Favourites progress to quarter finals
June 5, 2004

England humbled Italy 40-0 to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the IRB London Sevens.

A hamstring injury to Harlequins wing Ugo Monye and a virus picked up by London Irish centre Geoff Appleford threatened to undermine coach Mike Friday's side in their pursuit of the World Sevens Series title.

But England brushed Italy aside with Penzance's Rob Thirlby - - the only player in their squad from outside the Premiership ranks - scoring a hat-trick of tries.

Newcastle's Ben Gollings touched down twice and kicked five conversions and the other tries came from the Gloucester pair Simon Amor and Henry Paul.

The win was a contrast to their struggle to open their account against
Scotland, when Amor and Wasps' scrum-half Peter Richards scored tries before England were unsettled by a late score from Andrew Turnbull in their 12-5 win.

New Zealand went into the final round of the series with a 10-point lead which means they only have to reach the semi-final stages to retain their title for a fifth successive year.

But the two title-chasing sides could meet in tomorrow's quarter-finals depending on their results in the remaining round of group games - raising the intriguing prospect of England fielding a weakened line-up against France.

New Zealand, though, look in ominous form when they followed up their 43-5 win over Georgia by strolling to a 26-5 victory over a dogged Portugal.

Australia, also in Pool A, cruised through 31-0 against Georgia after starting slowly with a 17-14 win against the Portuguese.

Only one of the group games did not follow the formbook with Italy - who have not reached a quarter-final all year - beating France 19-5 in their first Pool B outing.

South Africa and Samoa in Pool C made sure of their places in the last eight after beating Russia 36-7 and Kenya 32-5 respectively.

And in Pool D Fiji booked their place in the quarter-finals by thumping Canada 50-5 and Argentina will join them after a 40-0 win against Spain.

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