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Rugby World Cup: Underdogs Uruguay pull off upset over Fiji

South American side defeat Pacific Islanders, who are ranked nine spots higher

Minnows Uruguay scored the greatest win in their history yesterday, beating Fiji 30-27 for the first upset of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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The South Americans had won only two games at the World Cup previously and are ranked nine places below the 10th-ranked Pacific Islanders, whom they had never beaten.

But they capitalised on an error-strewn performance by Fiji, whose hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages now hang by a thread.

Uruguay's captain Juan Gaminara broke down in tears at the end of the game at the Kamaishi Recovery Stadium, saying: "We are not the biggest, we are not the tallest but we came here to win.

"Since we qualified, we have been thinking about this game and you saw the passion. I'm really proud."

Several players in Uruguay's squad are semi-professionals, with some even having to pay to play.

The thrilling game had a much deeper significance as it was played in Kamaishi, one of the towns hardest-hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated north-eastern Japan.

The stadium, the only purpose-built venue at the Rugby World Cup, was built on the site of a school destroyed by the waves and hosting the match was seen as a powerful sign of recovery.

As Japan's Crown Prince Akishino looked on, the crowd observed a moment's silence to remember the more than 1,000 people killed in the tsunami.

With emotions running high, Fiji were first on the scoresheet in the seventh minute, Mesulame Dolokoto dotting down to complete a slick line-out move that came after a delightful chip and catch by fullback Alivereti Veitokani.

But Uruguay showed immediately they were not there to make up the numbers and hit back via a mazy run from scrum-half Santiago Arata, one of the smallest players on the pitch at 1.71m.

He evaded several tackles before touching down under the posts for an easy conversion.

Fiji's huge forward superiority eventually told as prop Eroni Mawi bundled over from close range. But Uruguay refused to go away and again took the lead as No. 8 Manuel Diana barged over for a converted try.

And the minnows leapt further ahead with 26 minutes on the clock, Juan Manuel Cat finishing off a flowing move down the left. A penalty just before half-time gave Uruguay a deserved 24-12 lead at the break.

Fiji had taken a shock lead of their own into the second half of their defeat by Australia, but this time they found themselves needing a dramatic comeback.

After Josh Matavesi missed a relatively simple penalty that would have steadied the nerves, lock Api Ratuniyarawa finished off a move that featured a sensational off-load.

And replacement scrum-half Nikola Matawalu dived over following an outrageous dummy to close the gap to 22-27 and set up a nail-biting last 10 minutes.

Fiji threw everything at Uruguay, but a Felipe Berchesi penalty took them out of sight and they clung on for dear life in the final stages, Matawalu's last-minute try not enough to stop the Uruguayans.

A disconsolate Fiji captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu said: "Everything went wrong today. It's not the result we wanted. It's not how we wanted the game to go today. We underestimated a very good Uruguay team."

Asked if Fiji could still reach the last eight, coach John McKee admitted: "It is going to be challenging for us. We are relying a lot on other points now."

He said he was targeting a bonus-point win against Georgia next Sunday before facing Six Nations champions Wales. - AFP

US coach Gary Gold eyes upset win over England

United States coach Gary Gold said his "severe underdogs" would take heart from Japan's stunning 2015 Rugby World Cup win over South Africa as they prepare to take on giants England today.

Gold said all the pressure would be on the 2003 champions, who have made 10 changes from the side that beat Tonga 35-3 on Sunday.

Japan beat South Africa 34-32 in the biggest upset at the Rugby World Cup four years ago.

Gold, who had previously coached Premiership clubs Bath and Worcester, added: "We don't really have anything to lose... nobody will give us a chance.

"Conversely, that puts pressure on a team like England." - AFP

Japan winger Lomano Lemeki predicts 33-26 win over Ireland

If Japan winger Lomano Lemeki's prediction comes true, the hosts will take another World Cup scalp when they face Ireland on Saturday.

The Brave Blossoms pulled off a surprise four years ago when they beat South Africa 34-32 and will need an encore if they are to topple the heavily fancied Irish in Shizuoka.

"33-26," said the Auckland-born Lemeki, when asked to predict the score.

Asked to elaborate, he said, "Because we trained hard and (Johnny) Sexton is not 100 per cent," referring to Ireland's flyhalf who is a doubt for the game because of a thigh injury.

Japan defeated Russia 30-10 in their Pool A opener last Friday, while Ireland thrashed Scotland 27-3 on Sunday. - REUTERS

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