Police seize fake balls
French customs officers seized nearly 1,000 counterfeit rugby balls that had been imported for the World Cup and stored in a customs warehouse at Strasbourg airport, the government said on Thursday. The balls were discovered last week during a regular inspection of a warehouse, where an import company had left some merchandise from India that was awaiting customs release authorization. Customs officials seized 998 imported rugby balls among the merchandise, marked with the official World Cup logo and saying "France 2007," the Budget Ministry said.
Victory or nothing: Connolly
Australia departed for the Rugby World Cup on Thursday, saying anything less than victory in the sixth world tournament would be considered a failure. The Wallabies left Sydney for Portugal, where they will complete their preparation for the Cup which begins in France on Sept. 8. They are drawn to meet tournament favorites New Zealand in the semi-finals. "I guess everyone that goes to the World Cup, if you're in the top seven or eight countries in the world, the goal is to win the World Cup, so anything short of that is a failure I guess," coach John Connolly said. He said a training camp on foreign soil would allow the Wallabies to complete their tournament preparation away from the scrutiny they would face at home.
■ SOUTH AFRICA
Ndungane goes home
Winger Akona Ndungane was returning to South Africa from Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday for tests on a chest injury while his teammates were preparing to complete their rugby World Cup buildup against Scotland. Ndungane injured a chest muscle and came off half an hour into South Africa's 18-3 win over Irish province Connacht on Wednesday. He was heading to Cape Town for more conclusive tests, with his World Cup participation in doubt. He joins center Jean de Villiers back home recuperating after de Villiers injured his ribs in the win over Namibia last week. Springboks captain John Smit remained unavailable while recovering from a hamstring injury.
Jenkins makes three changes
Wales made three changes to its team to play France in its final World Cup warmup tomorrow. Shane Williams returns from elbow surgery and replaces Dafydd James on the left wing in the team announced on Thursday by coach Gareth Jenkins. Jamie Robinson is at outside center in place of Tom Shanklin, and Chris Horsman will start at tight-head prop instead of Adam Jones. Shanklin is rested after being injured in Wales' 27-20 win over Argentina last Saturday. Jones has an ankle injury, but both are expected to be available for Wales' opening World Cup game with Canada in Nantes, France, on Sept. 9. Williams missed the Argentina game and Wales' record 62-5 loss to England on Aug. 4.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Williams inks two-year deal
Lock Ali Williams has signed a new two-year contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union, stemming a flow of New Zealand's top players to Europe after next month's Rugby World Cup. Williams, 26, a veteran of 42 tests, will remain in New Zealand at least until the end of the 2009 season, keeping intact one key part of the current All Blacks forward pack. Prop Carl Hayman, hooker Anton Oliver and lock Chris Jack have already signed contracts to play in Europe from next season.