AP PHOTOS: Rugby World Cup reaches the halfway stage and Ireland confirms its status as favorite

ByThe Associated Press

September 26, 2023, 4:19 AM

Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe, right, Tonga’s Malakai Fekitoa, left, and Salesi Piutau fight for the ball during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Scotland and Tonga at the Stade de Nice, in Nice, France, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

The Associated Press

PARIS — The Rugby World Cup is at its halfway stage, with 24 games done and dusted.

The top story of the third set of matches was Ireland’s epic 13-8 win over defending champion South Africa to confirm its status as favorite to win the title for the first time. Ireland was heroic in holding off a second-half surge from the Springboks at Stade de France, where the final will be on Oct. 28, and where top-ranked Ireland hopes to return with its army of boisterous green-shirted fans behind it.

It won’t be an easy road back to Paris as Ireland’s pool-stage victory over the Springboks only seems to have set it up for a meeting with another three-time champion in New Zealand as early as the quarterfinals.

Host France still believes it will have a say in where the trophy goes and improved to three wins from three in Pool A by routing Namibia 96-0 in the southern city of Marseille. There were 14 tries from the French, including a hat trick from flying right wing Damian Penaud.

The French victory was soured, though, by captain Antoine Dupont sustaining a facial fracture in an illegal tackle by Namibia’s Johan Deysel, who was red-carded for the head-on-head hit. Dupont needed surgery and there’s no news yet on how long he might be out and if France will see its best player again at his home World Cup.

Namibia wasn’t the only team to be routed as England racked up the fourth highest points tally of this tournament to beat debutant Chile 71-0. England captain Owen Farrell returned to action after a suspension for a red card in a World Cup warmup game.

The European teams completed a trio of victories over southern hemisphere World Cup powers when Wales’ record 40-6 thumping of two-time champion Australia closed out the set of games. It followed Ireland’s win over South Africa a day earlier and France’s opening-game triumph over New Zealand three weeks ago.

Scotland’s backline impressed in a 45-17 win over Tonga that saw the tournament’s fifth red card. Tonga No. 8 Vaea Fifita was the recipient after charging into Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell’s head late in the game in Nice.

The last Rugby World Cup in Japan set a record with eight red cards. This one is well on course to beat that.


AP Rugby World Cup: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

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