England eye back-to-back finals
June 16, 2010
England can book consecutive finals with a win over Australia © IRB
England and New Zealand will look to secure back-to-back appearances in the final of the Junior World Championship on Thursday, but standing in their way in the last four are familiar foes Australia and South Africa.
First up is England's meeting with Australia, with both sides having impressed on their way to the semis. Last year's tournament ended in heartache for England as they were swept aside by the Baby Blacks but their form so far this season has been promising. After accounting for Argentina and Ireland in the first two rounds they secured their progress with a hard-fought 17-9 win over France at Estadio El Coloso del Parque in Rosario.
Blindside flanker Jamie Gibson scored the only try of the game against France, but England will likely need to find a more expansive approach against a free-scoring Australia side.
Whether England's giant pack can strangle the life out of their counterparts remains to be seen, but with Queensland wing Dominic Shipperley heading into the game off a hat-trick in a 42-35 win over South Africa confidence will be high in the Aussie camp. Centre Robbie Coleman and Brumbies fly-half Matt Toomua, a tourist with the Wallabies in 2009, have also shown their class during the group stages.
England boss Mark Mapletoft has recalled points-machine London Irish fullback Tom Homer for the game while Stade Francais' Charlie Davies has won the battle to partner Rory Clegg at halfback. Out wide, Wasps wing Christian Wade has earned a starting spot. Leeds openside Jacob Rowan captains the side.
"I've been very impressed with Australia, especially in their performance against South Africa, scoring five tries against what looked like a very good South African team," Mapletoft said. "They'll present a difficult hurdle for us to overcome. At the same time our preparation has been very good and we've managed to be successful in the semis in the last two years and we'd love to go one better."
South Africa progressed as the best runners-up despite their defeat and will meet New Zealand. The Baby Blacks cruised past Wales 43-10 in their final pool game to finish unbeaten, with back-to-back titles now a possibility.
To reach the final they will have to see off a spirited South African side bolstered by Super 14 experience. In the defeat to Australia Sharks fullback Patrick Lambie was a constant threat while Lions wing Wandie Mjekevu, whose rise was a rare plus for the franchise this season, crossed for a brace.
The stars for New Zealand against Wales were in the back-three. Wellington's Julian Savea and Tasman fullback Tom Marhsall both inked their names on to the scoresheet twice and have been retained in the starting line-up for the semi-final.
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