Not all downhill for Zimbabwe in Utah

(IRB.COM) Thursday 21 June 2012
 Not all downhill for Zimbabwe in Utah
Defence will be crucial for Zimbabwe as they face a tough Georgia team on day two of the JWRT in Salt Lake City. Photo: David Brinton

HAVING visited Salt Lake City’s Olympic Ski Park following their heartbreaking opening day defeat to Japan you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all been downhill for Zimbabwe Under 20s.

But full-back James Forrester insists that the Young Sables still have it all to play for going into their second game of the Junior World Rugby Trophy against Georgia tomorrow. Zimbabwe picked up two bonus points from the 39-36 loss to Japan for finishing within seven points of the opposition and scoring four tries.

That leaves them just three points adrift of the eastern Europeans who began their campaign with victory over Canada to sit second in Pool B.

“Getting the two points was important for us. If we beat Georgia we’ll be back in the running,” said Forrester.

“We took a lot of positives out of the Japan game and we’ve worked hard on the things we needed to work on in training, so we’re all really looking forward to tomorrow’s match. I think we’ll be trying to use our speed and mobility to move the big Georgian forwards around the pitch.”

“We watched a bit of their game against Canada and we all thought Canada had it in the bag in the first half. When we left the stadium and got back to campus we were very surprised to see the final score.”

Japan v Zimbabwe was a great start to the tournament

The Japan v Zimbabwe match got JWRT 2012 off to a great start, with the momentum swinging one way and then the other throughout the thrilling 80 minutes of action. Japan eventually overcame a late second half rally by Zimbabwe thanks to a try from reserve fullback Yutaro Murai in the final seconds.

“We have never beaten Japan before so we went in with an open mind and to just try and do our best,” Forrester said.

“It is definitely up there amongst the most exciting matches I have played in. Our hearts up were up at one stage, down another, and then up again… I really enjoyed the match apart from the result. We worked hard but it was frustrating that little errors counted against us.”

“The three tries they scored in the second quarter of the match hurt us a lot. I think that was down to a lack of concentration and a lack of intensity on our part.”

We are enjoying America and making some good friends

Forrester, though, has no complaints about his first experience of the US.

“Everything’s been really well organized and there’s a really nice atmosphere around the place. We’ve made friends with a few of the Tonga guys and everyone is really enjoying being in America.”

“It was great to have some time off the other day and see some of the sites. We went up to the Olympic Ski Park, which was really amazing.”

For the match against Georgia, Forrester is replaced at full-back in the starting 15 by fellow Zimbabwe Sevens star, Justin Coles, who moves in from the wing.

Georgia will be understrength for the Zimbabwe game

Georgia will be forced to make a change to their back three after wing Giorgi Bitsadze, a try scorer against Canada, was hit with a two-match ban for being red carded for foul play in the 82nd-minute.

“It’s a blow especially as we only have a small squad, but at least he’ll be available for the final match,” said Georgia head coach Ian Smith.

“And we’ve got 12 backs with us and quite a few of them can play in a number of positions.”

Reflecting on Georgia’s hard-fought 31-17 victory over Canada, Smith said he was not surprised by his side’s slow start.

Georgia made a slow start but grew in confidence

“Although we’d trained well heading into the tournament we hadn’t had any meaningful warm up matches, which are key with knowing where you are and what you need to work on,” he said.

“We knew the first half would be a bit rocky for us and our prediction proved to be accurate. The lads went off script a little bit but we rectified things at half-time and the second half performance was pretty good.”

“You get a sense of purpose by playing matches and there has been a massive improvement in training as a result. Zimbabwe are a very robust and energetic side and aggressive in defence, so we know we’re in for a tough match.”

Following on from Georgia v Zimbabwe, Pool B leaders Japan face Canada in a top-versus-bottom clash. In Pool A, Tonga and Russia play each other with both sides seeking their first win of the tournament.
Hosts USA, conquerors of pre-tournament favourites Tonga, and Pool B pace-setters Chile bring the curtain down on day two at Murray Rugby Park.