IRB U21 Rugby World Cup Preview
The IRB U21 Rugby World Cup reaches the semi-final stage on Tuesday.
Since 1921, when the Springboks first toured New Zealand, few will argue theirs is the fiercest of rivalries. On Tuesday 25th, the younger versions of the Springboks and the All Blacks will play for a place in the final of the IRB U21 World Cup.
New Zealand coach Bryce Woodward said: "For most of the kids, this will
be the biggest game of their lives," so far, New Zealand has used three
different game plans for each of our games, and we will use a new one
for the game against South Africa. We are keeping the opposition
guessing." As experienced as Woodward is as a coach - his international
rugby career saw him play for Bahrain during his time in that country -
he is in his first international appointment. And this also is a big
game for him.
Other than having Sean Fitzpatrick around to tell them stories of his
battles against South Africa, three former greats have also offered
their experiences with regard to South Africa and what they can expect.
Former captains Sir Brian Lochore and John Graham spoke to the team
before flying to Johannesburg and Don Clarke, "The Boot", was with the
team during the first week of the World Cup.
"The traditions of the All Blacks are strictly kept by this Colts team.
This being my first experience at international level, it is the finer
details that are very important."
Although the team for the semi-final has been named, Woodward has not
been able to finalise his replacements. "We have three players with
stomach virus - nausea, fever and general weakness - and we will have to
see how they recover." The injury to Joe Rokocoko means a place is free
for exciting runner Anthony Tuitavaki.
As much as playing against tradition, they will be coming up against a
good South African side. "We analysed their games against France and
Ireland, so we have a pretty good idea of how good they are. But to be
honest, we have focused on our own game."
"Although we give players a game plan - and against South Africa we'll
be using our fourth different game plan - they have the freedom to
express themselves on the field."
Express they have, having won their three games with confidence and
Coach Jake White commented: "The young Boks have not yet fulfilled
their own high expectations. "No doubt that every game against New
Zealand is a huge game, the most important. The players don't need more
motivation than that."
"We were not entirely happy with how we played in the three previous
games, but we've worked hard over the last couple of days and we are
much better now. We have made a couple of changes to strengthen the
midfield and the second row and are confident of having a good game."
Ranked seventh coming into the World Cup, "we have already beaten the
third and sixth ranked team so we have everything to play for,"
This will be the seventh time these two teams meet in this age group.
Their previous games were:
1995 - in Buenos Aires, New Zealand won 24-7;
1996 - in Taupo, New Zealand won 28-18;
1997 - in Sydney, New Zealand won 46-20;
1998 - in Cape Town, South Africa won 18-16;
1999 - in Buenos Aires, South Africa won 27-25;
2000 - in Auckland, New Zealand won 71-5.
Teams confirmed at time of writing:
New Zealand (15-1): Ben Atiga; Alfred Pelenise, Jason Shoemark
(captain), Sam Tuitupou and Anthony Tuitavake; Daniel Carter and Jimmy
Cowan; Thomas Waldrom; Daniel Braid and Angus McDonald; Ross Kennedy and
Bradley Mika; James Fairbrother, Corey Flynn and Tony Woodcock
South Africa (15-1): Jorrie Muller; Jean de Villiers, Clyde Rathbone
(captain), Dewey Swartbooi and Ashwin Willemse; Francois Swart and
Enrico Januarie; Jacques Cronje; Pedrie Wannenberg and Roland Bernard;
Juan Smith and Stefan van Rooyen; Pat Barnard, Gary Botha and Guthro
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Wales v Australia
Welsh Manager Wayne Hall says: "Don't write us off" as his team prepares
for their semi-final game against Australia. Both teams meet at the Rand
Afrikaans University on Tuesday 25th, hoping to book a place for
Friday's final of the IRB U21 World Cup, at Ellis Park.
"We arrived in South Africa ranked fourth and our goal was to finish
fourth or beyond. We are the only European team in the semi-finals, on
top of teams like England, Ireland and France; so far we've had a good
Their two early wins against Italy (82-18) and Argentina (45-34) were
followed by a big loss against New Zealand by 73-19.
Hall explained "Our game plan against them worked out well until they
broke us and the game became too loose."
