x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Wilkinson declared fit, and Argentina prepare for the 'game of their lives'


England received a boost ahead of this weekend's quarter-final against France with Jonny Wilkinson taking part in yesterday's team training session. The fly-half, 32, whose drop goal secured the 2003 Rugby World Cup for England, injured his right elbow near the end of Saturday's 16-12 win over Scotland at Eden Park in Auckland as Martin Johnson's men finished top of Pool B. A scan has cleared match-winning pivot Wilkinson of serious injury but his fitness still remains uncertain ahead of tomorrow's team announcement. If Wilkinson is not fit to play then Leicester's Toby Flood is his likely replacement. Mike Tindall, the captain and centre, did not train and continues to receive treatment for a stiff leg.


Juan Figallo said Argentina "must play the game of our lives" if they are to pull off one of the great World Cup shocks and beat New Zealand in their quarter-final on Sunday. "It's an exceptional week, everything is exceptional," Figallo, the front-row forward, said yesterday. "In this match, we can't leave any details to one side. We are going into this game in the best way possible and we are going to play the match of our lives." Figallo said the mental side of this weekend's match at Eden Park would be vital as Argentina went in search of a first win against New Zealand, having lost 12 and drawn one of their 13 previous encounters.


Andrew Trimble, the Ireland wing was full of praise for the huge number of travelling fans he said had created a "buzz" around the team in New Zealand, but said he wished his father would tone it down a bit. Trimble, speaking ahead of Ireland's quarter-final against Wales, said of the Irish support: "It's pretty special and unique to anything I've experienced before. We feed off that a little bit." But the 26 year old, whose parents are in New Zealand for the tournament, said the boisterous backing was a little too close to home after Ireland's 36-6 win over Italy last weekend saw them into the last eight. "My dad was singing songs in the team room after the game and the boys were giving him a hard time, getting him up, and I was doing everything I could to keep him in his seat," he said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't enough."


A Frenchman who refuses to laugh at England's problems? Well, Marc Lievremont, the enigmatic France coach, is that man. England have had to confront several unwanted stories about their players' off-field behaviour ahead of this weekend's World Cup quarter-final with France. But such is the lack of harmony within the French squad, Lievremont was in no mood to joke about Saturday's opponents. "I've got enough problems with my own group not to laugh at theirs," Lievremont said of the England squad. When questioned further about the lack of happiness among the French, who qualified for the last eight despite two pool defeats, he said: "We haven't earned ourselves the right to be happy."


Leonardo Ghiraldini, the Italy hooker, has been suspended for 15 weeks after admitting to eye-gouging Cian Healy, the Ireland prop, in their Rugby World Cup match on Sunday. Ghiraldini denied his actions were deliberate, but Bruce Squire, the judicial officer, disagreed at yesterday's hearing. Ireland's victory at the Otago Stadium in Dunedin eliminated Italy from the tournament.