Rugby in brief: Saxons surge into final of Churchill Cup

ENGLAND Saxons secured a place in the Churchill Cup final as their scrum power yielded three penalty tries in a comfortable 41-14 victory over Tonga in miserable conditions at Kingsholm yesterday.

The Saxons had demolished the United States 87-8 in their tournament opener and they were rarely troubled here with Saracens prop Matt Stevens staking his claim for a World Cup place in the Autumn with a terrific display in both tight and loose play in front of an eagerly-watching England coach Martin Johnson.

The first two penalty tries and a score from captain Jordan Crane had helped the Saxons to a 24-0 half-time lead, and a further penalty try plus a five-pointer from Billy Twelvetrees put a seal on a win that sets up a meeting with Canada at Sixways on Saturday. Fly-half Rory Clegg kicked seven from seven penalties for a personal haul of 16 points, while Sione Timani and Pepa Koloamatangi went over for Tonga.

Ma'a Nonu is ready to leave NZ after sacking

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SACKED Hurricanes centre Ma'a Nonu is now contemplating a move overseas after he was told by the Wellington-based team he would not be offered a new contract.

Nonu and captain Andrew Hore, both of whom have played more than 100 games for the Hurricanes, were told by coach Mark Hammett earlier this week they would need to find new teams next season.

Local media had reported that 29-year-old Nonu was expected to link with former provincial coach Dave Rennie at the Chiefs next year, but the 56-Test All Black now appears to be looking further afield. "I'll have to wait and see. I'm probably going to go overseas now," Nonu said after his side's 18-18 draw with the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.

"This has made me more likely to leave the country now. I've stayed at the Hurricanes long enough and tried my best, so why wouldn't I want to go overseas? I've done my time in New Zealand now."

French Barbarians punish Pumas to level series

WING Benjamin Lapeyre ran in two tries as the French Barbarians beat Argentina 21-18 to square their two-match series 1-1 on Saturday.

Fullback Romain Teulet kicked the rest of the Barbarians' points with a conversion and three penalties. He also missed three kicks that would have increased the winning margin. The one positive from a poor display by a Pumas team showing 12 changes from last Saturday's 23-19 win in Buenos Aires was the kicking performance of fly-half Nicolas Sanchez on his debut who slotted home all six of his kicks.

Argentina used the series to test a large squad as they prepare for the World Cup in New Zealand starting on 9 September and the players who showed up best were part of the third-string Pampas XV who won South Africa's Vodacom Cup last month. Few 2007 World Cup veterans were involved and only one on Saturday, prop Martin Scelzo. With captain Felipe Contepomi not playing, prop Agustin Creevy skippered the side.