The Welsh squad was put through an intensive preparation prior to this
tournament and it has so far paid off. Hall again: "We have had no mayor
injuries, and only one of our players was unavailable for selection for
the semi-final. Due credit must go to the doctor, physiotherapists and
trainer on this trip: they have been responsible for having a fit team
for the coaches to select from."
Captain Matthew Brayley knows the challenge ahead is not easy. The
Swansea centre explained that "we've worked a lot on our defence since
the game on Friday. The team has a great tackling ability so we must
concentrate on our defence alignment."
Opposite them will be an Aussie side that scored eight tries in their
win against Australia (51-18), twenty-one touch-downs against Romania in
the one-sided 135-3 win and crossed for eight tries against France,
beating them 64-15 at Ellis Park last Friday.
That game proved costly to hooker Huia Edmonds, who was having a great
tournament: he pulled a thigh muscle so badly that he was flown back to
Australia as he would not have been fit for the final week. His
replacement is already with the team, former U19 international Nick
Churven. Against Wales, Joshua Mann-Rea will take the hooking berth. He
made a solid impact from the bench against France, scoring a try.
Also on the injured list, but recovering is halfback Matthew Henjak. His
place in the otherwise unchanged starting lineup is IRB World Sevens
Series regular Matt Giteau.
As captain Tamaiti Horua so succinctly put it after their third round
win, "we will be quietly confident - we'll keep our heads screwed to our
Confirmed starting line-ups at the time of writing:
Wales (15-1): Gareth Swales; Liam Roberts, Michael Jones, Matthew
Brayley (captain) and Nicholas Jones; Nicky Robinson and Michael
Phillips; Rhys Jones; Gareth Williams and Rhys Gareth Williams; Ryan
Jones and Luke Tait; Adam Jones, Matthew Miles and Paul James
Australia (15-1): Michael Tabrett; Luke Sweeney, Mark Gerrard, Turinui
Morgan and Peter Hynes; James Brock and Matthew Giteau; Tamaiti Horua
(captain); Matthew Hodgson and Jone Tawake; Mark Chisholm and Daniel
Heenan; Anthony Mathison, Joshua Mann-Rea and Nicholas Henderson
Referee: Greg Davis (Scotland)
New goals need win
It is very clear that when Ireland and England meet on Tuesday 25th at
the Rand Afrikaans University Stadium (kick-off at 3pm, local time),
both sides will be aiming for a win to get closer to their new goal:
fifth place. For that, they will have to first go through what promises
to be 80-minutes of gruelling high intensity rugby.
Former British Lion captain and current Ireland U21 coach Ciarian
Fitzgerald hopes his team will have the "passion and fighting spirit
that comes naturally with every Irish team. These are qualities we must
make sure that are part and parcel of our teams. Fortunately, this side
The last two times these sides met in the Six Nations Championships of
2001 and 2002, England was the victor, but only by narrow margins.
Things could change, they are hoping at the Irish camp. In last year's
U21 Tournament in Sydney, England managed a 15-10 win.
"I think my side is good enough to beat them, although we still haven't
played our best rugby. In our last game against South Africa we were
disappointing, we were penalised too often. It would be fair to say we
have so far been inconsistent in the tournament."
If the game goes to the wire, then the figure of goal kicker Eoghan
Hickey could become important. He has had a lethal boot throughout the
But England have other problems at hand at the moment. They have had to
fly in two more replacements (taking their injury toll to six players
replaced in the tournament).
Manager Peter Drewett said: "We haven't been able to finalise our team.
We have named what we hope will be our starting fifteen. But we will
have to confirm it on the morning of the game."
England will be minus their captain Mark Soden, suspended for one game
after being red carded against Argentina. "Lock Martin Purdy took over
the captaincy when Mark left the field, and he led the team to victory
so we are happy that the captaincy is well covered. And Mark will be
available for selection for the next game." England needed every ounce
of heart and effort to beat Argentina on the final second of the game.
After two days of physical rest, the team trained very well on the
Monday morning. "I guess it is mind over matter now. If they are willing
to win, they have to pick themselves up. They will be playing their
fourth game in ten days which is taxing."
The team has set new goals for the final week. "Finishing fifth is of
course one of them," concluded Drewett.
