England claim Tokyo advantage in JWC
By Rich Freeman
England’s 52-7 victory over Samoa at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on Saturday didn’t just give last year’s runners-up a place in the semi finals of the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 as Pool B winners.
It also meant that unlike New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, England will not have to spend Sunday travelling to Tokyo from Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka as the other pool winners will do respectively.
“It’s a huge advantage,” explained England manager John Elliott. “With just three days between games I was dreading having to travel.”
Elliott said that if England had lost to Samoa in Tokyo they would have had to leave their hotel at 10am, having had to pack all their gear and forego a recovery session.
“Then by the time we got to our new hotel it would have been five o’clock,” Elliott continued. “We would then have to settle in, look for the gym and swimming pool and find a routine. It would have been like starting all over again.”
Time off to relax
England arrived in Japan with around 1,600kg of equipment – everything from water bottles to playing kit to tackle bags to physio tables – all of which would have been needed to have been packed and transported to Fukuoka, where the play-offs for fifth to eighth place are taking place.
The victory means that instead of packing and flying down to the southern island of Kyushu, the players can get in some well-deserved rest.
“We’ll probably have the afternoon off and then do a review of the Samoa game,” explained Elliott. “We haven’t had a day off since we have been here so we might even give the players Monday off.”
Elliott admitted he was taking things one game at a time, but the team will be hoping they can send the Nottingham-man off in style. He has been involved with the England set-up since 1984 and has said this will be his last tournament.
When asked which age group team he had fondest memories of, Elliott had little hesitation in naming the 1993 Under 21 squad that included Mark Mapletoft, the England Under 20s head coach in Japan.
“That was an exceptional team,” recalled Elliott. “Seven of that team played for England at the World Cup 10 years later in Australia and the rest as they say is history.”
And how many of the current crop does he think can make it?
“I know four or five will make it,” he said. “But I am not sure which ones.”
** Watch the semi finals live and on-demand for free on Wednesday 17 June. First up at the Prince Chicuhibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo will be defending champions New Zealand against Australia at 17:00 local time, followed by a repeat of the 2008 last four showdown between England and South Africa at 19:00 **
** You can also watch on-demand the Pool B matches (England v Japan and Samoa v Scotland) on 5 June, the Pool A matches (Uruguay v Argentina and Ireland v New Zealand) on 9 June, the Pool C matches (Fiji v Italy and France v South Africa) on 13 June, along with highlights of the matchdays. **