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France routs Canada, nears quarters

AP

France closed in on a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal spot after scoring five tries in a 41-18 win against Canada in their Pool D match on Thursday.

Veteran lock Pascal Pape scored the fourth try to earn a bonus point, which is likely to be enough for France, the losing finalist in 2011, to reach the last eight.

France now faces Ireland in a game that is expected to determine top spot in Pool D, with the winner likely to avoid a showdown with the All Blacks in the quarterfinals. The French lead the group with 14 points from three games, four points clear of Ireland and 10 ahead of Italy.

“It will be a different game, a different story,” against Ireland, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. “The guys are looking forward and they will be ready.”

Captain Thierry Dusautoir is already relishing facing the Irish.

“We’re here to test ourselves against the best,” he said. “Their scrum is very strong, they tackle well and their backs find space.”

Despite the full-time score against Canada, it was a somewhat patchy performance from France and the only safe bet was the accurate kicking of Frederic Michalak.

The 32-year-old flyhalf converted the first four tries and added two penalties on his way to becoming his country’s all-time World Cup scorer with 136 points. He made his World Cup debut in 2003.

“A lot of people were surprised why I picked him,” Saint-Andre said. “Against Italy and today he showed that he’s a class player.”

Michalak was replaced near the end by Morgan Parra, who helped to set up winger Remy Grosso for a try on his test debut as Canada played the last 10 minutes with 14 players after Nanyak Dala was sin-binned.

Wales victorious again

Cardiff Wales AP

Wales won its third straight game at the Rugby World Cup, digging deep to beat Fiji 23-13 on Thursday and move to the brink of qualifying for the quarterfinals from the tournament’s toughest pool.

The Welsh will be guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals if England loses to Australia on Saturday. The scenario would see the English knocked out of their home tournament.

“If we are being entirely selfish, Australia can do us a big favor,” said Wales coach Warren Gatland, who is from New Zealand. “But it’s hard for a Kiwi to be jumping up and down for the Aussies.”

On a five-day turnaround from a memorable 28-25 win over England, Wales held up well against Fiji’s adventurous, dynamic game and disciplined set piece to lead 17-6 at halftime through tries from scrumhalf Gareth Davies and hooker Scott Baldwin.

Wales leads Pool A on 13 points, four more than Australia and seven more than England.

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