Wales ready for winner-takes-all battle

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 11 June 2013
 Wales ready for winner-takes-all battle
Ellis Jenkins is desperate to lead Wales to a second successive JWC semi final with victory over Argentina

Pool C was always expected to come down to the encounter between Wales and Argentina in La Roche-sur-Yon on Thursday, a winner-takes-all encounter for a place in the semi-finals of the IRB Junior World Championship 2013.

The two sides could not be closer in the standings after victories over Samoa and Scotland. Both have nine points, Wales have a points differential just one better than Los Pumitas and have scored one more try and conceded one fewer than their rivals.

The two sides met in the third place play-off 12 months ago with Wales running out 25-17 winners and captain Ellis Jenkins and his fellow forward Rhodri Hughes, who played in that match, know the size of the challenge that lies ahead of them.

“It is winner takes all, last year it was for third and fourth, this year it is to see who gets through to the semis. It is going to be pretty similar, massive pressure, a massive occasion and the boys are just looking forward to it now,” admitted Hughes.

Jenkins added: “We know that Argentina have had two great performances against Samoa and Scotland and we know we have to fire on all cylinders to come away with a victory on Thursday.

Physical challenge

“It’s going to be a tough game and we know it’s going to take absolutely everything on the pitch. They are a physical bunch and we know there are going to be some real sore bodies on Thursday night whatever the result, hopefully it will be made a lot easier with a victory," said Jenkins.

“We knew this was going to be the third game and it was going to be a tight pool and as it is we are tied on points so whoever wins this game will go through. We knew it was going to be tight and we would have to win all three games to qualify.”

Wales have already experienced heartache once this year, missing out on the Under 20 Six Nations Grand Slam after a 28-15 loss to England in the final round and both players admit they have no desire to experience that pain again at JWC 2013.

“The boys were absolutely gutted we lost that game obviously,” admitted Hughes. “We have learned massive amounts from that game as well. We are a much, much stronger outfit now. We remember the feeling of disappointment we had after losing that game and we don’t really want to taste that gain to be honest. You could say that drives us a bit more.”

Jenkins added: “With games like that there’s always a sense of what could have been so to set ourselves up for a Grand Slam and lose it in the way we did, we were outplayed by England on the day.

“We felt we could have played a little bit differently but that feeling after the game will definitely take us forward through the Championship and it has helped us in the first few games and we know that come the end of the tournament we want to have no regrets.

Ferocious and exciting

“We will find out on Thursday what we are made of," Jenkins continued. "We are not thinking too far into the future, we are just focusing on Argentina. Everything is about Argentina because it’s a crossroads – we either go into the semi-finals or drop down into the second tier.

“We want to be successful the same as everyone else so we are really hoping to get into that semi-final ... It's what we have trained for the last six weeks, all we’ve talked about is the world cup and our preparation, all the extra work the boys have put into it all comes down to this.

“It’s a huge tournament for us and the pinnacle of our careers at this level, so we are just looking forward to going against Argentina and putting in a big performance. It’s up to us to do what we can do.”

Wales coach Danny Wilson knows his side will need to produce an “extremely physical display” to get the right result as well as a disciplined one to avoid handing any kicking opportunities to Argentina’s impressive fly half Patricio Fernandez, a player he rates as "probably second to none in this tournament" for his goal and positional kicking.

“I thought [last year] it was quite ferocious at the contact area and I am sure it will be exactly the same in this game. Argentina have got a number of players returning from that fixture, so guys who have experienced playing against us and guys who have experienced a World Cup.

“We have got a couple but perhaps not as many as they have, but I think it is another challenge for a new group of players that we have this at tournament and likewise for a few new guys for them, it should make for an exciting fixture and one that is winner takes all.”

Wales v Argentina will be one of five matches streamed live on on Thursday. Click here for more details and for where you can also watch the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 on television around the globe.