RUGBY UNION: Tonga sound Cup warning

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND WERE so convinced that Tonga would qualify for this autumn's World Cup via the repechage tournament that they ordered their shoulder pads, chest protectors and all-over body armour months ago. Yesterday, their worst fears were confirmed; the ultra-physical Pacific Islanders obliterated Korea 82-15 in Seoul to record an aggregate victory of 140- 41 and cement their place alongside New Zealand, Italy and the English in the most competitive of the five final round-robin pools.

Sateki Tu'ipoloto, the Tongan stand-off, scored the first of his side's 12 tries and contributed 22 points with the boot while his half-back partner, Sonatane Koloi, crossed for a hat-trick of touchdowns. The islanders' next World Cup business will be of a more testing variety - they will take on the All Blacks at Bristol on 3 October - while Uruguay, the second repechage qualifiers who earned themselves a place by beating Morocco 36-24 on aggregate, are scheduled to play Spain in Galashiels 24 hours earlier. That will be the easy part for the South Americans, whose other two fixtures involve Scotland and the Springboks.

England's own chances of achieving the ultimate will be much enhanced if Jeremy Guscott arrives at the tournament in peak form and condition. Concern over the centre's well-being have been rife of late; a hamstring injury has prevented him from taking the field since the end of March and there has been the added complication of his being charged with assault. He must make a second appearance before Bath magistrates later this month.

Still, he appeared to be on his way back yesterday when Bath named him in their United line-up for last night's English Rugby Partnership Second XV Cup match at Sale. Bath also included the former Scottish Test scrum- half, Andy Nicol, in last night's side, along with a breakaway trio of Richard Bryan, Russell Earnshaw and Ben Sturnham. All three forwards are firmly in the frame for the match against Harlequins this Saturday, particular as the back row failed to fire in the heavy defeat by Northampton at the weekend, damaging their chances of qualifying for next season's European Cup.

Meanwhile, Northampton announced yesterday that Grant Seely has signed a new three-year contract.