Mako Vunipola will miss at least the first two of England's games at the Rugby World Cup, coach Eddie Jones has confirmed.

Prop Vunipola suffered a setback in his hamstring injury and was absent as England defeated Italy 37-0 at St James' Park on Friday in their final warm-up match ahead of the tournament in Japan.

Jones' men led 9-0 at half-time thanks to a trio of Owen Farrell penalties, but Ben Youngs, Joe Marchant, Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson touched down in the second half as Italy were put to the sword in Newcastle.

England next face Tonga in their opening Pool C game in Sapporo on September 22 and take on United States four days later, meaning Saracens forward Vunipola is expected to return against either Argentina or France.

"He's probably going to be right for the third or fourth game," said Jones.

"He just had a little scar tissue which was impairing his movement. But that's all been fixed. He's progressing really well now."

On whether he was worried about taking an injured Vunipola to the World Cup, Jones added: "No, not at all. He's a very important player for us.

"We feel that he's going to be ready to contribute in the World Cup. We've got two looseheads with us who are in great form, one who can play tighthead, so we've got three tightheads as well.

"We're confident that he'll make a great contribution for us."

Exeter Chiefs wing Jack Nowell will also miss England's first two World Cup games after dealing with an ankle injury and appendicitis.

"Jack Nowell is probably in the same category [as Vunipola]," Jones added. "They are important players for us, so we are prepared to be patient with them."

New Zealand's final Rugby World Cup dress rehearsal was more like a training session as the defending champions demolished Tonga 92-7 in an ominous warning before the showpiece tournament.

The All Blacks fell just short of 100 points in a merciless display against Tonga in Hamilton, where New Zealand scored 14 tries to one on Saturday.

Tonga managed to get on the board late in the one-sided game, but it was all about New Zealand, who were led by winger George Bridge's four tries at Waikato Stadium.

Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and Sevu Reece also had two tries apiece, while Beauden Barrett had seven conversions.

Steve Hansen's All Blacks will now jet off for Japan before they open their World Cup defence against South Africa on September 21.

Playing their first day-time Test in New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup, the All Blacks were a class above from the outset following Reece's opening try in the eighth minute.

Reece danced his way through Tonga's defence, but no one would have imagined the rout to come as the All Blacks ran in eight tries for a demoralising 54-0 half-time lead.

New Zealand – who beat Tonga 47-9 in their last encounter at the 2015 World Cup – did not take their foot off the pedal in the second half, with records in sight.

Bridge came within touching distance of Marc Ellis' record of six in a match, which he set at the 1995 World Cup against Japan, as he became the 13th All Black to score four tries in a Test.

The second half started with Bridge catching the ball from the restart and crossing after just nine seconds in a forgettable moment for Tonga.

New Zealand added another 38 points in the second 40 minutes and while Siale Piutau recorded a five-pointer for the visitors, Tonga were condemned to their second heaviest loss to the All Blacks following the 102-0 humiliation in 2000.

England rounded out their preparations for the Rugby World Cup with an emphatic 37-0 win over Italy at St James' Park on Friday.

Eddie Jones' much-changed side completed their warm-up fixtures by scoring four tries without reply in Newcastle, captain Owen Farrell converting them all as he finished with a personal haul of 17 points.

However, while they stretched their winning record against Italy to 26 Tests, England produced a performance of two contrasting halves in their final outing before this year's tournament in Japan.

They led only 9-0 at the break thanks to a hat-trick of Farrell penalties and were fortunate not to concede in defence, Tommaso Benvenuti appearing to get around Jonny May only to drop the ball as he headed for the line.

Farrell failed with a penalty attempt early in the second half but England crossed for their first try not long after their skipper's miss, scrum-half Ben Youngs getting over from close range.

Joe Marchant marked his first Test start by crossing in the 53rd minute, the centre – picked by Jones for the game despite not being included in the final 31-man party for the World Cup – slicing through some flimsy tackling to score.

Replacement Ellis Genge benefited from his colleagues in the pack to get his maiden international try when finishing off a powerful maul, Farrell's successful conversion making it 30-0.

The fly-half was also on target after setting up the final try for team-mate Anthony Watson, who capitalised on a tiring Italy defence to breeze through a huge gap and slide over.

