Cooks spoil Back's day

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The Independent Online
England kept alive their hopes of retaining the Rugby World Cup Sevens title in Hong Kong today by qualifying for a quarter-final meeting with Western Samoa. But after they had topped their second-round group yesterday, England's acting captain Neil Back admitted: "We're not playing well enough at the moment to win."

With Tim Rodber resting a shoulder problem, the Leicester flanker led England to a comfortable 30-7 victory over Canada and a more problematic 29-10 success against the Cook Islands, who were level at the interval after Fiji's Aquila Tunisau, taken from the pool of spare players because of injuries, had scored two early tries.

Even though Rodber is expected to play today, England's coach Les Cusworth is not confident his men will repeat their Murrayfield triumph of 1993. "We're making it hard work for ourselves," he said. "The Cook Islands gave us a few frights because we're finding it hard to keep the ball in our hands. We must go up three gears if we're going to win the trophy."

Meanwhile, the favourites Fiji continued to live up to their billing by exceeding 100 points in their two games (one of them a 35-0 thrashing of Wales) for a second successive day. Remarkably, the Fijians, who meet Korea in the quarter-finals, have still not conceded a single point.

However, criticism of the tournament's three-day format which resulted in seven of Friday's 24 games being repeated yesterday, including one whole group, was threatening to overshadow events on the pitch.

"It's the most ridiculous situation I've ever come across in sevens," said Gordon Tietjens, the coach of New Zealand who were twice grouped with Tonga and Japan. None the less, New Zealand comfortably qualified for a quarter-final tie with Australia who reached the last eight by beating Scotland 31-19. The Scots, who had held Australia 19-19 on Friday, now face Romania in the Plate competition.

Wales are also consigned to the Plate in which they face Tonga while Ireland, who finished bottom of their group after defeats by South Africa for the second time and Hong Kong, play Portugal in the Bowl. South Africa, the inevitable winners of that group, take on France in the remaining quarter-final.

The leading four clubs in Courage League Two all won. Richmond, 72-31 winners at Rugby, are still four points clear of Bedford, who beat Rotherham 32-11. Coventry shaded London Scottish 14-13, but Newcastle emphasised their threat with an 88-19 mauling of Moseley.

Leigh Davies, presented his credentials for a place on Wales's tour of the United States this summer by running in four of Cardiff's nine tries in their 57-30 Swalec Cup quarter-final victory over South Wales Police. With both Scott Gibbs and Allan Bateman tipped to tour South Africa with the British Lions, the way appears to be open for Davies to return to the colours.

In the Welsh First Division, Dunvant eased their relegation fears with a 34-22 home success over last season's champions Neath. But Newbridge, who look doomed, dented Treorchy's survival hopes by winning 25-20.

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