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Faletau injured out of Rugby World Cup in Wales box-ticking win over Georgia

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NANTES, France (AP) — A tournament-ending broken arm to Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe’s groin injury marred a box-ticking Wales win against Georgia by 43-19 at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

Faletau was the only forward to have started every Wales game in France at his third World Cup and came off clutching his arm. The No. 8’s absence is a major setback to Wales’ chances in the quarterfinals next week.

“We felt he was starting to come back to his best,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said. “He was excellent last week (against Australia) in terms of his footwork and carrying and stuff, taking kickoffs and giving us some go-forward as well. It’s a big loss for us.”

“We’ll have to make a decision in terms of how we look at the balance of the back row going forward and in particular for next week.”

Anscombe was due to start at flyhalf against Georgia but tweaked his groin while kicking in the warmup and withdrew. The injury was high up, Gatland said, and more will be known in 48 hours. “He’s got a bit of power and stood on his leg which is a positive, it means it’s not come off the bone,” he said.

But it’s doubtful whether Anscombe will be fit in a week, and Wales usual starting 10 Dan Biggar was already carrying a damaged pectoral muscle from against Australia two weeks ago. When Anscombe was hurt, Sam Costelow played flyhalf and Biggar was pressed onto the bench, though he was the only reserve not to be used on Saturday.

The bonus-point win gave Wales 19 points out of a possible 20 in pool play and secured a quarterfinal next Saturday in Marseille against Argentina or Japan, who meet on Sunday.

Wales needed only a point to win Pool C and secured it with a fourth try in the 67th minute that ended a Georgia comeback from 24-7 down to 24-19.

“It was a bit messy and ugly but we got the job done,” Gatland said.

Probably because of seven changes to the team after crushing Australia, and having a quarterfinal already sewn up before kickoff, Wales played without an edge. It went through the motions against a Georgia side that took half an hour to get its game clicking. By then, it was 17-0 down and chasing, and Wales simply waited for errors.

The errors came, and the biggest beneficiary was wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who scored three of Wales’ six tries.

Wales didn’t take long to take charge. When the backs butchered a four-on-two, prop Tomas Francis barged over and scored. Then Costelow threaded a beautiful pass between Georgian defenders for Liam Williams to touch down, and three goalkicks put Wales 17-0 up after 27 minutes.

Georgia made its first entry into the Wales 22 count by forcing an attacking lineout and captain Merab Sharikadze ran over George North to score inside the posts.

Only 17-7 behind at halftime, Georgia needed to score next and was building again. But center Giorgi Kveseladze played first receiver and threw a pass to nobody except North, who sent Rees-Zammit flying away untouched in the 43rd.

Georgia wasn’t fazed with 11 starters from the historic first win against Wales last November.

Soft penalties by Wales gave Georgia the territory to score twice in three minutes. Replacement hooker Vano Karkadze powered over, then wing Davit Niniashvili smoked the defense and finished with a swan dive.

The Lelos were only 24-19 behind and suddenly a game broke out with a quarter to go.

But Wales, just as suddenly, killed the tension with successive tries finished by Rees-Zammit from a Williams chip ahead, then his own kick ahead from 60 meters out. He dribbled the ball into the in-goal and didn’t appear to apply downward pressure but the try is in the record books.

“We need to get the ball in his hands a little bit more,” Gatland said with a smile.

In between those Rees-Zammit tries, Niniashvili didn’t like a tackle over the sideline by Wales’ Taine Basham and they started a melee which ended with both of them in the sin-bin for the rest of the match.

The game finished with Rees-Zammit turning provider for North’s try as Wales remedied a couple of bogeys by beating Georgia after the humiliation of a year ago, and returning to Nantes for the first time since 2007, when Wales was upset by Fiji and eliminated in the pool stage.


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