Jones will hope to receive a clean bill of health from those involved before England fly out on Sunday. Their opening Pool C fixture is against Tonga on September 22.

Makazole Mapimpi scored a hat-trick as South Africa rounded off their Rugby World Cup preparations with a resounding 41-7 win over Japan in Kumagaya on Friday.

Japan stunned the Springboks at the World Cup in England four years ago but there was no chance of a repeat as Rassie Erasmus' side surged to a commanding victory that maintained their unbeaten record in 2019.

Cheslin Kolbe opened the scoring in the corner before Mapimpi got off the mark following some excellent work from Willie le Roux, who plucked down a high ball and shook off his marker to send the wing through.

Despite Japan enjoying plenty of possession, the Springboks took a 22-0 lead into half-time when Handre Pollard added a penalty to a routine second from Mapimpi.

Mapimpi showed incredible pace when he motored away with Pieter-Steph du Toit's pass to complete his hat-trick, but Kotaro Matsushima – born in Pretoria – pulled one back to the delight of the home support.

South Africa finished the match a man light due to Francois Louw being sent to the sin bin following repeated team infringements, but Kolbe charged home from inside his own 22 and Herschel Jantjies scored his fourth try in as many Tests to send the Rugby Championship winners into the World Cup full of confidence.

Wallabies flanker David Pocock will retire from internationals after the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

Pocock, 31, is set to make his 78th Test appearance for Australia in a clash against Samoa in Parramatta on Saturday.

But the flanker will end his Test career after the Rugby World Cup, which begins in Japan on September 20, he announced on Friday.

"I think looking at the flankers coming through, I think we're in good hands and that's exciting for Australian rugby," the former Wallabies captain told a news conference.

"I feel like I've put a lot into it, I've really enjoyed it, benefitted a huge amount.

"As an immigrant to Australia, rugby's provided me with somewhere to make friends, to feel like I belong and obviously gone on to get huge opportunities playing professional rugby – Force, Brumbies and for the Wallabies.

"So, I feel like it's time to move on to other things and contribute in other areas."

Pocock is the third Wallaby to announce their international retirement this week, joining Sekope Kepu and Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray will feature together for the first time since March when Ireland host Wales at the Aviva Stadium in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt - who will be overseeing his final match in Dublin - and Warren Gatland named largely second-string teams for their first encounter at the Principality Stadium last weekend, which the visitors won 22-17.

Ireland have made 12 changes to their line-up, with Sexton returning from a thumb injury and half-back Murray making his first appearance since going off in the defeat to England at Twickenham on August 24.

Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw will make their first pre-World Cup appearances, while Rory Best will captain the side in his last Test on home soil.

James Ryan, Jack Conan and Bundee Aki are the only players to have retained their spots in the starting line-up.

On the returns of Sexton, Henshaw and Earls, defence coach Andy Farrell said: "They've been held back for a week or two and are raring to go.

"It's important that we put in a cohesive performance and have the right mental attitude heading into the World Cup.

"It's about trying a few different combinations, too. The squad is down to 31 players but there is still massive competition for places.

"It's our last game before we get on the plane on Wednesday and we're after a performance that we're proud of."

 

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Jean Kleyn, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Jack Carty, Garry Ringrose.

Wallabies veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau has announced he will retire from Tests at the end of the year.

Polota-Nau, 34, is set to make his 90th appearance for Australia against Samoa in Parramatta on Saturday.

It could be his last game for the Wallabies, the Leicester Tigers hooker having only been named on standby for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

"It is [special] because the west has given me the opportunity to take rugby with both hands and go for it," Polota-Nau said on Wednesday.

"If it wasn't for Parramatta Two Blues picking up the skill set I possessed back in schoolboys days, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to don the green and gold.

"It's a privilege really to wear the Wallabies jersey.

"It's another opportunity to wear the gold jersey, most likely for the last time, and it's been a hell of a journey and I have been incredibly fortunate to wear the jersey every time."

Polota-Nau joins fellow Wallaby Sekope Kepu in announcing his retirement from Tests this week.

Stuart McInally will captain Scotland at the Rugby World Cup but there is no place for Huw Jones in the 31-man squad.

Edinburgh hooker McInally was confirmed in the role on Tuesday by coach Gregor Townsend, who has selected 12 players from Glasgow Warriors for the tournament in Japan.

