France survive Tonga scare to reach Rugby World Cup quarter-finals

Franck Fife, AFP | France weathered a late Tongan storm to qualify for the knockout round.

France qualified for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday with a nailbiting 23-21 win against Tonga that sets up a winner-takes-all clash with England to top Pool C.


The narrow win also put an end to Argentina's last hopes of taking one of the qualifying spots in what had been billed the tournament's "group of death".

Tonga famously upset France in the pool stage at the 2011 World Cup but there was to be no repeat at Kumamoto Stadium with flyhalf Romain Ntamack's assured place-kicking seeing the three-time finalists home despite a fierce battle. 

Early tries from backs Virimi Vakatawa and Alivereti Raka helped give France a 17-0 lead but Tonga crossed twice in seven minutes around the break through scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua and centre Malietoa Hingano to cut the lead to three points.

Ntamack steered two penalties between the posts, however, to give the French a 23-14 cushion that proved just sufficient when flanker Zane Kapeli scored Tonga's third try in the last minute.


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