By Jon Newcombe
One hundred days out from their opening day clash with host nation France at the IRB Junior World Championship 2013, England Under 20s find themselves basking in the glory of a 40-10 RBS Under 20 6 Nations win over their rivals.
As dress rehearsals for JWC 2013 go it was impressive from England, particularly in the second half. Having led 6-3 at the interval thanks to two Henry Slade penalties, England found another gear after the break to score five tries including a hat-trick from captain Jack Clifford.
A penalty try and one from wing Henry Purdy plus nine further points from the boot of Slade made up the remainder of England’s points to revive their hopes of successfully defending the title they won in 2012.
“Of course from a personal point of view I'm happy to have scored three tries," said Clifford. "Particularly as all of my family were in the crowd. But as captain it was the performance I was most pleased with.
“We got on to the front foot in second half and never really looked back. I'm not sure if the French tired but we definitely exploited a few gaps in the last ten minutes and got some good points on the board.”
Three from three for Wales
Wales will be the favourites to prevent England from retaining their title, however, as they maintained their 100% record by overcoming Italy 25-10 at Stadio Rocchi to remain on course for the Grand Slam.
Three first half tries through Daniel Thomas, the impressive Rhodri Williams and a penalty try ensured they went into the interval with a 19-3 lead, before the boot of Sam Davies guided Wales home to their third straight victory in this year's championship.
“We’re really pleased with how the game plan went and with the result," said captain Ellis Jenkins.
"It was really tough because it got slipperier and slipperier as the game wore on. But I thought we played the territory and conditions quite well. We dominated the scrum, getting a penalty try, and that’s always a positive for us.”
Wales travel north to Inverness to play Scotland in the next round on 8 March in search of another Six Nations win and a psychological advantage over their Pool C opponents at the JWC.
"Going into the World Cup we want to win every game and get some momentum going," added Jenkins. "Every game we win is a bonus for us.”
Scotland, though, will no doubt provide a stern test as they seek to blow the title race wide open. Should they beat Wales and England defeat Italy in the next round, the three teams will be tied on six points going into the final weekend.
A last-gasp conversion from the nerveless Tommy Allan proved the difference for Scotland in their third round match with Ireland, as they earned the narrowest of wins at Netherdale.
Allan added the extras to Damian Hoyland’s second try of the match to make the final score 21-20 to the Scots who moved up to third in the table as a result of the victory.
“What a performance!," exclaimed a delighted coach, Sean Lineen. "There is no reason now why we can’t keep the momentum going and beat Wales and France and go onto win the Under 20 Six Nations for the first time.”