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England edge Scotland to reach quarter-finals

England rallied in the second half of a hard-fought match to defeat Scotland 16-12 on Saturday and...

The official IRB ball for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Picture: AFP

England rallied in the second half of a hard-fought match to defeat Scotland 16-12 on Saturday and ensure a place in the World Cup quarter-finals after the first game on neutral territory between rugby union's oldest rivals.

A Chris Ashton try, his sixth of the tournament, near the end of the Pool B clash on a wet and windy night at Eden Park set England up for a quarter-final against France next Saturday.

France limped into the knockout stages despite losing 19-14 to Tonga in Wellington, their second loss on successive Saturdays, while twice champions Australia took their place in the last eight with a 68-22 victory over Russia.

The Scots, who needed to win by eight points to reach the knockout stages, dominated the forward exchanges to lead 12-3 after 56 minutes.

But they then messed up the kick-off and turned over possession to England. Jonny Wilkinson, who had endured another indifferent day with the boot, dropped a goal to spark the revival which preserved the 2003 champions' unbeaten record.

"We are sometimes making it very hard for ourselves but I think the main thing is the character we showed to get ourselves out of a very tough hole," said manager Martin Johnson.

Tonga celebrated the biggest upset of the tournament and the greatest day in the Pacific islanders' rugby history while at the same time lamenting the 25-20 loss to Canada which has ultimately cost them a quarter-final place.

The Tongans squandered the opportunity to score at least five tries against the twice finalists, who needed an injury time try to Vincent Clerc to capture a losing bonus point.

Their victory followed Samoa's 13-5 loss to defending champions' South Africa on Friday and underlined the wealth of rugby talent in the Pacific Islands.

"We are capable of beating England but if we play like we did against Tonga, we will be heading back to France," said France captain Thierry Dusautoir.

Australia's victory came at a price with a hamstring injury for Drew Mitchell that looks likely to have ended the winger's involvement in the tournament.

The Wallabies joined their Tri-Nations' rivals New Zealand and Australia in the knockout phase and the Wallabies might have to beat them both to reach the final if Ireland defeat Italy on Sunday to finish top of Pool C.

Mitchell, who suffered a badly broken leg in April, added his second try early in the second half but pulled up going for his third.

New Zealand also have injury problems before their final Pool A match against Canada on Sunday, with their two most influential players relegated to the sidelines.

Captain Richie McCaw will rest a long-standing foot injury while flyhalf Daniel Carter left training with a groin injury sustained during kicking practice.

Timeline

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