JWC 2010: Final Preview

(IRB.COM) Sunday 20 June 2010
 JWC 2010: Final Preview
Who will get their hands on the trophy for real - Jake Schatz or Tyler Bleyendaal? Photo: Martin Seras Lima/IRB

Commentator Willie Lose takes a look at the two finalists and the key areas which could prove crucial if New Zealand or Australia are to lift the coveted trophy.


The final of the IRB Junior World Championship 2010 in Argentina has so many synergies with the match 12 months ago in Japan. The personnel has changed and there is a new country but we again have the best forward unit from New Zealand against the most impressive backline out of Australia.

The Trans Tasman battle for the honour of being numero uno is appropriate as both teams have played the more attractive rugby. The statistics will confirm this with both teams now passing the 600-point threshold over the three years of this event.

Neighbours in the South Pacific, both squads are stacked with class, pace, strength and maturity for such young men, and this is a credit to the coaches, Australian David Nucifora and Baby Black mentor Dave Rennie who have a tremendous amount of passion for the game.

The young Australians have finally brought a forward pack to the tournament that have developed and improved with every pool match. Two of the heavyweights in the front row, Salesi Manu and Paul Alo-Emile tip the scales at 19 and 20 stone respectively, have certainly assisted their set piece and in particular the scrum that has often been their Achilles' heel.

The pace of the final will be the real test as to whether they will have the aerobic stamina. The twin towers of Gregory Peterson and Phoenix Battye, the tallest players in the tournament, will need to improve on their lineouts from the semi final defeat of England, but they have all of the right attributes.

Wallaby in the making

Australia are brilliantly led by number 8 Jake Schatz and his combination with openside Liam Gill and Edward Quirk compliments the in-form tight five. Quirk drops to the bench for the final with the influential Colby Faingaa returning after missing the last two matches with a foot injury.

Gill is worthy of special mention, having only celebrated his 18th birthday on 8 June. It's only a matter of time before we will see him in the Wallabies and it wouldn't surprise me if coach Robbie Deans includes him in their wider squad for next year's Rugby World Cup. His speed and body position is remarkable. One ingredient to rugby that can't be coached is intelligence on the field and this kid has an abundance of it.

The green and gold backs have been the best over the last three weeks. The architect is fly half Matt Toomua, who has demonstrated the worth of playing Super 14 Rugby for the ACT Brumbies. The power and strength from the midfield pairing of Robbie Coleman and Kimami Sitauti ensure they set great targets and I've been impressed with the angled runs and their ability to offload in the tackle.

World class finishers in Aidan Toua, Dominic Shipperley and full back Luke Morahan will test the New Zealanders for the full 80 minutes. This is the best prepared Australian side I have seen at the Junior World Championships. The planning from the Union to expose many of these players to Super rugby and the IRB Sevens World Sevens circuit is proving to be a great return on investment.

Worth the ticket price

The men in Black arrived with only one player returning from Japan last year - prop Willie Ioane - and are the fittest Under 20s to date. Three easy wins in their pool matches against Fiji, Samoa and Wales meant a change in strategy and mindset was required ahead of the semi final with South Africa.

The intensity and terrific start rattled the rainbow nation and I think this forward pack is the best I have seen. Competition for places brings the best out of people and it's no surprise that Dave Rennie has rewarded the players who have performed in the last two games.

The clinical front row of Angus Taavao-Matau, Jeff Allen and former tighthead now hooker Liam Coltman do the set pieces brilliantly. All three are built like small apartment blocks but have the finesse and skill sets of outside backs minus the sidestep.

No-one has been better in the second row than Liaki Moli and try scoring sensation Blade Thomson. It's rare to have a tight five that you can throw a napkin over and the work ethic of the numbers from one to five is the reason they are in their third Junior World Championship final.

The clash for the loose ball is worth the price of a ticket alone because Sean Polwart is going to test the Australian number seven. He's strong, aggressive and disciplined. The final pieces of the masterpiece are Luke Whitelock and Rory Grice. They will have to be accurate on Monday night and Grice must eliminate the basic mistakes he made against South Africa because turnovers will cost points.

Best JWC final on cards

The New Zealand backline working off the solid platform from the energetic forwards have shone and two players of special note are captain Tyler Bleyendaal and top try scorer with eight Julian Savea, both of whom have been nominated for the IRB Junior Player of the Year 2010 accolade.

Bleyendaal is yet another product of the Christchurch assembly line that continues to produce test quality number 10s. His nous and ability to make the right decisions on the field is the reason he was named captain. Class players have time and Bleyendaal makes a nano second seem like a minute. He's a great student of the game and in the pivotal role of being commander and chief he seems to relish each challenge, passing with honours.

Julian Savea wouldn't look out of place in an All Black jersey. He has tremendous power and athleticism. Only Savea would have scored four of the eight tries he has because of his superb conditioning. It was magnificent that against Wales he turned up on the left wing from different set phases and If Savea, another IRB Junior Player of the Year nominee, is busy on and off the ball it will be a long night for the Australians.

This will be the best Junior World Championship final, featuring two positive squads with a similar attitude to expressing themselves through their skills. Match ups right across the park combined with this being the first night match will mean the mental application and the attention to the basics could be the difference. It's an old rugby cliché that the game is won upfront and for this reason I think the Baby Blacks will be celebrating the third title in as many years.

In closing, can I once again congratulate the International Rugby Board for staging a sensational competition. Everything has flowed like the tango. The hosts Argentina, with all the volunteers, have once again raised the benchmark on hospitality and being over generous with their time. If I never see another giant steak or bottle of Malbec wine my liver and waistline won't be disappointed!