AAP Rugby

Wales top the world after beating England

By AAP Newswire

Wales beat England 13-6 in Cardiff on Saturday to avenge their loss in the reverse fixture last weekend and thrust themselves to the top of the official world rankings.

Wales' rise to the summit, which ended New Zealand's unbroken 10-year occupation, comes just 34 days before the World Cup kicks off in Japan.

It was an impressive warm-up performance for the global tournament as they reeled off an 11th successive home win.

A fired-up Wales, fielding a near full-strength side against a more mixed England line-up for the second game in a row, scored the only try of an error-strewn encounter through winger George North.

Fly-half and man-of-the-match Dan Biggar, in the spotlight following injured Gareth Anscombe being ruled out of the looming World Cup, impressed with a smart cross-field kick for North's try after England's Anthony Watson had been yellow-carded.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland was pleased with the character shown by his side in the match.

"I said to the boys in the changing room we have to show massive character as we had to dig pretty deep and lost two second rows, so we had four front rowers on," Gatland said.

"We showed some brave character and that's what we're about. If you want to beat us you have to play pretty well."

When asked how he thinks Wales will fare away from Cardiff in the World Cup, the New Zealander added: "I think we've done a good job of winning over the support of a few Japanese fans.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones played down reaching the rankings summit and said he was "just" satisfied with the performance against England.

"We're a team of 3.3 million, so we can be happy with that," Jones said of the ranking.

"Satisfied - just. The first half was a definite improvement (on last weekend). There were probably patches in the second half where we dropped a little bit.

For England, the main positive of a stodgy performance will be the fact they emerged unscathed on the injury front, apart from the pre-game withdrawal of winger Ruaridh McConnochie.

And their captain George Ford said he won't read too much into the result with the World Cup just around the corner.

"I can't fault the effort of the lads. What we have to do is to come back. That was a proper Test match. Very physical, not much time and space on the ball," he said.

"It's good for us to play at a stadium like this with the roof closed. We will keep working.

"I don't think many people remember these games. What happens at the World Cup in a few weeks' time will be completely different."