‘Avoid New Zealand’: Sale Sharks voice support as Rugby World Cup hots up

England may be out of the World Cup but former internationals are hoping fans will get behind the many countries that are still represented in the Sale Sharks changing room.

Countries represented at the A J Bell cover the northern and southern hemisphere and there’s been no lack of competition.

Flanker and Welshman Jonathan Mills told MM that there’s been plenty of banter after his country defeated England in their crucial pool game at Twickenham.

“The English boys give as good as they get as. At the moment it’s great for me but it was a different story during the Six Nations: it’s swings-and-roundabouts!

“Hopefully Wales can kick on and don’t see knocking England out as the pinnacle but it’s going to be tough with all the players they’ve lost to injury.

“It’ll be interesting to see how Saturday goes as Australia looked very impressive against England.

“I think that whoever wins this group has a great chance of getting to the final. New Zealand are probably going to get there so everyone will want to dodge them until then and hopefully turn them over on the day.”

Meanwhile, like Wales, Ireland are already guaranteed a quarter-final place.

Peter Stringer, who represented Ireland in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, looked to his country’s game against France in which Ireland hope to make it four out of four wins to top pool D.

“Ireland’s game against France will be a tough one. A few weeks ago I would’ve said that Ireland would be in a much better place than France going into the match but whilst Ireland have won their last three games they haven’t really been tested.

“It goes back to the old age question of which French team will show up but I just feel that Ireland’s experience will see them win it.

“Neither side will want to face New Zealand in the quarter-final so that’ll be the big motivation going into the game.

“Neither side have played to their full potential but that could all change on Sunday. We’ve seen it in so many games in this World Cup, anything can happen.”

South Africa-born, former England flanker Hendre Fourie reflected on the big upsets of the competition.

“My main team was England, I wanted them to do really well.

“It’s a pity they have been knocked out but that’s how rugby goes and now hopefully one of the home nations will do well.

“South Africa are my second team and they’ll always be there or thereabouts.

“They got a lot stick when they lost to Japan but I hope they do well: I hope that Australia or New Zealand don’t win it again.”

The only home nation still fighting for quarter-final qualification is Vern Cotter’s Scotland.

Chris Cusiter, Scottish scrum-half with 70 international caps, commented on Scotland’s chances as they face Samoa hoping to clinch second place in Pool B.

“I think Scotland will beat Samoa on Saturday because Samoa haven’t been great so far.

“They’ve got good players and could pull it out of the bag but I think Scotland will prove too strong for them on the day.”

Scotland failed to reach the quarter-finals in 2011 for the first time in World Cup history and Cusiter praised the support from far and wide for his countrymen.

“The enthusiasm and support from everyone in the UK continues to be huge despite England no longer being in the competition.

“I don’t know who Scotland would prefer to play between Wales and Australia, but that’ll be a huge game for them either way.”

Scotland are fighting it out with Japan for the second place spot in Pool B.

Teammate and former Springbok Brian Mujati believes that the pool is by no means a foregone conclusion.

“Rugby is a funny game – I don’t think people gave Japan enough credit after they beat South Africa.

“It’s easy to say South Africa didn’t play well or that they had a bad day but you’ve got respect Japan who are a really well coached side.

“Japan would have beaten a lot of good sides on that day and I think it’s good for the game to see other sides coming through.”

This weekend is the final round of pool games which will decide who will face-off in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

MM spoke to the Sharks ahead of the final weekend of pool games during a MBNA Number Cruncherz session at their training ground. 

MBNA Number Cruncherz is a financial education programme delivered by Sale Sharks to thousands of schoolchildren in the North West and North Wales.

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