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DUFFY: THERE'S A LOT MORE IN THE TANK: Utility back Gavin Duffy has worked his way into the Ireland matchday 22 for Friday's pivotal World Cup Pool D clash with France.

Telling the Mayo News about his call-up, Duffy said: "Monday morning's team meeting started with the usual routine for day one of a match week. Eddie named the team for the game with France from 15 down and then went through the replacements.

"When I heard my name at the end of that list, it was a great feeling. As you can imagine, I was buzzing, and I had a pep in my step for the subsequent training session.

"Considering the magnitude of the task ahead, being part of the matchday 22 is a great moment for me and an opportunity that I am relishing. Preparation is key and I will be going through the same routine as I would for any test match this week."

Duffy has no experience of playing at the Stade de France, Friday's match venue, but he did watch a French championship semi-final there between Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne when touring with the Irish Under-21 squad.

Having watched Saturday's tight win over Georgia from the stands, Duffy observed: "The game against Georgia was a brutally physical test and we had to fight hard in defence in the closing stages just to avoid a massive upset. Obviously the players were disappointed not to have won more convincingly.

"The dressing room was silent in the immediate aftermath of the game, but some of the more experienced heads took the lead in lifting spirits. We are still very much alive in this competition and we know there is a hell of a lot more in the tank."

RWC 2007 TOP SCORERS:

PLAYER POINTS -

1 - Percy Montgomery (South Africa) 47 points
2 - Nick Evans (New Zealand) 33 points
3 - Stirling Mortlock (Australia) 32 points
4 - Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (France) 27 points
5 - Nicky Little (Fiji) 24 points
5 - Pierre Hola (Tonga) 24 points

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15 - Ronan O'Gara (Ireland) 11 points

PLAYER TRIES -

1 - Bryan Habana (South Africa) 4 tries
1 - Chris Latham (Australia) 4 tries
2 - Vincent Clerc (France) 3 tries
2 - Jerry Collins (New Zealand) 3 tries
2 - Rocky Elsom (Australia) 3 tries
2 - Doug Howlett (New Zealand) 3 tries
2 - JP Pietersen (South Africa) 3 tries
2 - Shane Williams (Wales) 3 tries

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4 - Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland) 1 try
4 - Andrew Trimble (Ireland) 1 try
4 - Simon Easterby (Ireland) 1 try
4 - Jerry Flannery (Ireland) 1 try
4 - Rory Best (Ireland) 1 try
4 - Girvan Dempsey (Ireland) 1 try

GEORGIANS RISE IN RANKINGS: Georgia have gained a place in the latest IRB World Rankings despite Saturday's 14-10 loss to Ireland in Bordeaux.

The Georgians have moved from 17th to 16th, with their eastern European counterparts Romania, who were beaten 24-18 by Italy, also edging up a place to 15th position.

In the top ten, second-placed Australia and South Africa in third both enjoy a slight improvement in rating points after beating Wales (32-20) and England (36-0) respectively over the weekend.

Number one side New Zealand, fourth-ranked Argentina, fifth-placed France and Ireland in sixth see no changes to their points' total, although the next two nations England and Wales have lost points after defeats, as have Japan in 18th. Scotland have moved up a spot to tenth.

IRB WORLD RANKINGS (As of September 17):

(1) New Zealand 93.38 rating points
(2) Australia 87.73
(3) South Africa 86.44
(4) Argentina 84.82
(5) France 83.13
(6) Ireland 81.12
(7) England 77.84
(8) Wales 76.83
(9) Italy 75.65
(10) Scotland 74.95

ITALY'S TRONCON BECOMES A CENTURION: Long-time Italy scrum half Alessandro Troncon will make his 100th Test match appearance for his country against Portugal at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

He joins rugby's exclusive 100-cap list which includes seven other current or former internationals - George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and David Campese of Australia, England's Jason Leonard, France's Fabien Pelous and Philippe Sella and Welshman Gareth Thomas.

Known to his friends as 'Tronchi', the 34-year-old said: "The first thing that comes to my mind (about reaching 100 caps) is that it's been a long time. Even though rugby has changed a lot, I've always had fun."

"When I made my debut against Spain in 1994, I had a lot of hair and way less scars! I've changed a lot. I've changed as a human being, as a man. I've learnt to listen to people. I've matured as a player."

Troncon, who has played a record 11 times against Ireland during his career, has this to say about rugby and the bonds it has helped him create - "To those kids that are beginning to get into rugby, after watching this World Cup, I would say that to practice this sport is the best way to make friends.

"What I really love about rugby, what will remain forever with me, is that thing of creating strong bonds on the pitch that will eventually go on off it. For the rest of my life," he added. Congratulations Alessandro on your milestone!

UP AND UNDERS: ...France warmed up for their clash with Ireland next Friday by posting their biggest ever win in an international match, beating Pool D outsiders Namibia by 87-10 in Toulouse.

The victory beat their previous best of 77-10 (against Fiji in 2001), but coach Bernard Laporte was quick to play down Sunday's 13-try success.

"We recaptured our joy to play this game, the pleasure that you need to play rugby. However, the fact that they had a player sent off helped and, even if we respect them as opponents, it was only Namibia," he admitted.

"The World Cup has now really started for us but the hardest bit lies ahead."

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...You would think he might not want to go near in case of retaliation, but Namibia number eight Jacques Nieuwenhuis has apologised to France's Sebastien Chabal for the dangerous tackle he put in on him during Sunday's clash between the sides in Toulouse.

Ireland referee Alain Rolland flashed a red card at Nieuwenhuis for his 'clothes-line' challenge on Chabal in the 19th-minute of France's 87-10 thumping of the Namibians.

Chabal recovered sufficiently to score two tries which perhaps helped his mood when Nieuwenhuis tried to make peace with him afterwards.

"I went into the dressing room after the match and Sebastien was a cool guy - he had no problems with the tackle," Nieuwenhuis explained.

"When I went for the ball there was no niggly stuff and when you have a guy like that you just close your eyes and go for them. I can't argue with the referee - he said the next infringement will see someone go to the bin. And the next infringement was me."...

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...From a 'Hooligan' to a World Cup man of the match winner - it has been quite some rugby journey for Georgian winger Giorgi Shkinin who scored his side's only try in their 14-10 defeat to Ireland on Saturday night.

Shkinin, who has promised to display his man of the match award in "the most visible place" in his home, had to give up a burgeoning career in swimming when Georgia's war broke out in the early 1990s.

He was convinced by a neighbour that he should join the local rugby team Hooligana - 'Hooligans' in English - as all the swimming pools closed during the war.

Swimming's loss was rugby's gain and the Hooligans still mean a lot to the fleet-footed winger, who now plys his trade in France with Blois.

"The Hooligans meant everything to me. They were a family and the bonds between us were something irreplaceable. But to play on the national team is a sportsman's dream.

"Every single one of us gives their all. When you see your team-mates run and fall on their face, push themselves to every limit, you can't help but be the same," added Shkinin, who, at 24, is a considerable prospect...

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20 June 2018
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