By Frankie Deges
The next generation of international players have been given an introduction to the IRB campaign Keep Rugby Clean ahead of the third and crucial round of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013.
And spectators in Freire and Pitrufquén, a few miles south of Temuco where the tournament headquarters is located, will see players, management, officials, volunteers and tournament staff wearing Keep Rugby Clean t-shirts in either red or white, enhancing the visibility of the far-reaching campaign designed to educate on anti-doping.
Players in IRB age-grade tournaments complete an online anti-doping education programme consisting of interactive videos and information that acts as an introduction to testing procedures, the prohibited list, the dangers of supplements and the effects prohibited substances can have on their health. They also attend an outreach session providing face-to-face contact with an IRB anti-doping representative who reminds them of what the programme is all about, the dangers of taking shortcuts in their quest for sporting success, and common traps which, as top level players, they need to be aware of.
Details on Keep Rugby Clean can be found here.
This year, participating players also had an introduction into the new Keep Rugby Onside programme educating players in the dangers of corruption and betting in relations to sport and the IRB regulations that apply to that. Information on that programme can be found here.
With two rounds of this year’s JWRT complete, Italy has already secured their place in the final. With two solid, bonus-point wins, they took an unassailable lead in Pool A that will have its two round three games at the Estadio Municipal de Freire.
Players of true potential
The Italians will tackle the Portuguese who have beaten Namibia but lost to Chile in the opening game. Both Portugal and Chile are locked on four log points so winning will be paramount to ensure who finishes second in the pool and plays in the Germán Becker Stadium in the tournament third/fourth-place playoff.
“We are happy with the way the team is progressing at this level, which is higher than what we normally play at this age-group,” said Tomaz Morais. The former national coach, now his Union’s general director, is in Temuco. “There are some players of true potential being identified in this tournament and we are working hard to make a good use of the opportunity of being in such an intense atmosphere.”
Supported by 8,000 spectators – a tournament record – the home side was well beaten by Italy and will aim for the third-place playoff. They will have the luxury of knowing what happened in the earlier pool game, although the goal is, in the words of coach Omar Turcumán, “to play good Rugby which is the best way to recover from a loss such as the only against Italy”.
Four kilometres south on route five, the Estadio Municipal de Pitrufquén will host both Pool B matches. Japan will play Tonga followed by Canada v Uruguay.
Pool B still up for grabs
Mathematically, any one of three teams from this pool could still make it to the final. In the first game Japan and Tonga will play for the pool’s first, second and third place. With no rain in the last two days, conditions should fit the way both teams play.
“We just want to play the Japan way, which is moving the ball,” said coach Keisuke Sawaki. “Although we lost the game against Canada, we can still qualify for the final. We must show our best performance, especially against Tonga, which is physically strong and loves moving the ball as we do.”
The Tongans captured the public’s imagination when they faced local club Rucamanque as they performed their Mapuche haka in Temuco’s main square. In front of some 300 locals, they answered with their own challenging sipi tau.
Former Tongan captain and current Under 20 coach Feao Vunipola, whose son Billy scored three tries in his England debut last weekend and Mako made his British and Irish Lions debut, enjoyed what he saw. “It is always important for us to show our roots and share with our hosts some of our culture. It helps to motivate us for the game against Japan.”
Canada will be interested spectators. They will know before their kick-off what they need from their game. Having beaten both Tonga and Japan (with a bonus-point), they have a foot on the door of the final. But they acknowledge the Uruguayans won’t simply lie down.
Coach Mike Shelley said: “We are very pleased with the position we are in. We did a lot of work before Japan and now Uruguay, putting together a game plan. We are well aware of the physical challenge that they will bring as they have strong players.”
The former Leeds captain is confident the road take is the correct one. “We are seeing now payoff for the structures we put in place: we identified, nurtured and grown some talent. You can’t prepare for a tournament of this nature in three weeks as the standard is rising, everyone is physically stronger and more developed. We certainly have worked hard.”
“We want to win. We are aware of what we need to do to advance to the final but Wednesday is our key focus,” he said.
By Frankie Deges