Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Samoan encounter leaves English battered and bruised


England has more than a few cuts and bruises to repair after going close to an upset loss to Samoa in the best game yet of the Rugby World Cup.

Its credibility as title contender took a big hammering too.

Clive Woodward's team, ranked No. 1 in the world and expected to meet either New Zealand or defending champion Australia in the final, scored two late tries in a 35-22 victory over the Pacific Island team after trailing 16-13 at half time and 10-0 after eight minutes.

While the heroic Samoans earned the praise of rugby fans everywhere, England's credibility was made to look laughable.

"England's Fright Night," headlined the Australian newspaper above a photo of star back Jonny Wilkinson being tackled and driven backwards by burly Samoan prop Jonathan Meredith.

"Samoa made the World Cup about pride and talent rather than just money and sports science," the paper said in a reference to the huge revenue spent on England's players and their backup team of coaches and experts in sports medicine.

What made it worse was Rugby World Cup officials announcing they would investigate why England had 16 players on the field near the end of the game.

Dan Luger had gone on for injured center Mike Tindall during injury time but Tindall was still on the field getting attention. Referee Jonathan Kaplan spotted the problem and ordered him off.

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