x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Stoddart injury adds to Wales' woe ahead of Rugby World Cup

England edge past Wales, as both sides are hit by injuries, and Ansbro scores on his debut to help Scotland beat Ireland.

Jonny Wilkinson was man of the match for England.
Jonny Wilkinson was man of the match for England.

Manu Tuilagi was praised by the England team manger, Martin Johnson, after he marked his England debut with a try, helping his adopted nation beat Wales 23-19 in a warm-up for the Rugby World Cup yesterday.

In their last home match before the tournament, England were already 13-7 up early in the second half when Tuilagi took a short pass from Jonny Wilkinson and crashed through to touch down under the posts.

Voted young player of the year for 2010/11 by the England players' union, the Samoa-born centre looks an almost certain pick for the World Cup. But England were outscored three tries to two in a match overshadowed by injuries to both sides.

Wales were hit by the late withdrawal of fly-half Stephen Jones before Morgan Stoddart - who filled the gap created by Jones's pre-match calf injury by replacing Rhys Priestland at full-back - was carried off on a stretcher with a broken leg.

"It is gutting for Morgan," Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, said. "He had a real good shout of making the World Cup squad."

On the other side, England lost their captain, Lewis Moody, to a knee problem and prop Alex Corbisero to what looked like an ankle injury.

Tuilagi was replaced after an hour, suggesting that Johnson, wants to keep him fresh so he can take another look at him in the return match in Cardiff next weekend.

"He played well," Johnson said. "We struggled to score when we had position in the first half and Manu scored at a crucial time."

After three months off in the close season, both teams predictably have much to work on ahead of that match. Each side conceded more than a dozen turnovers and missed several tackles.

"You get far more out of that than you do the 60-pointers you occasionally get," Johnson said.

"We wanted to go out and play the game in the context of a proper game.

"There's lots of things to get better at. If you win by 70 points, everyone thinks they're a superstar, and what do you work on for next week?"

George North touched down twice for Wales, and Shane Williams grabbed the visitors' other try. James Haskell scored England's first try and man-of-the-match Wilkinson chipped in with 13 points.

"There is a lot to work on," Warburton said. "We knew that would be the way, but I think we will be in with a good shout next week."

The game got scrappier as Johnson and his Wales counterpart, Warren Gatland, threw on their replacements through the second half, although Wales seemed the stronger and North grabbed his second score.

"Whenever we kept the ball, we seemed to score tries," Warburton said. "So that was the message toward the end: hang on to the ball."

Robinson praises Ansbro

A first international try by Joe Ansbro saw Scotland grab a late 10-6 win over Ireland in their Rugby World Cup warm-up Test at Murrayfield yesterday.

The Irish, mainly a second-string side as Declan Kidney, the coach, bids to reduce a 43-man squad to 30 for the World Cup, scored their points through two penalties by Jonathan Sexton.

Ansbro’s fine late individual try was converted by Ruaridh Jackson while the Scots’ other points came from a penalty by the

veteran Chris Paterson, who is bidding to play in his fourth World Cup.

Andy Robinson, the Scotland coach, credited 25-year-old Ansbro’s try down to his scrum.

“What a great finish. Joe took his try absolutely superbly and I think we got what we deserved,” said Robinson.

“The score was all down to the speed of ball from the forwards.

“If you want to break down good defences you must have fast ball and the try underlined that.

“We had kept our shape in attack throughout the game and our scrum had been solid.

“Overall, I am pretty pleased with the result and the performance at this stage in our build up to our departure for New Zealand.”

Kidney, who has been rewarded with a new contract ahead of the World Cup, said the outcome had not been a major setback.

“Obviously we came here wanting to win, and I think we were a bit unlucky not to get that result,” he said.

“But I was delighted with many features of our play and many of the younger guys did what was asked of them and more.”