English face early exit in sevens
World Cup Sevens
January 27, 2001

England face a humiliating exit from the World Cup Sevens in Argentina today after suffering a shock defeat against Spain.

The former winners were left with the prospect that even victory over New Zealand in their final Group C game in Mar del Plata tonight might not be enough to reach the quarter-finals.

England's 14-12 defeat by the Spanish means it will be their conquerors who will progress to the knock-out stages of the Melrose Cup if they finish level on points.

``It is out of our hands now,'' admitted full-time Sevens coach Adrian Thompson. ``We have to beat Japan in our first match and obviously the New Zealand game is very important.

``But the players will pick themselves up. They are proud though very disappointed. We've no injuries anyway - apart from bruised pride.

``But we have to get out of this tunnel vision that the so called big nations can just turn-up at sevens and expect the so-called smaller teams to roll-over for them.''

England, missing players because of the Heineken Cup and Six Nations commitments, should still have seen off a Spanish side who had been beaten 26-7 after taking an early advantage against the Kiwis.

But after taking an early lead through Saracens Kris Chesney they allowed the Spanish to hit-back with a converted try from Jorge Prieto.

London Irish flier Paul Sackey restored the lead just before the interval, but they paid for wasting chances as Oriol Ripol punished a lapse of concentration in the English defence to score with Ferran Velazco kicking the winning points.

``We had opportunities but muffed them,'' added Thompson, whose side had failed to impress in their earlier victories over Chile (21-7) and Zimbabwe (28-7).

``Spain took their chances - they were very clinical in their finishing. But I don't think we played the sevens we collectively agreed we would but the single fact behind that was the pressure of a Rugby World Cup.''

England, who won the inaugural tournament in 1993, look certain to be playing in the plate competition unless they can see off a New Zealand side who look in awesome form.

The Commonwealth champions followed-up the victory over Spain by racking up 99 points against Japan (52-0) and Zimbabwe (47-0) - and Jonah Lomu is yet to open his try account.

South Africa, beaten finalists at the last world cup in Hong Kong four years ago, also look in impressive form beating Chinese Taipei (47-7), Canada (24-0) and the Cook Islands (29-0) in Group B.

At least England were not alone in their embarrassment with France, also without key players, following up a 19-14 defeat by Georgia with a even worse reverse against the Cook Islands (19-7).

Wales and Ireland will go into the second day of group matches harbouring high hopes of joining England in the knock-out stages of the plate competition which take place tomorrow.

The Welsh squad must have thought they were still in with a shout of the main event as tries from skipper Jason Forster, Will Thomas and Gareth Wyatt gave them a seven point lead against Samoa in Group D.

But the Samoans hit back with two tries in quick succession to snatch a 24-17 victory against a Welsh side who had opened their account with a 17-17 draw against Portugal before losing to Australia (24-5).

``You can never tell what's going to happen in sevens, but I thought we were going to win against Samoa,'' said Team Manager John Ryan. ``We deserved to but just couldn't hang on.

``But I am proud of the players because they have only had a few sessions together and have improved with each game.

``We have still got the United States and Hong Kong to play and they are not going to be easy games. There are no easy games here _ just ask England and France!''

Ireland face three further games today - against hosts Argentina, Korea and Russia - but stand a good chance of reaching the plate.

They opened with a 41-5 defeat against defending champions Fiji - David Quinlan scoring an historic first try against the Sevens specialists - before overcoming Kenya 31-5 in Group A.

Skipper James Topping scored twice in the victory over Kenya with Derek Hegarty, James Ferris and Matt Mostyn adding the others.

``If anybody had offered me one win from two at the start of the day I'd have accepted it,'' said Ireland's Team Manager Kurt McQuilkin.

``We are still on course for the plate competition which was our aim.

``But we have another big day ahead of us with three games and Korea showed against Argentina that they will be very difficult. I think we will have to be a bit more physical with them.''

Fiji had a shaky 14-5 victory over Russia and had to make a comeback to beat Argentina in a fiery encounter by 19-12.

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