Georgia qualify to face England

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The Independent Online

Georgia qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time by beating Russia 17-13 in front of 45,000 spectators in Tblisi yesterday. They will line up in Pool C alongside England, South Africa, Samoa and Uruguay at next year's tournament in Australia.

Georgia qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time by beating Russia 17-13 in front of 45,000 spectators in Tblisi yesterday. They will line up in Pool C alongside England, South Africa, Samoa and Uruguay at next year's tournament in Australia.

In a tight match, neither team could find a way to the try-line until Konstantin Rachkov went over for the Russians just before the half-hour mark. The conversion by Vladimir Simonov gave the visitors a 13-6 lead, but Georgia hit back with a penalty by Makho Urjukashvili. Then a try by Levan Tsabadze on the stroke of half-time gave the hosts a 14-13 lead, an advantage that was increased with a penalty by Urjukashvili 10 minutes after the break.

Namibia booked their place in the finals by the narrowest of margins after losing 24-17 to Tunisia in their play-off second leg on Saturday. With the aggregate scores level over the two matches, Namibia scraped through by virtue of having scored more tries. They will take their place in Pool A along with hosts Australia and Argentina, Ireland and Romania.

Tunisia and Russia will both have another chance to qualify for the World Cup via the repêchage system, which will determine the remaining two places at next year's finals.

English clubs made an impressive start to the revamped Parker Pen Challenge Cup on Saturday, although Leeds were given a fright by the Italian minnows Padova. The Yorkshire club were rescued by three second-half tries from wing Chris Hall as they secured a 29-23 first leg victory at Stadio Plebiscito.

Newcastle recorded arguably the weekend's most impressive victory, winning 19-12 in Grenoble thanks to 14 points by Jonny Wilkinson and a Marius Hurter try.

Saracens and Harlequins both went on the rampage, amassing 160 points behind them as they demolished respective opponents Dinamo Bucharest and Caerphilly.

Wales's Tom Shanklin was the star of Saracens' 87-11 Romanian romp, scoring five tries to finish just one touchdown short of the tournament record for one match.

Quins compounded Caerphilly's miserable season as Nick Duncombe, Matt Moore and Rob Jewell all notched try doubles in a 73-20 stroll.

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