wales

2 2 0 0 82 34 1 9

England

2 1 0 1 60 39 2 6

Fiji

2 0 0 2 24 63 0 0

Uruguay

2 0 0 2 9 54 0 0

POOL B

The group has already produced the greatest shock in Rugby World Cup history, with Japan beating South Africa 34-32 in a match where 24-point star Ayumu Goromaru was their hero. But Scotland are one of only two teams to have the maximum tally of 10 points, including bonuses, from two games courtesy of wins over Japan (45-10) and the United States (39-16).

South Africa, now looking for a new captain after Jean de Villiers left with a broken jaw, can overtake again if they beat Scotland in the key Pool B match at Newcastle on Saturday. Japan still have games against Samoa and the United States to come in a tricky finish to this pool.

Scotland

2 2 0 0 84 26 2 10

South Africa

2 1 0 1 78 40 3 7

Samoa

2 1 0 1 31 62 0 4

Japan

2 1 0 1 44 77 0 4

USA

2 0 0 2 32 64 0 0

POOL C

Who can stop Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and the rest of the All Blacks looking for back-to-back World Cup wins? Probably no-one in Pool C. Argentina had a good go leading 13-12 at halftime in their match. McCaw said he had a “dumb” moment when sin-binned against the Pumas.

But no side has exposed a serious flaw in New Zealand’s defences. The main interest in Pool C may now be the battle for second between Argentina and Tonga. Having lost 17-10 to Georgia, the Tongans got back on track with a 35-21 win over Namibia on Tuesday. If they can beat the odds and Argentina on Sunday an upset could be achieved. “We played a final today (against Namibia) and we will play another final on Sunday,” said Tonga captain Siale Piutau.

New Zealand

2 2 0 0 84 30 1 9

Tonga

2 1 0 1 45 38 2 6

Argentina

2 1 0 1 70 35 1 5

Georgia

2 1 0 1 26 64 0 4

Namibia

2 0 0 2 35 93 0 0

POOL D

This is a straight fight for first place between Joe Schmidt’s Ireland and Philippe Saint-Andre’s France. The Irish are the other team along with Scotland with maximum points so far, but France are just one behind. It will be a brilliantly prepared Ireland against a France capable of the best and worst when they meet on the last day of the pool matches, October 11. The loser will almost certainly play New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

Italy in third have looked disappointing without captain Sergio Parisse and have a tough run-in against Ireland and then a stubborn Romania.

Canada were unlucky to lose 23-18 to Italy and also to have to play France on Thursday which restricts their hopes of overtaking the Azzurri. Teams that finish third in their pool will qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Ireland

2 2 0 0 94 17 2 10

France

2 2 0 0 70 21 1 9

Italy

2 1 0 1 33 50 0 4

Canada

2 0 0 2 25 73 1 1

Romania

2 0 0 2 21 82 0 0

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