Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 24 News List

RUGBY WORLD CUP: Irish look to pile on points against Namibia

AP , PARISREUTERS, NANTES, FRANCEAFP, ST ETIENNE, FRANCE

Ireland will be trying to run up a big score when they open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Namibia. The Africans want to preserve their winning record against the Irish.

Argentina's stunning 17-12 victory over host France in the championship's opening game means that it should be a neck-and-neck race to the quarterfinals for the three leading teams in Group D. So points difference could be decisive when it comes to reaching the knock out stage.

"It is a tight group and there is a chance that Ireland, France and Argentina will each lose a game and the games against Namibia and Georgia create an opportunity to create a points difference," Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said.

"This is an issue that not every team has to deal with. It is on the back of our minds. If we lose a game the points difference is important," he said.

Although Ireland are expected to easily Namibia today in Bordeaux, history is not on their side.

The two teams have only met three times before with Namibia winning twice at home in 1991 and Ireland thrashing the Africans 64-7 at the World Cup in Australia four years ago.

Scrumhalf Dwayne Peel leads Wales for the first time in their opening World Cup Pool B match against Canada at the Stade de la Beaujoire today.

Captain Gareth Thomas has been dropped to the bench alongside flyhalf Stephen Jones, who has just recovered from injury. Both could see second half action.

Peel will be partnered at halfback by James Hook. The pair played together in Wales's last two warm-up Tests against Argentina and France.

Thomas' place was handed to 30-year-old New Zealand-born Sonny Parker who is partnered at center by Tom Shanklin.

"Gareth [Thomas] put in three royal performances for us during August but this is the first time Sonny Parker has been available to us to start a game so we are giving him a chance in the center," coach Gareth Jenkins said in a Welsh Rugby Union news release.

Canada, set for a shot at reaching the last eight for the first time since 1991, have the experience of several veterans of previous World Cup campaigns, notably Rod Snow, Jon Thiel and Mike James.

Portugal make their Rugby World Cup bow against Scotland today determined not to be the tournament whipping boys.

The Scots are hot favorites to devour Los Lobos, Portgual's Wolves, in what could be a one-sided contest.

Portugal, 5,000-1 outsiders to win the World Cup, are vowing not to make a limp entry into the tournament, although few give them much chance against the Scots.

"We're not worried. We're prepared to take a few knocks," prop Andre Silva said yesterday. "We will play to our strengths and our intensive defense. We want the other teams to know that it won't be easy for them to beat us."

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