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Talking points: Boks bully All Blacks, Fiji stun England

SPOTLIGHT: The final warm-up matches for this year’s World Cup took place this weekend with holders South Africa hammering New Zealand on Friday and Fiji stunning England among the standout results.

Twickenham shocks

There were two huge surprises in west London in less than 24 hours as South Africa inflicted a record 35-7 defeat over New Zealand on Friday and then Fiji claimed a first win over England with a 30-22 victory on Saturday.


Three-time World Cup winners the All Blacks will drop down below the Springboks in the world rankings to fourth after the loss, but the gulf in quality, and strength in depth between the historic rivals was difficult to ignore.

Unlike New Zealand, England’s expectations were low prior to the tournament and the defeat to the Pacific Islanders sent shockwaves around global rugby.

The visitors are considered outsiders in Pool C, behind Australia and Wales, but now can be seen as serious contenders to reach the quarterfinals for a third time. Georgia could also cause problems alongside Fiji in the group. Despite losing 6-33 to Scotland, they had led 6-0 at the break.


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Samoa simmering

Hours after their Pacific neighbours overcame England, Samoa ran leading World Cup contenders and Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland very close in Bayonne.

Seilala Mapusua’s outfit led by a point with under 20 minutes remaining before losing 13-17 in the Basque Country but put their hands up as serious threats.


They will join struggling England in Pool C as well as Argentina, who eased past a second-string Spain and Japan, who lost at Italy.

Samoa’s chances of a first last-eight appearance since 1995 have enjoyed a massive boost and with the likes of former All Blacks Lima Sopoaga and Steven Luatua in the squad they have plenty of experience at the highest level.

Barrett blunder

The build-up to the World Cup during the past month was overshadowed by England pair Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola’s suspensions, ruling the two out of their potentially crucial opening game with Pumas.

What rubbed further salt into the wounds of New Zealand was lock Scott Barrett’s red card and potential ban.

He will appear in front of a disciplinary hearing in the coming days and is likely to miss games in the World Cup, including the first match against hosts France.


Les Bleus will be licking their lips following the All Blacks’ defeat and their easy 41-17 victory over Australia on Sunday.

As an extra bonus for Fabien Galthie’s side, New Zealand could also be without Barrett’s fellow lock Brodie Retallick, a World Cup winner in 2015, due to an injury.


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