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Wales have ended New Zealand’s 10-year stay atop of the world rankings after beating England in their latest rugby World Cup warm-up clash.
The Six Nations Grand Slam winners will officially become the top-rated international team on the planet when the latest edition of World Rugby’s rankings are published on Monday after battling to a 13-6 victory in Cardiff.
George North scored the only try of the game, Dan Biggar kicked five points and Leigh Halfpenny drilled a late long-range penalty as Warren Gatland’s side successfully avenged their 33-19 defeat at Twickenham six days ago.
The All Blacks thrashed Australia 36-0 in the Bledisloe Cup contest in Perth earlier on Saturday, but will lose the top ranking they have held since 2009.
Wales made four changes to the side beaten last weekend, with Biggar replacing the injured Gareth Anscombe and James Davies and Jake Ball also drafted in as well as Leigh Halfpenny, who was a late call-up after Liam Williams felt a tight hamstring during the warm-up.
England welcomed back Maro Itoje and also had Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler in their matchday squad, though Ruaridh McConnochie’s proposed debut had to delayed for a second time as the uncapped Bath wing was withdrawn due to a minor side strain.
The first half under the closed roof at the Principality Stadium was notably intense but lacking in much attacking excitement.
It took 35 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, with Biggar splitting the uprights after England were whistled for offside.
Anthony Watson was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and Wales took swift advantage, with the impressive Biggar orchestrating a devastating counter-attack that caught the visitors unawares and ended with a chip to George North, who duly touched down.
England responded to dominate much of the second half and stand-in captain George Ford reduced the deficit from the tee after a powerful scrummaging effort had Wales in trouble and Ross Moriarty was put under huge pressure by Lewis Ludlam and Billy Vunipola.
Ford kicked another penalty to move Eddie Jones’ men within four points with 25 miniutes still to play and Leigh Halfpenny sent a penalty attempt from halfway narrowly wide of the post.
Watson was stopped in his tracks by some excellent scrambling defence and Maro Itoje was clattered by Biggar after intercepting a rogue Aled Davies pass as Wales held firm.
Halfpenny set the seal on a morale-
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