Wales produced a superb defensive performance to beat a disappointing England side 19-9 in a feisty World Cup warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
Wales fullback James Hook scored the only try of the match in the second half when the home side survived spells in the sin-bin for center Jamie Roberts and scrumhalf Mike Phillips to boost their confidence before next month’s World Cup in New Zealand.
England’s pack laid the foundation for the visiting side to dominate possession in the first half, but they lacked the creative inspiration to cross the line in the face of some furious Wales tackling.
Wales took the lead in the first minute thanks to a Rhys Priestland penalty, but England hit back quickly through Toby Flood after No. 8 Nick Easter won possession from a re-start.
Priestland restored the Wales lead, but the England forwards scrummaged powerfully and dominated the lineout.
Flood kicked his second penalty and England looked certain to score a try when captain Mike Tindall broke the Wales line just before the interval, only for the center to lose possession of the ball.
Flood kicked another penalty early in the second half and Roberts was shown the yellow card for killing the ball, but Wales weathered the storm and enjoyed a spell of pressure on the England line.
After several phases of possession, Hook wriggled over from close range and he added the conversion to put the home side 13-9 ahead.
England, who beat Wales 23-19 at Twickenham on Aug. 6, made several substitutions, but looked bereft of ideas just three weeks before the start of the World Cup.
Hook’s long-range penalty gave the hosts breathing space and after Phillips was also sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball the fullback kicked another long penalty to seal the victory.
ITALY VS JAPAN
REUTERS, MILAN, ITALY
Italy recovered to beat Japan 31-24 on Saturday in their final home Test match before the World Cup.
Flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino, 23, starting an international for the first time, kicked three conversions as two second-half tries from Italy’s front row gave them a win in Cesena.
Japan flyhalf James Arlidge converted three conversions and a penalty for the visitors.
Italy raced to a 14-0 lead with converted tries by Matteo Pratichetti and Edoardo Gori in the first 12 minutes, but Japan replied with tries from Takeysa Usuzuki and Koji Taira.
Arlidge, who converted both tries, then scored a penalty to give the visitors a 17-14 halftime lead.
Italy coach Nick Mallett had picked a young back line with an experienced pack and it was forwards Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lo Cicero who scored tries to put them 28-18 ahead.
Japan replied with a penalty try before a penalty converted by Italy’s Luciano Orquera, who had also got a conversion, completed the scoring.
FRANCE VS IRELAND
REUTERS, BORDEAUX, FRANCE
France outmuscled an understrength Ireland 19-12 in a World Cup warm-up match in Bordeaux on Saturday, but the hosts were forced to bring off injured center Maxime Mermoz in the first half.
Mermoz appeared to have a knee injury and he was replaced in the 27 minute having been on the field for the only try of the game when Vincent Clerc touched down after a decent move 10 minutes earlier.
Debutant No. 8 Raphael Lakafia made the decisive break for the score to please coach Marc Lievremont in his team’s first outing since a disappointing Six Nations.