England and France U20s on collision course

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 15 February 2011
 England and France U20s on collision course
England ran in 11 tries against Italy to top the Six Nations table

Four try hauls from Elliot Daly and Andy Short helped England take a step closer to regaining the RBS Under 20 Six Nations title with an emphatic 74-3 victory over Italy at The Rec taking Rob Hunter’s side to the top of the standings on point differential from France.

England, who last won the Under 20 title in 2008 with a Grand Slam, ran in 11 tries in Bath, proving too strong for an Italian side who spent a lot of time on the back foot but continued to play with heart and put their bodies on the line until the final whistle.

Daly opened the scoring in the seventh minute and before half an hour was on the clock the centre had four tries to his name, his pace and precision too hot for the Italian defence to handle. Short split Daly’s quartet of tries and added another shortly after the interval.

George Ford, the son of England defence coach Mike, and captain Alex Gray broke up the Daly-Short show to push the hosts past the 50-point mark before wing Short added his third and fourth of the night. A penalty try in the dying seconds completed the victory.

“We came into this game with the emphasis on ourselves to deliver,” explained Daly. “We knew that if we played to our potential we could cause Italy a few problems. To win 74-3 puts the marker down ... it will be tough to better our performance against Italy but that’s not to say we can’t – it has to be our aim to get better and better with each game.”

Hunter added: “I can’t ask for more than the boys gave me against Italy. The key throughout the week was to give a good performance and to be accurate and the lads delivered on both. We knew Italy would be physical – as they have been in the past – but we maintained focus on what we wanted to achieve.”

France impress in Ireland

England’s big test will come in the next round when they welcome 2009 champions France, the only other unbeaten side in this year’s competition, to Short’s home ground, Worcester Warriors’ Sixways on 27 February as part of a triple bill of matches with the Women’s and Women’s Under 20 teams also in action.

France have made an equally impressive start to the Six Nations, brushing aside Scotland 49-5 in round one before running in six tries to comfortably beat defending champions Ireland 38-13 away at Dubarry Park in Athlone on Friday evening.

Ireland, missing a couple of players due to injuries and Magners League call-ups, at times simply had no answer to their visitors, the French power in the scrum providing them with the platform for their talented backline to attack from.

Yann Lesgourgues scored the first try of the night in the 11th minute and more could have followed before Geoffrey Palis and Pierre Bérard touched down to ensure a comfortable 21-6 lead at the break for France after Jean-Marc Doussain converted all three tries.

Any hopes of an Irish comeback were hit when Marvin O’Connor scored within two minutes of the restart. Romain Colliat added another try before Ireland took advantage of William Demotte’s yellow card for captain Niall Annett to touch down.

First win for Wales

France, though, had the final say with Jules Plisson’s late try capping an impressive performance in a season which will climax with IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in Italy from 10-26 June, a tournament the French are yet to reach the semi finals in.

The weekend’s other Under 20 match brought together two sides hungry for their first victory of the season in Scotland and Wales, the latter ultimately emerging 33-3 winners at Bridgehaugh Park in Stirling.

Scotland had controlled much of the first half, but it was Wales who went into the changing rooms with a slender 7-3 advantage, flanker Ed Siggery’s second try in as many games cancelling out Mark Bennett’s penalty for the hosts.

Wales, though, took control of the match after the break, running in four tries through WillGriff John, Owen Williams, Eli Walker and replacement Ieuan Davies with Scotland not helping themselves by playing 20 minutes with only 14 players after two yellow cards.

The next round of matches at the end of February sees the potential title – never mind Grand Slam – decider in Worcester as well as Wales, the only European side other than England to reach a JWC semi final, tackle Italy and Ireland travel to winless Scotland.