Australia may not have got the start to the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 they were hoping for after losing to Ireland, but there could be no bigger motivation for the squad to bounce back then putting one over their trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand on Sunday.
The two nations have met three times before on the JWC stage, including the 2010 final when the Baby Blacks ran riot, claiming a third successive title with a 62-17 victory in Argentina, but this will be their first encounter in the pool stages of the prestigious Under 20 tournament.
Victory is a must for Australia if they are to retain any hope of reaching the semi finals for the fourth time in the tournament’s six-year history and they certainly do not fear their rivals, having enjoyed success against New Zealand at schoolboy level in recent years.
Jake McIntyre can boast two wins in the last two years, the fly half guiding a cross-field kick for wing Jonah Placid to score the winning try in Auckland last year, and admits these successes will give the Australians a confidence boost going into the match.
“They are definitely beatable and I think we know that, a lot of the boys have had that win [as schoolboys] and we can take that confidence into the game and hopefully it holds us in good stead,” explained McIntyre, who drops to the bench for the match.
“I have played against a fair few of them in 2011 when we played in Sydney. I recognise a few faces, they have got some big names in there, but hopefully we can knock them over.
“They are our arch rival and the team we always want to beat so hopefully the boys can get pumped up and get the win. I think everyone knows they have been the best in the last few years, so if we can knock them over it will hold us in good stead for the rest of the tournament.
The little things
“Obviously [facing] the haka gets you pumped up before the match, and just the general speed and the toughness of them is what you look forward to. It’s the hardest match you will play and it is what everyone looks forward to.”
McIntyre and head coach Adrian Thompson cite missed opportunities, lacking a bit of composure, nerves and not playing smart rugby as things that were wrong on day one in the 19-15 loss to Australia, but what will it take to beat the four-time champions?
“I think it is just the one percenters, just doing the little things right,” explained McIntyre, who played for the Australian Rugby Union’s Brisbane-based National Academy squad in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup earlier this year against Fiji Warriors and Junior Japan.
“It isn’t going to be a glamorous game, I think it’s going to be hard, tough footy. We have got to be up front about that and match them, if not be better than them in every aspect of the game.
“There is a massive rivalry between Australia and New Zealand and I think both teams will be looking forward to it. We want to get out there, but we don’t want to get too eager and play the game in our heads too much beforehand.”
One thing that coach Thompson has been quick to remind the players is that losing the first match doesn’t end their title hopes, South Africa lost their opening match but won the title, beating New Zealand who had also suffered an historic defeat in the pool stages.
“We told the boys that yesterday and they lost to Ireland too so some good similarities. New Zealand also lost their first [ever] match last year and went on to the final.”
Day two preview
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.