However, Warriors centre Jones failed to make the cut for one of the midfield spots, with Northampton's Rory Hutchinson also missing out.

Peter Horne and Chris Harris have instead been chosen alongside expected first-choice pairing Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor, while Adam Hastings will provide cover for fellow fly-half Finn Russell.

John Barclay - the most-capped player in the squad with 74 international appearances - will be involved in a third World Cup campaign, having also featured at the 2007 and 2011 editions.

"We're delighted with the squad and believe we've picked a group capable of playing our best rugby and doing this consistently throughout the tournament," said Townsend, who announced his final list of players at an outdoor ceremony held at a rainy Linlithgow Palace.

"The players have worked hard to be in the best physical shape of their careers and we know that when they play to their potential they are capable of beating any team in the world."

On selecting McInally for the captaincy, Townsend revealed: "Stuart has done a really good job in the opportunities he's had to captain Scotland.

"We have a number of leaders in our squad and it was great to see them work well together out in Georgia last week."

Scotland open their Pool A campaign against Six Nations rivals Ireland in Yokohama on September 22. Host nation Japan, Russia and Samoa are also in the same group.

 

Scotland Rugby World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: John Barclay, Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Stuart McInally (captain), Willem Nel, Gordon Reid, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.

Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Pete Horne, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor.

Brian O'Driscoll feels England have "all the attributes" to win a Rugby World Cup, making Eddie Jones' side a "huge threat" in Japan.

England have one World Cup warm-up match remaining against Italy at Newcastle's St James' Park this week, having impressed in recent weeks with home victories over Wales and Ireland.

The defeat of Ireland was particularly striking, with Jones' men running up a record margin of victory over one of the world's best sides.

Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola all starred in that victory and retired Ireland great O'Driscoll, who played at four World Cups, was impressed.

"I feel as if England are in a phenomenal position at the moment," O'Driscoll, a Land Rover ambassador, told Omnisport. "They are playing great stuff, they've got all their main players fit and in rude health, they're trying different combinations.

"If they can go into it with a limited injury list off the back of the final game against Italy, I think they are really humming at the moment and they'll be a very, very difficult team to beat.

"They look fit, they look strong, powerful, good variety to their game.

"I think they've got all the attributes we've seen in other previous World Cup-winning teams if they're able to implement that on the big stage. I think they'll be a huge threat."

Jamie Heaslip, O'Driscoll's ex-Ireland team-mate, similarly sees England challenging in Japan, suggesting injuries have prevented the team from getting the credit they deserve previously.

"Ireland, England and Wales have shown their form over the last two years – particularly England in the last 12 months," said Heaslip, also a Land Rover ambassador.

"People forgot they had a lot of players who were injured. They have a very fit squad right now available for selection.

"Look at Manu Tuilagi and his impact [against Ireland]. You've got Billy Vunipola, who impacts the game at number eight, and Joe Marler and the difference he makes."

As a former number eight, Heaslip has paid particular attention to Vunipola and the balance England have been able to strike in their back row with Tom Curry and Sam Underhill.

"Billy carries unbelievably well – he's so dynamic for such a big man, he's fast, he's got really good footwork – so you need balance," he said.

"I think you saw that [against Ireland]. There was a really balanced back row. That's going to be the trick for Eddie Jones in the back row, finding that balance.

"You can't just carry the ball, you need guys who rook, guys who do some hard yard work at times, and I think England have a very vast pack to be able to do that.

"They've got some players who are really dynamic and I look at that England back row and it's pretty formidable."


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Rory Hutchinson scored two tries on his first Test start as Scotland cruised to a 44-10 victory over Georgia in their Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Tbilisi.

In the last game before coach Gregor Townsend names his final squad of 31 on Tuesday, Hutchinson boosted his chances of tournament selection with a fine display that helped Scotland to their first away win in 14 months.

Prior to the match, Townsend and star man Finn Russell defended the decision to name a strong XV for the contest, despite losing Sam Skinner for the World Cup in an injury picked up in last week's home win over France.

While there were 10 changes, Hamish Watson, Greig Laidlaw and Russell all started, while hooker Stuart McInally returned to captain a side containing many players expected to be on the plane to Japan.

