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All Blacks Beat Japan 83-7 to Move Clear Atop World Cup Group

New Zealand scored 13 tries yesterday in its 83-7 defeat of Japan, which moves the All Blacks clear atop their Rugby World Cup group with the maximum points from their opening two matches.

Eleven different All Blacks touched down, with Richard Kahui and Sonny Bill Williams getting two each in Hamilton. Hirotoki Onozawa got Japan’s only try in the 58th minute.

New Zealand is rated the bookmakers’ favorite to win the 20-nation tournament it is hosting and snap a 24-year title drought. It has 10 points atop Pool A ahead of France, which plays Canada tomorrow. All Blacks coach Graham Henry criticized his squad after the 41-10 opening win against Tonga.

“The big thing for us was we wanted to improve on last week: we did that,” All Blacks captain Keven Mealamu, who had a try in the 30th minute, said in a televised interview. “We’ve still got a few things we can keep working away at.”

Today, Argentina plays Romania, South Africa takes on Fiji and Australia meets Ireland.

The All Blacks were forced to reshuffle the squad after injuries to captain Richie McCaw and full-back Mils Muliaina at training three days ago. Playmaker Dan Carter had been ruled out earlier in the week before with a back injury sustained in the win over Tonga.

50 Point Mark

New Zealand, which racked up a World Cup-record 145 points in the teams’ only previous Test match in 1995, became the first team to get past 50 points at this year’s edition as Kahui, Mealamu, Conrad Smith, Jerome Kaino, Andy Ellis and Colin Slade scored first-half tries. Slade, Carter’s replacement, kicked 9 conversions at Waikato Stadium.

New Zealand ran away as the Japanese squad tired. Kahui touched down again in the 45th minute, and Williams had his first try in the 51st minute. Isaia Toeava, Andrew Hore, Ma’a Nonu and Adam Thomson had tries. Williams touched down again in the 79th minute to finish the scoring.

New Zealand next faces the French on Sept. 24 in a matchup of the teams ranked Nos. 1 and 5 by the International Rugby Board. Should they finish atop the pool, the All Blacks would play their quarterfinal at Auckland’s Eden Park, where they last lost in 1994. The stadium will also host both semifinals and the Oct. 23 final.

France, which has five points, leads Canada by one point in Pool A before they meet in Napier. Tonga has one point after losing its first two matches. The top two teams from each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals.

Japan’s defeat extended its record winless run at the World Cup to 16 matches. The Cherry Blossoms’ only victory in 22 games was against Zimbabwe at the 1991 tournament.

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