Twelve months ago Ireland kicked off the Junior World Championship with a shock win over hosts South Africa, but then slipped up on day two by allowing England off the hook, a result which ultimately cost them a first ever semi-final appearance.
The Irish have again secured a morale-boosting opening day victory – over Australia – at JWC 2013, but captain Luke McGrath and centre Tom Daly are determined to make sure there is no slip up this time and they make it two from two with victory over Fiji.
“From my experience last year, we had a good win against South Africa and slipped up in the second match against England but then got going again, so it is so important we build on it because there is such a quick turnaround in the tournament,” said McGrath.
“I feel this year what is different is that two of us have experienced losing that second match and how frustrating and disappointing it was to lose that second match after such a good win.”
Daly added: “I suppose we have spoken a little bit [about what happened]. Last year they had two big teams up first, this time it’s a little different as we have Fiji in the middle which could be a bit of an advantage for us. We really want to get out the group this time, we have put ourselves in prime position to do that with that win over Australia.”
VIDEO: Commentator Wyn Gruffydd previews day two of JWC 2013
To do that, they are likely to have to beat the tournament’s most successful side New Zealand – who have never failed to reach the final and won four of the five events – but Daly and McGrath know that Fiji could prove a potential “banana skin” ahead of their match with the Baby Blacks.
“It seems that Fiji like to play the ball a lot more [than Australia] in the backline and have really good offloads, it is almost like watching the Sevens team play, they are really good runners with the ball and look threatening as well,” said McGrath. “It is definitely going to pose a very tough challenge like Australia was, but maybe a different challenge in the way that they play.
“[Their loss to New Zealand] probably means they are going to throw the kitchen sink at you as well so you have just got to be ready. Even though they were losing to New Zealand they kept on playing, they didn’t stop so they are going to push us right to the end and we expect a full 80 minutes battle and I am sure we are going to get that.”
Daly, one of only four players retained in the starting line-up from the Australia win, added: “I think a bonus point is going to be very important against Fiji. With New Zealand next it is going to be a very big challenge.
“We want to get a win obviously but I think we need a bonus point to make sure we are in prime position to qualify out of this group, probably the toughest group in the tournament. We know we have to do a job against Fiji, they could be a banana skin, we need the win and the bonus point.”
Ireland will also no doubt be hoping that Australia can do them a favour and throw the pool wide open by handing New Zealand only their third defeat in JWC history, something they are certainly keen to achieve in the trans-Tasman battle.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN AUSTRALIA’S HOPES FOR NEW ZEALAND BATTLE >>
South Africa have, unlike their rivals, resisted the temptation to ring the changes and retain their entire starting XV for the Pool A match with England, coach Dawie Theron wanting to maintain the continuity from their emphatic 97-0 win over USA on day one.
The two sides met in the pool stages last year with South Africa needing a bonus point win to reach the semi-finals, something they did with a scintillating second-half display to ensure England missed out on the last four for the first time in JWC history.
Theron is looking for the same discipline and energy as the Baby Boks showed against USA, while his counterpart Nick Walshe is predicting a “really good Test match” at Stade Henri Desgrange in La Roche-sur-Yon.
“They are a quality side, they obviously played well in their opening game against the USA, winning 97-0, so we’re under no illusions,” admitted Walshe, whose side beat hosts France 30-6 on day one. “They are big and they are physical and it’ll be a good Test match.
CLICK HERE FOR LUKE COWAN-DICKIE’S THOUGHTS ON THIS MATCH >>
France will be desperate to bounce back from the England loss against the Junior All-Americans with a common word uttered by players on day one being “disappointed”, Christopher Tolofua going further to suggest they felt they had “let the crowd down”.
Coach Didier Retiere has made wholesale changes to his starting line-up in an attempt to kick-start their challenge, knowing that anything other than a bonus point victory will likely end their hopes of becoming the second host to be crowned champions.
In Pool C, Wales will not be underestimating the threat posed by Scotland, despite their Celtic rivals having found life very difficult against the physical Argentineans on day one in losing 44-13.
“A bonus point victory with six tries to boot is a great start,” admitted coach Danny Wilson of their 42-3 defeat of Samoa. “Scotland had a tough time against Argentina but they are a good side and will no doubt raise their game tomorrow. They have some dangerous players such as Mark Bennett at 12 who has played for Glasgow in the RaboDirect and number 8 Adam Ashe, so we will have to be aware of their threats.”
Wales beat Scotland 42-17 in the Six Nations earlier in the year and coach Sean Lineen has made three changes for the rematch, one of them forced after Ruairidh Young suffered a broken leg against Los Pumitas.
Argentina have meanwhile made wholesale changes with only back row Facundo Isa and full back Santiago Cordero retained for their encounter with Samoa at the Stade Pascal Laporte in Nantes, the first match of day two at JWC 2013.
This though makes for an exciting bench with six of the eight replacements already capped by Los Pumas, including fly half Patricio Fernandez, flanker Pablo Matera and wing Joaquin Paz, should they be required to inject some impetus to the game.
Seventeen matches will be streamed live on the IRB website during the Junior World Championship. Click here for more information on which matches and where you can also watch the tournament on television around the world.