Junior World Championship: Semi final preview

(IRB.COM) Thursday 17 June 2010
 
 Junior World Championship: Semi final preview
Who will move closer to holding this trophy aloft on Monday?

We take a closer look at the two semi finalists, the teams they have selected and what the coaches, captains and players have to say about their must-win encounters if they are to keep alive their dream of being crowned world champions.

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AUSTRALIA v ENGLAND
Kick-off: 14:10 local time (18:10 UK / 02:10 AUS)

The two nations have met only once before in Junior World Championship history, a pool decider in the inaugural tournament in 2008 when England came out on top 18-13 thanks to Miles Benjamin's last gasp winner in Newport.

Australia come into the semi final on a high after an impressive 42-35 defeat of South Africa in Santa Fe on Sunday to top Pool C and avoid another semi final against Trans Tasman rivals New Zealand, who beat them 31-17 in the last four in 2009.

Coach David Nucifora has made only one change to his side with Nicolas White returning at scrum half, having come on after only five minutes against the Baby Boks when Justin Turner injured his knee. Turner has been ruled out of the tournament with call-up Ian Prior filling the spot vacated by White on the bench.

England, by contrast, have made six changes with coach Mark Mapletoft recalling captain Jacob Rowan and speedster Christian Wade after both were rested for the Pool B decider with France. Tom Homer, the all-time JWC leading point scorer, returns at full back with the impressive Freddie Burns dropping to the bench.

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Australia coach David Nucifora:
I think every team goes into a tournament like this knowing that if you are going to win the tournament you have to keep improving. We were happy with a lot of the things we did in that game, but I think the obvious things were the points we conceded and how we conceded them after we had scored points we weren't happy with. We know that we have still got quite a bit of room to improve on that performance. We are really only just at the business end of this now so we have got to keep getting better.

"England pose some similar threats to us as South Africa did. We are not the biggest and most physical team in this competition but we have to match up in those areas if we are going to be able to beat these teams. We have just got to get ourselves up again for Thursday.

"It was a high scoring game [against South Africa] because I believe we took the chances that were presented to us. That was something else that we did quite well. Whether England present us with that many opportunities I am not sure, but if they do we have got to be good enough to grab each one of them and then we can keep pressure on through the scoreboard. If they don't present that many then we just have to be good enough to grab one or two and hopefully that is enough to win the game."

Australia captain Jake Schatz:
"We'd always like to do better than what we did last year, so our goal was to win the tournament this year and making the semis is very exciting and at the same time we wanna win and we wanna make that final. It was good to play South Africa in such a way that it really did test us out a bit but I'm sure the England team will test us a bit further and hopefully we can take it on.

"We definitely have things to improve on so we definitely want to step it up and fix those problems that we had in the game. Certainly we'd like to strengthen our defence, but just our composure after scoring points really let us down in the last game, they scored points straight after we had so hopefully we can fix that up, I'm sure we'll be working on it."

Australia centre Robbie Coleman:
"You do take a lot of confidence out of winning those tough games - especially South Africa, who we knew were going to bring a lot. Yeah I suppose it'll give the boys a bit of belief and confidence that we can, if we play how we train and that, we can go the whole way."

England coach Mark Mapletoft: "They look very good, I must admit. They were very impressive in their three pool games I thought, particularly against South Africa. It was a great game to watch, a lot of tries. But we'll be preparing to win hte game, naturally, and hopefully we can be a bit more forceful in defence while still challenging them with the ball in hand.

"We're certainly going to have to try and stop them playing without a doubt, that doesn't mean we're not going to play ourselves. They clearly have a lot of strike power but I think as all teams will do we'll do a bit of analysis. They'll want to keep playing but at the same time be mindful of perhaps we're strong and I'm fairly confident the best team will win. Hopefully it's us, but if it's not then we will know we've given it our best."

England full back Tom Homer: "I've never played Australia, I've played South Africa and New Zealand so obviously it's a new challenge and certainly one I'm looking forward to. Obviously all southern hemisphere sides are pretty awesome so I think if we just focus on our own game, concentrate on what we've got to do then hopefully we should be all right."

NEW ZEALAND v SOUTH AFRICA
Kick-off: 16:30 local time (07:30 NZ /21:30 SA)

New Zealand as a nation may be yet to lose a match in the history of the Junior World Championship, but Baby Blacks coach Dave Rennie is all too aware of the threat posed by South Africa's Under 20s ahead of their semi final in Rosario.

The two sides, who have never met in the tournament before, have had vastly different journeys to this stage with a slightly older New Zealand side finishing top seed after comfortable wins against Fiji, Samoa and Wales in Pool A.

South Africa, on the other hand, made easy work of their Pool C matches against Tonga and Scotland but came out on the wrong end of an enthralling decider against Australia, losing 42-35 to qualify for the semi finals as the best placed runner up.

Clearly eager to match New Zealand's pace out wide, South Africa coach Eric Sauls has made just two changes to the side that started against Australia with Branco du Preez, the shortest player in the tournament, coming in to the centre and Nico Scheepers getting his first call up on the wing.

New Zealand have made only three changes to the side that beat Wales 43-10 with prop Angus Taavao-Matau, number 8 Rory Grice and centre Star Timu getting starts. The biggest plus for Rennie, though, is that Julian Savea, the tournament's leading try scorer with six, has recovered from a knock to his hip in the first half against Wales.

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New Zealand coach Dave Rennie: "South Africa pose a lot more problems for us. Obviously they have a very big pack and they've got a lot of wheels in the backs so you know they've got the ability to play both those sorts of games. We won't stray too much from what we've been trying to do, if we can get some good go forward ball then hopefully we can stretch them a bit. You've got to front from a set piece point of view and they're a very good side in that regard.

"The Africans have got a number of really good players. We're happy with some of our boys who have stepped up and we certainly have got guys starting in this game who if you'd asked us maybe five or six weeks ago we would have thought they'd maybe be bench at best so it's good. We want competition for places and hopefully that'll help us get a good performance."

New Zealand captain Tyler Bleyendaal: "South Africa is a big side, a lot of pace and they are going to be a tough team to play against. I guess we are looking forward to the challenge, we can't wait really. Everyone is feeling it at this stage of the tournament, three games gone plus whatever warm up matches, four day turnarounds, every team is going to be sore, you have just got to play off those little niggles. They had a tough match but I am sure they will have no problem fronting up.

"We are going to have to knuckle down and we are going to have to be physical too, we are going to have to match it and just try to dominate as best we can. Take it to them early on and just stay in the fight and keep fighting."

New Zealand prop Willie Ioane: "It's going to be a big, physical game like always and like all the other South African teams they're just going to try and out muscle us and just try and give a head clash and you know the boys are all ready for that, the physical match and we've just got to front up and see how it goes."

South Africa coach Eric Sauls: "It will be physical with the teams playing, especially with New Zealand and their experience of being world champions. Certainly I don't think they will come just to defend the title. It will be a very tough one, it won't be easy.

"We have to stand up, it was obviously disappointing after the defeat. We had to pick up the boys. I think it was very intense, one of the great games, but we made too many mistakes, especially on defence and we have worked on that."

South Africa centre Jaco Taute: "We want to focus on what we are going to do so we can control the controllables and just give our best on the field and bring our game to the match and see how they respond to us.

"We haven't watched New Zealand in depth so far so we don't really know about their key players or anything like that but we are aware New Zealand is a very good team and a very proud rugby nation. They are ranked number one in the world so we know we're going to be up against tough competition so we've prepared very well and I think we are up for the challenge."