By Frankie Deges
Record crowds are expected for round two of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, being played in Temuco, southern Chile. Local organisers have been promoting the tournament with the positive assistance of the eight participating teams who undertook their first of two legacy activities, involving local schools and communities.
The passion of the young players and the way they have interacted with the public bodes well for a second round of matches that will be played in two venues walking distance from each other. With free entry throughout the JWRT, and 4,000 spectators in the first round played on a Tuesday night, numbers could well challenge the 7,000 tournament record that dates back to 2008, also in Chile.
The biggest game of the second round will be between the two unbeaten sides of Pool A at the Germán Becker Stadium. Chile will need to be at their best if they want to beat Italy in that encounter. While the Chileans will have the support of their fans, they will have to control an Italian side that put a good Namibian side to the sword in the opening round.
“We acknowledge that Italy are favourites to win,” said Chilean coach Omar Turcumán. “Nonetheless, we have been seeing their games this year and know their weak points. As a team, we are confident in the way play. As in any game, we must attack and pressure the opposition into mistakes.”
Earlier in the day, at the Universidad de la Frontera, Portugal and Namibia will both be searching for their first win. The Portuguese will be wiser about playing at this level after their debut game against Chile earlier this week and Namibia took a lot of confidence from their second-half performance against Italy in round one.
“Conditions were alien to our players and it took them sometime to find rhythm and composure,” said Namibia coach Jood Opperman. “In the second half we managed to have more phases and it was an important stepping stone for our game against Portugal.”
Pool B will have two very even games: Japan, the best side on day one, will play against a Canadian team that was very structured to beat Tonga. Canada played the entire game without utilising their bench.
Head coach Mike Shelley understands the rigours of this tournament. “It is a short turn-around from game to game but it is important how you manage the time. Facing Japan, we know what to expect. They are quick around the fringes but we have the tools to play our own game. I hope we will prevail.”
The Germán Becker Stadium will start its round of matches with Uruguay meeting Tonga, two sides that know how to play physically and who struggled in the opening round with the weather and in the face of more skilful opponents.
After the second round, the road to the final will be much clearer and the ticket to the Junior World Championship in New Zealand closer.
For all the results and fixtures, click here.
By Frankie Deges