Rugby Union: England learn hard way

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The Independent Online
IT IS perhaps indicative for the ambiguous status of student rugby in Britain and Ireland that none of the teams from the four home unions have reached the semi-finals of the second Student World Cup, which has been taking place in Italy since the beginning of the month.

Not unexpectedly, England, while receiving a considerable degree of support from their union, failed to reach the last four by the narrowest of margins.

One could argue that, in their unconventional style, Scotland had a better chance than England of reaching the semi-finals until a couple of defensive aberrations led to an equal number of Argentine tries.

The Scots hounded the more conventional Argentinians into making mistakes and giving away penalties, but the writing was clearly on the wall once the Pumas captured a semblance of coherence and rhythm.

Earlier, the Scots managed to survive a bruising yet spectacular encounter with Japan when Duncan Macrae's spectacular try and match-saving tackle kept the team on course for the knock-out stages.

In contrast England's team of grafters were painfully short of spark and vision, though they nearly succeeded in squeezing out a highly talented French side in the quarter-finals.

England's moment of glory - in admittedly the most difficult pool of the tournament - was their comprehensive demolition of South Africa, a multi-racial selection and the first rugby representatives from the Republic to play overseas since the end of the boycott.

Wales, bitten by New Zealand and Romania in their pool, dropped out before the quarter-final stage. In their final game against New Zealand, the reigning champions, the Welsh gave their opponents a good run for their money before going down

15-7. 'We improve in every game and I can safely say that the game against New Zealand could have easily gone either way,' John Maclean, the Welsh manager, said.

Ireland, featuring one of the youngest teams in the competition, did much better than expected to reach the last eight. They fell apart, though, 53-9 in Sunday's quarter final against New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored eight tries to none and the fluency of their game makes them favourites to retain the title won four years ago in Bayonne. They take on Argentina in the Naples semi-final.

Results, Sport in Short, page 29