With only days to go until the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 kicks off, we caught up again with Wales Under 20 captain Ellis Jenkins as the squad prepares to depart for France.
There is now less than one week to go until the first match day, how is the excitement building for you and the team as a whole?
We’ve had a really good month of preparation, everything is heading towards this first game, we can’t wait to get out there and show what we can do.
You’ll be heading off to France shortly ... how does that change the focus for you?
All the preparation is done now, we’ve just got to get the travel out of the way, adapt to a different environment then get started with the games.
It is a case now that you just can’t wait for that first match against Samoa to come?
It’s been a long month, we’ve been training hard and we can’t wait to get out there. Hopefully everything we’ve done in training will stand us in good stead for the first game.
Give us an insight of what it’s like being in a team environment for so many weeks during a tournament?
It’s tough. It can be really intense as you see the same people every day for a month. It’s important the team gets on well off the field as any sort of unhappiness would show on the pitch. It’s important to stick together and I’m sure that will be the case as we all get on in each other’s company, we are all looking forward to spending the month with each other.
How has the month since your last Q&A gone in terms of preparations for JWC 2013?
We’ve done a lot of conditioning work, to get up to speed from a fitness point of view for the tournament ahead. Some new players have come in, so everyone’s been getting up to speed with calls and policies. It’s been good getting to know the new guys, we’ve bonded further as a squad. We’ve done quite a bit of training with the senior squad which has brought some match intensity to our sessions and raised standards. Training against them worked well in the Six Nations, hopefully it will have the same effect now.
Wales have had to make a few changes to the Under 20 squad with Harry Robinson and Rhys Patchell off to Japan with the senior squad and Cory Allen injured ... how big a loss are that trio?
They are three great players. It’s a good opportunity for Harry and Patch to be called up. Rhys wasn’t with us during the Six Nations and Harry had very limited involvement so it doesn’t change the dynamic too much. The players coming in offer something different so it’s a good opportunity for them to experience a tournament like this. Cory was one of our best players in the Six Nations so he will be missed, but the players replacing him know all about the standards he set so I’m sure they’ll give everything to try to achieve those.
How much have the squad talked about wanting to match or better what Wales achieved last year?
We’ve set a goal to reach the semis at the moment and if we do that, anything can happen in the knockout stages. Having said that, there will certainly be no easy games.
How difficult will that be to achieve?
It will be an extremely difficult task to get to the semis. Every team goes out with the intention of being successful. You never know what you will get with Samoa. We had a good result against them last year but the year before Wales Under 20s lost to them. Teams at this level change every year but they will certainly present an exciting physical challenge. Scotland had a successful Six Nations, winning some tough games, while Argentina have recently beaten South Africa twice. The big challenge will be staying focused throughout tournament and being able to raise your game every couple of days.
You’ve got Samoa, Scotland and Argentina in your pool ... have you had a chance to analyse them as you fine-tune preparations?
We don’t know much about Samoa, we’ve seen some clips from last year but most teams will be different compared to last season. We will devise a game plan we think will work against them, but we will worry more about us than them. We haven’t looked beyond Samoa at the moment, but Argentina are always a dangerous team. They had a very good tournament last year, and it was a tough game against them in the third place play-off – but we have two tough games to see to before that.
How important is it going to be to get off to a good start against Samoa on Wednesday?
It’s vital to get a good start. We got a good victory over Fiji last year, which set the ball rolling for a good tournament, and we will be hoping for the same again this year.
What messages of support have you been receiving from Welsh players, your friends and families, rugby fans ahead of your departure?
We’ve had a lot of messages with everyone saying how they enjoyed watching us last year and during the Six Nations. We know some supporters are coming out to France, especially parents and families, hopefully we can repay that support with some good performances.
Will Wales be able to reach the same heights as last year on the JWC stage ... let us know your thoughts on @irbjuniors