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European sides stun favourites
FRANCE OUSTED hot favourites New Zealand 20-18 and England upset Australia 12-10 yesterday, the day the Rugby World Cup underdogs had their day.
Frederic Michalak set up the winning try for Yannick Jauzion just seconds after coming on with his team 18-13 down in the 69th to ensure France return home as semi-finalists and New Zealand's 20-year wait for the title will be even longer.
Jonny Wilkinson, whose extra-time drop goal beat Australia in the final four years ago, coolly kicked four penalties as England beat the Wallabies for the third time in a row in World Cup games.
After these two huge upsets, France and England play each other at the Stade de France on October. 13.
The other quarter-finals are on today, with South Africa expected to beat Fiji and Argentina favourites against Scotland. On yesterday's evidence, anything is possible.
When New Zealand led 13-0 after Luke McAlister's converted try, Dan Carter's two penalties and some unexpected misses by France kickers Lionel Beauxis and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, there seemed no sign of one of those famous French comebacks at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
How wrong we were.
After Beauxis landed two penalties either side of half-time, Thierry Dusautoir scored a converted try to make it 13-13 in the 54th minute. New Zealand then lost star flyhalf Dan Carter with what appeared to be a recurrence of his calf injury and the game swung France's way.
But No. 8 Rodney So'oialo burrowed under France lock Jerome Thion to touch down for a try to put the All Blacks back in front before Bernard Laporte sent on the more-imaginative Michalak for Beauxis in the 68th.
With his first touch, he began an attacking move 30 meters out and then provided Jauzion with the pass to go over for a try that Elissalde converted.
England, who have been in a prolonged and deep slump since winning the title in 2003, came from 10-6 down to edge the two-time World Cup winners in Marseille.
"I think every man and his dog had written us off," fullback Jason Robinson said. "But I said there was a good performance in there and today we showed that. We have world-class players and we can rise to the occasion.
"We just dug deep and believed in ourselves. Maybe only 30 people in the world believed we would do it," he said, referring to England's World Cup squad. "But we stuck together and came out with a great win."
leading points scorer
Wilkinson, who became the all-time World Cup leading points scorer with 234, kicked four penalties. He even missed three more and a drop goal that shaved the post. It was a record fourth time that England had posted a tryless victory in a World Cup game, but their huge army of supporters at the Stade Velodrome won't care about that.
Wilkinson's boot provided the points that were effectively created by England's pack.
When Australia winger Lote Tuqiri finally scored a try in his fifth appearance at this World Cup, the Wallabies led 10-6 in the first half and it seemed England's early spell of pressure had been wasted.
But England's front five continually forced the Wallabies pack into mistakes and ill-discipline, and Wilkinson's kick opened up a 12-10 lead with 20 minutes to go. Australia captain Stirling Mortlock, who had kicked a penalty and converted Tuqiri's try, almost snatched victory with three minutes to go - but his huge kick floated wide.
"It was a very tight, physical battle," Mortlock said.
"Unfortunately, I missed a couple of goals, which I wasn't happy about. It was a very stop-start affair today."