England keen to extend winning run

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 17 June 2008
By Karen Bond
From Newport
 England keen to extend winning run
Hugo Ellis races through to score against Canada, his only try in the tournament so far - Photo: Huw Evans

They say that winning breeds confidence and can become something of a habit, which is certainly the case for the England Under 20 side who are unbeaten in 2008 after claiming the Six Nations Grand Slam and reaching the last four of the IRB Junior World Championship.

The sternest challenge to that impressive run came against the much-fancied Australians in their Pool C decider in Newport on Saturday, when wing Miles Benjamin pounced on the loose ball after Dane Haylett-Perry was charged down to touch down for the try with only two minutes remaining on the clock.


England's unbeaten run was preserved and captain Hugo Ellis admitted on Monday that the desire to reach the semi-finals, and the confidence gained as a result of doing so, was a big positive for his side.

"I think we look back with a lot of pride in the performance [against Australia], the guys put their bodies on the line for 80 minutes in what was a massively physically, tough mentally encounter," Ellis said.

"We were absolutely delighted to come away with the win, especially in the circumstances, with the try near the end, and we take a huge amount of confidence into the semi-final.

Test match status

"There is a really good strength of character in this team. We have played eight games this season and won all eight, so we don't yet know what losing feels like and we just want to keep that going as long as we can.

"There was a lot of desire to get down that end and make sure we got the win.

"It is very clichéd to say, but I think it's true in our case, there was really such a hunger and desire to win, the thought of losing was incomprehensible to the rest of the boys, so full credit to them we pulled it through in the end."

England head coach Nigel Redman described the game with Australia as a "full blooded Test match" and that he couldn't "ask any more of my players" in that tense environment, but now his focus is in on the semi-final with South Africa, which kicks off at Cardiff Arms Park at 21.10 local time on Wednesday.

"We move on in a way where we will look at ourselves, we have chatted about the things that we need to develop and the opportunities that we created and took or created and missed," explained the former England international.

"We have looked at some of the South African tapes as well just to get a feel what they are about, but to be fair, most of the work we do is around us and making us as good as we possibly can be."

Defence and discipline key 

The prospect of facing South Africa is one that Ellis is relishing, although he knows it will be just as tight and uncompromising a battle as it was against Australia with the prize of a place in the first IRB Junior World Championship final at stake.

"It is a massive challenge," explained Ellis. "The Six Nations was an outstanding achievement for us obviously to win the Grand Slam, but sides like Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, you just have to step it up to another level and experience a different rugby culture to what you are used to.

"To be honest, I have seen some of South Africa's play, I think they have got a real strong pack, I think that is where they like to play a lot of their game, driving mauls and some big dynamic carriers.

"I think maybe a little more of the same [as against Australia], but we try to play ambitious rugby, any time the opportunity is there for us we will use our strike runners out wide as much as we can.

"But again I think defence will be key and whichever team is more disciplined, defends better, plays the territorial game better, those are the kind of things that win you World Cup semi-finals I think."

**Listen to live match commentary of the two semi-finals - New Zealand v Wales from 19:00 UK time and England v South Africa from 21:10 on Wednesday, 18 June on this website!**