Scotland, the first tier-one nation to play a Test in Georgia, produced a much better performance than in their last away game, the humbling 32-3 defeat to France in Nice for which they took revenge in Edinburgh.

They led Georgia 23-3 at the interval after Ben Toolis and Hutchinson dotted down inside the first 19 minutes.

They raced clear in the second half, with centre Hutchinson scoring his second before Darcy Graham and Scott Cummings went over, the latter getting his first international try.

Laidlaw had 15 points with his boot to supplement a five-try display, with Karlen Asieshvili scoring Georgia's only try just before the hour mark.

Warren Gatland acknowledged six positions in Wales' Rugby World Cup squad are still to be decided in the wake of their final warm-up match, with Cory Hill a doubt due to a leg fracture.

Wales' squad for the tournament in Japan is set to be announced on Sunday and Gatland's players were given one final opportunity to impress against Ireland on Saturday.

However, they were beaten 22-17 in Cardiff after a poor first-half showing.

The performances of certain individuals still appeared to give Gatland much to ponder, though, as he confirmed his plans to debate Wales' various options.

"We're going back to the hotel tonight to sit down and it'll take a few hours," he told a news conference. "There are probably six positions really up for debate."

Gatland confirmed Hill's inclusion was one issue that was still to be settled, revealing the 24-cap lock has been absent from the warm-up games due to a leg fracture.

"Our big discussion tonight is with Cory Hill," he explained. "He's got a fracture in his leg.

"We scanned yesterday [Friday] and he has a very small fracture which will probably keep him out until game two or three. It'll be a big discussion point as to whether we take him or not."

Another area of contention would appear to be at fly-half, where Jarrod Evans started against Ireland before Rhys Patchell came off the bench to score a smart late try.

Gatland insisted Patchell's role in Wales' attempted second-half fightback would not necessarily give him the edge over Evans.

"There's no doubt that Rhys came on and did a good job," the head coach said. "But it's a hell of a lot easier coming off the bench when there's no pressure on you.

"It was hard for Jarrod in the first half when the team isn't going as well as it could."

Saturday's defeat means Wales, the world's top-ranked side, will fall to number four in next week's update.

Ireland did not do enough with a narrow margin of victory to take top spot in the rankings, but they will climb to second as New Zealand return to the summit.

Next week's remaining warm-up fixtures are set to decide who will head to the World Cup as the number-one team.

Ireland bounced back from last week's dismal defeat to England with a much-improved display and a 22-17 win in Wales in their latest Rugby World Cup warm-up.

Jacob Stockdale scored twice in the first half to secure bragging rights for the Irish in the first match of a double-header between the sides across consecutive weekends.

The display was extremely encouraging considering what had gone before for Joe Schmidt's side, although they were kept off the top of the rankings, having needed a 15-point victory against the world's number one side.

A late flourish from Wales in Warren Gatland's final home match could not quite complete a comeback.

Ireland's improvement was evident from the off and Jack Carty kicked the game's first points after nine minutes, although Jarrod Evans - making his first Test start - levelled the scores for Wales with a penalty in front of the posts.

Opportunities in open play were initially few and far between until a glorious weaving run from Andrew Conway created the opening try.

The winger raced away from three challenges and then unselfishly passed to Stockdale on the left to dash through.

And Stockdale had his second before the break as he preyed on a loose Wales pass and toed the ball clear of the recovering red shirts to dart across the line.

Wales enjoyed a better spell immediately after half-time but were soon on the back foot again and saw Leon Brown sent to the sin bin following a collapsed scrum as Ireland piled on the pressure.

A blatant forward pass denied Conway a try on the right, yet there was no let-up and Rory Best helped drive Wales back to secure a penalty try following a series of re-set scrums.

The home side belatedly got a breakthrough try with some lovely footwork from Owen Lane, with Ireland then suddenly hanging on as Elliot Dee lunged just short of the try-line.

Bundee Aki's challenge on an airborne James Davies meant Garry Ringrose's counter-attacking score was struck off, and Rhys Patchell's impressive late try could not rescue a Welsh result.

France gave coach Jacques Brunel plenty of food for thought ahead of the Rugby World Cup as they thumped Italy 47-19 in Paris on Friday.

A seven-try show from the home side masked disappointing spells in the game for France, who do not yet look like a side that could challenge for glory at the global tournament in Japan.

