JWC Final: Australia ready for final hurdle

(IRB.COM) Sunday 20 June 2010
 JWC Final: Australia ready for final hurdle
Colby Faingaa's return is the only change to the Australia starting line up - Photo: Martin Seras Lima/IRB



Australia may be the youngest team in the IRB Junior World Championship 2010, but they have been a squad on a mission since arriving in the Litoral region of Argentina - to lift the IRB Junior World Championship 2010 trophy.

The belief that Australia have underperformed in the two previous years - finishing fifth in 2008 and fourth last year - and the desire to right that wrong has been evident from the outset, from coach David Nucifora down to Liam Gill, the youngest member of the Under 20s squad.

Only New Zealand, the two-time defending champions who have not lost a match since the Junior World Championship began in 2008, now stand in their way of that dream in what promises to be the best final yet between two sides determined to run with the ball in hand.

"It's been pretty successful for us, we're happy with the way it's gone," admitted Nucifora, who has seen his side blossom with each round, growing in confidence on the back of an impressive defeat of South Africa to top Pool C and then overcoming England in the semi finals.

"We've have some good results and from our point of view it's been a great development pathway for these boys to get the experience that they've had and now they've got the experience of the final which is huge for them, so I'm sure they've learnt a lot up to this point.

High expectations

"I think 10 or 11 of them from our original squad will be eligible again next year, but I suppose if your expectation is quite high of the boys with regards to the maturity that you'd like them to have to play at this level, then you soon see whether they're up to that or not. This group have been really good and they've performed like they're a lot older than 20 years of age.

"I think their expectations are a lot higher and we've tried to convince them that just being there or thereabouts isn't really good enough and unless they achieve the best possible result then we probably haven't done our best.

"Our expectation is to go out there, do our best and try to beat New Zealand."

Gill is a perfect example of a player that has blossomed in the Junior World Championship environment, his performances in the Australian number seven jersey having belied his tender age, the youngest player in the tournament's history having only turned 18 on 8 June.

"It's been a great experience and I think as a team we're very proud to make it this far," explained Gill, who has played on the IRB Sevens World Series this year. "As it's been made known it's the highest achievement at the Under 20s so we're very, very proud of what we've done so far.

"Hopefully we can take it one stage further. It's certainly right that there is a real determination among us. I think they're a lot of ticker in this squad, we're a very young squad as well and we're very driven to win it this year, which is great."

"Out of our skins"

Gill, though, knows that getting their hands on the coveted silverware is not going to be easy, particularly against a Baby Blacks outfit eager to preserve their country's unbeaten record on the Junior World Championship stage and complete a hat-trick of titles.

"They've got a really good team as well, like always I guess, so it'll be very tough. They are a lot like us in terms that they like to play, they like to attack but it will be very tough. We'd like to think that we're ready for it, but we'll have to wait and see.

"I think we just have to do what we've done so far to get us here and it's obvious that we will have to play out of our skin on the day but what we can do is just go through our structures, go through our plans and just work together as a team.

"We feel very comfortable about the way we can play and we'll do our best to control the things we can control. It would be unbelievable [to win]. I think the experience so far has been unbelievable and to obviously finish with the win would just top it off."

Nucifora, who coached Australia to fourth last year, echoes the sentiment of his young star about the size of the task ahead, but believes that they could have an advantage in comparison to other sides who have failed to derail the New Zealand title charge.

Familiar rivals

"Eighty minutes of commitment, if you let your guard down for even a small period of time they're the type of team that will punish you, they've got lots of good attacking players, they like to play - they're a bit like ourselves, they like to play the game.

"They're always putting you under pressure so the team that copes with that sort of pressure and absorbs pressure and you can deliver on point scoring opportunities when they present themselves will win.

"I think that's one thing that we have in our favour, in that we're used to play Kiwis. We play them all the time so they don't really hold that same aura that they may do for other teams.

"Our boys play them from quite a young age, through school quite often, so I suppose we're used to competing with them. We know if we go out there and match up and do our best we know that we're more than capable of beating them as we have before.

"It's a good rivalry, there's no doubt about that, but I think there's respect there as well. We respect the way they play and I'd like to think they do likewise for that us. That's why I think it will be such a good match up on Monday night."

Deserved champions

Nucifora, who has seen centre Robbie Coleman named as one of the nominees for IRB Junior World Player of the Year 2010, is under no illusions that his squad will truly deserve the mantle of world champions if they can add the Baby Blacks to the scalps of South Africa and England.

"If we manage to beat New Zealand, I can genuinely put my hand on my heart and say we've earned it to beat those teams, one after another in a short space of time and even the pool games, the scores were large but five games in a short period of time and Argentina as a warm up so it's been a tough few weeks.

"You need a bit of luck to keep all your bodies on the field and available for selection but if the boys are mentally strong enough to put themselves through what they need for another 80 minutes then hopefully we'll be good enough on Monday night."

Australia have made only one change to the starting line up from their 28-16 semi final win over England with Colby Faingaa returning to the back row with Ed Quirk dropping to the bench for the title decider at the Estadio El Coloso del Parque in Rosario.

Faingaa, who has missed the last two matches with a foot injury, has the chance to follow in his twin brothers' footsteps, Saia and Anthony having been captain and vice captain of the last Australian age grade side to taste success, at the IRB Under 19 World Championship in Dubai in 2006.



KO 19:10 LOCAL TIME (08:10 AUS (22 JUN) / 10:10 NZL (22 JUN)