James Graham of England is tackled by the French defence at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Brendon Thorne/AAP
James Graham of England is tackled by the French defence at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Brendon Thorne/AAP

Cruel fate for Lebanon as England qualifies for WC 9s semis

ENGLAND have squeezed into the World Cup nines semi-finals after Lebanon's fairytale run turned into a farce at Bankwest Stadium.

Fresh from shocking England early in Saturday's fixtures, Lebanon were told they were unable to field two players under the age of 18 in their must-win clash with Wales.

The news broke less than an hour before Lebanon took to the field and they were heavily beaten 25-4, although it's believed team management had been warned on Thursday the players were too young.

Under NRL rules, players must be 18 to take the field but international laws dictate the minimum age is 16.

The nines is an international event run by the NRL.

The match was also marred by an all-in brawl late, with Wales' Daniel Fleming and Lebanon's Travis Robinson sent from the field.

England then thumped France 38-4 half an hour later to take top spot in the group and set up a likely semi-final showdown with Australia on Saturday night.

It was a cruel end to Lebanon's run. They entered the tournament without their biggest names, who are still leading a boycott against the country's board.

" (The age ruling) wasn't a big issue, it didn't change too much for us," Cedars coach Rick Stone said.

"We played everyone in the game that was over 18 and we weren't good enough.

"We were a little bit tired, a pretty young side, being up for the first couple of games. We lacked a little bit of zip and energy in that game."

England's earlier loss to Lebanon wasn't the only shock of the day.

Australia were forced to survive an early scare against the USA, falling 11-4 behind early in the first half before winning 41-11.

Nathan Brown scored two bonus tries while Kyle Feldt also bagged a double and Josh Addo-Carr was again electrifying on the left wing.

The only concern was a glute injury to Cronulla co-captain Wade Graham that forced him from the field.

The result all but guaranteed Australia entry to the semi-finals ahead of their last group match against Papua New Guinea.

Fiji's tournament is already over after they were beaten by Tonga in golden try, with Robert Jennings the hero when he crashed over in extra time.

The Tongans still need to beat Samoa by 24 points in their last group game to make the finals after their Pacific rivals beat the Cook Islands 17-4.

New Zealand were close to joining Fiji in going out of the tournament, with only a last-minute Bailey Simmonsen try gifting them an 18-17 win over Papua New Guinea.

It means the Kiwis will reach the finals alongside Australia out of Pool A if they beat the USA and the Kangaroos topple PNG in the last group matches.