Brunel's starting XV for the Stade de France clash showed nine changes in personnel from the side beaten in their previous game by Scotland, as they chased an eighth straight win in their rivalry with Italy.

Maxime Medard fed Yoann Huget to score France's opening try in just the third minute, but Les Bleus put themselves in trouble when they lost their early composure and had both Louis Picamoles and Rabah Slimani sin-binned in quick succession.

Mattia Bellini crossed as Italy took advantage, and Tommaso Allan added the extras to put the visitors in front, albeit still early in the contest.

Italy were the next to be penalised, with Bellini yellow-carded for hauling down Huget off the ball. France were handed a penalty try, and it was briefly a game of 13 players against 14.

Camille Chat grounded the ball for another France try shortly after the half-hour mark, and they led 19-7 at half-time.

Scrum-half Antoine Dupont was next to cross, threading his way through to the line, and France were rampant early in the second half as Arthur Iturria barrelled over for another, his first for the team.

Jake Polledri replied for Italy only for Wenceslas Lauret to counter for France as the tries kept coming, the hosts going 40-14 up by the hour.

Bellini narrowed the gap, but it was France's night and their seventh and final try arrived when Thomas Ramos spotted a gap and darted through from a central position before diving over in the left corner.

France begin their World Cup campaign with a tricky test against Argentina on September 21. Italy, meanwhile, start against Namibia a day later.

Wales' Josh Navidi has vowed to embrace the captaincy role against Ireland on Saturday having been handed the chance to lead his country for the first time.

Ireland visit the Principality Stadium for Wales' final match on home soil before the Rugby World Cup, with head coach Warren Gatland ringing the changes.

He announced 14 alterations to his starting XV following the victory over England, with Navidi one of those coming into the team.

It caps a fine rise for the Cardiff Blues back-rower, who has only played 17 times for his country.

"It is a massive honour. I've had loads of messages from people, which is nice. My family are ecstatic as well, and it will be nice to lead the team out," Navidi said on Friday.

"Gats [Gatland] came up to me after a units session and asked me would I like to lead the team. It's something you can't turn down, really.

"I will try and keep the emotions down. It's another game of rugby, but obviously nice to lead the team out, embrace the moment and then get into it.

"I am not much of a talker, to be honest. Hopefully, I can lead from the front, and everyone else will follow.

"As a youngster I captained Bridgend Athletic, and my school. I have done it a bit with the Blues over the years too.

"Alun Wyn [Jones], I have played quite a lot with him recently, and obviously Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rees at the Blues, and it's little things you pick up on through them. It just brings your game forward, and hopefully I can pass it on to others.

"But to be honest, I have never thought about it [being captain], with the leaders in the group with Wales.

"You have got Alun Wyn, Ken Owens and Jonathan Davies, who are massive figures in the team, and it's something that I've never thought I would come across - I thought just getting the red jersey is enough - so it will be nice."

Wales will face Ireland again on September 7 in Dublin for their final pre-World Cup warm-up.

Their campaign begins 16 days later, against Georgia in Toyota City.

South Africa wing Aphiwe Dyantyi is facing a long-term suspension after being formally charged with a doping violation.

Dyantyi, who last week denied taking any prohibited substances, was provisionally banned after returning an adverse finding in a test at a Springboks training on July 2 and requested for his B-sample to be tested.

The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) said on Friday the B-sample indicated the presence of the same three banned anabolic steroids and metabolites: metandienone, methyltestosterone and LGD-4033.

The 25-year-old has the right to contest the charge in front of an independent disciplinary panel.

If found to have breached anti-doping regulations, the 2018 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year could receive a four-year ban.

Speaking last week, Dyantyi maintained his innocence after being made aware of the initial test results.

"I want to deny ever taking any prohibited substance, intentionally or negligently, to enhance my performance on the field. I believe in hard work and fair play," he said in a statement.

"I have never cheated and never will. The presence of this prohibited substance in my body has come as a massive shock to me and together with my management team and experts appointed by them, we are doing everything we can to get to the source of this and to prove my innocence."

Dyantyi has played 13 Tests for South Africa since making his debut against England at Ellis Park in June 2018 but was not included in the Rugby World Cup squad.

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