Wales U20s stay grounded ahead of decider

(IRB.COM) Monday 11 March 2013
 Wales U20s stay grounded ahead of decider
Wales and Ireland both enjoyed victories in round four - Photo: Huw Evans Agency

Wales may have made it four wins from four with a comfortable 42-17 win over a Scotland side they will face again at the IRB Junior World Championship 2013, but manager Mark Taylor knows they still face “a massive test” in the RBS Under 20 6 Nations.

England are all that stand between Wales Under 20s and a Grand Slam and Taylor knows that the defending champions will be desperate to deny their neighbours a clean sweep and end coach Rob Hunter’s reign with a victory.

“It was tough (against Scotland), especially early on, but we have some great incisive runners who were clinical when chances arose,” admitted the former Wales centre. “The team is confident at the moment and that counts for a lot.

“It’s always tough when you have three away games so we’re delighted to get three out of three from those and be undefeated in the tournament.

“It was important to get the first win over Ireland, but the win out in France was the real springboard to the position we’re in now. Next week’s game is a massive test. Unless we get some kind of result, then what we’ve done so far counts for nothing in terms of trophies.

“It’s going to be a big ask because England have also got a lot to gain and will want to spoil the party. England will be more competent in all areas of the game than all the teams we have played so far.

Discipline will be key for Wales

“They always have a huge amount of strength in depth and will be very disciplined – something we need to work on as a team like England will punish us if we are down to 14 or 13 men. We will have to be very accurate in our play.”

Wales ran in six tries against a Scotland Under 20 side that had snatched a one-point victory over Ireland at the death and were in dominant form, despite having two players sin-binned in the second half.

Wing Aaron Warren scored two of the Welsh tries with fellow backs Cory Allen, Rhodri Williams and Jordan Williams also touching down, with referee Dudley Phillips also awarding the visitors a penalty try. Fly half Sam Davies kicked 12 points to set up the Parc Eirias showdown with England.

England were also in free-scoring form in round four,  beating Italy 52-7 to the delight of nearly 8,000 fans at Franklin’s Gardens . The defending champions scored seven tries with fly half Henry Slade also kicking 17 points in the victory.

On the scoreboard for England, who had overwhelmed their own JWC 2013 pool opponents France 40-10 in round three, were Sam Hill, Callum Braley, Tom Stephenson and Jack Nowell (2) with two penalty tries also awarded to the home side.

England’s convincing victories in the last two weeks mean they have a better point differential than Wales so whoever emerges victorious at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay will secure the title. A draw will give Wales the title but not the Grand Slam.

England want more

“It may sound churlish to say that we’re unhappy after putting 52 points on the board but the reality is that we know we can play better,” insisted coach Hunter afterwards. “Italy were big and they were physical, and to be fair, on a slippery surface they forced us into making mistakes.

“Next week is a big game, and we’ll certainly be working very hard over the next few days to make sure we deliver a strong performance against Wales.”

Ireland, meanwhile, are up to third in the standings after beating JWC 2013 hosts France 22-5 at Dubarry Park in Athlone, their third successive victory over Les Bleuets in the last 13 months.

Tom Daly, who a month ago secured a narrow win for Ireland over England at the same venue, kicked five penalties in the first half to cancel out hooker Romain Ruffenach’s try for France to go in leading 15-5 at half-time.

France had three players sin-binned in the match, two of them in the second half, with the only score after the break coming from hard-working flanker Conor Joyce as Ireland edged ahead of Scotland on point differential.

The RBS 6 Nations concludes this weekend with Italy – who will be competing at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile after their relegation from JWC 2012 – taking on Ireland in L’Aquila and the title decider between Wales and England on Friday. France then host Scotland in Brive on Sunday.