Teams confirmed at the time of writing:
England (15-1): Jon Hylton; Simon Hunt, Adam Billig, David Tibbott and
Tom Voyce; Ben Hampson and Paul Hodgson; Phillip Davies; James
Scaysbrook and Alex Alesbrook: Martin Purdy and Stuart Hooper; Mark
Irish, James Buckland and Michael Holford
Ireland (15-1): Scott Young; Martin McPhail, Gavin Duffy, Conrad
O'Sullivan and James Norton; Eoghan Hickey and Brian O'Riordan; Roger
Wilson; Conor Hartigan and Michael Carroll; Matthew McCullough (captain)
and Timothy Barker; Brian Young, Rory Best and John Lyne
Referee: Louis Mzomba (South Africa)
Sun City tour might help Los Pumitas
There is a great tradition between France and Argentina. A week ago Los
Pumas beat the touring Six Nations Grand Slam winners and ten days later
the turn of the U21 representatives to meet in Johannesburg. The
occasion is the first IRB U21 World Cup.
"There is clearly a 'thing' in games against France," says Fabián
Turnes, a veteran for Argentina in the eighties. "We are confident going
into this game as the loss against England in the last second was a
great wake-up call. The players have been very focused in our two last
With such a packed schedule, Los Pumitas were given the whole Saturday
free of rugby and were driven to world famous resort Sun City, a couple
of hours drive from Johannesburg. "It helped them cleanse their minds.
It was great for team bonding and the kids had a great time."
Argentina has made a number of changes to the starting line-up. "We are
rotating a couple of players, but have also named a team that we think
can do the job against France."
In an age where match analysis is so important, Argentina had not yet
fully studied the French tape. Turnes said: "They are of course a good
team playing the kind of rugby we know French teams can play so well.
Yet, we are looking at our own performance: we must win our own ball -
something that was not the case in previous games - and our defensive
patterns must work better. But, on the positives, when we attacked with
ball in hand we were dangerous. We must also stay on our feet as we were
penalised a number of times because of not doing so."
France have named a starting fifteen however will confirm early on the
morning of the game.
In their only previous game at this age group, France won 25-18 in
Buenos Aires in 1999.
Starting line-ups at the time of writing:
Argentina (15-1): Alfonso Villanueva; Martín Bottini, Miguel Avramovic,
Rafael Carballo and Leopoldo Villanueva; Agustín Durand and Ezequiel
Cabrera; José Ghidara; Federico Genoud and Alvaro Galindo; Patricio
Albacete (captain) and Juan Covassi; Matías Narváez, Facundo Borelli and
France (15-1): Jean-Baptiste Paquet; Vincent Clerc, Guillaume Bousses,
Jean Phillipe Grandclaude and Pierre Alain Negre-Gauthier; Nicolas
Laharrague and Mathieu Siro; Gregory Lamboley; Bruno Bordenave and
Thierry Dusatoir; Sebastian Petit Giani and Guillaume Bortolaso; Rudy
Chevron, Jordi Selva and Julian Fiorini.
Referee: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
South African connection for Romania
How to return to the field for the next game? The Romanian side at the
IRB U21 World Cup faced the problem of high scores against them from
South Africa and Australia in the first two rounds.
Romanian Manager Marin Mot said: "We knew that those two games were way
out of our reach. These teams are too good for us, it showed the
difference between the game in Romania and in countries with the
experience of both Australia and South Africa."
Other sides would have been thinking of catching the next flight home
and abandon the nightmare. Not Romania. Their pride is too big to have
it dented. What did they do? They worked hard, very hard, before the
third game and even though it took them until the final minute, they
achieved a great victory against Fiji.
Romanian Captain Marian Miu explains: "We didn't have the chance to play
any rugby in the early games. But Fiji were our playing level and we
showed what we can do. The team controlled the game and had it not been
for two defensive mistakes from which the Fijians scored we should have
won by a larger score."
"The pressure for us to perform and win was huge. We used a lot of heart
and we were out to prove that the value of the team was higher than what
we had showed."
The team did not have enough time to prepare accordingly for the World
Cup, and found things difficult. But as great hosts that they are, the
South Africans soon offered assistance for Romania. Eugene Eloff and
Franz Ludeke, the local provincial coaches for the Lions franchise, came
to the rescue. Their expertise paid off.
Miu says: "They worked with us for three days and were a big part of our
win. They put the team in a high spirit and insisted on our will to win.
We are very happy for their contribution."
What the young Romanians learnt will be put to great effect when they
play Italy at the Bill Jardine Stadium on Tuesday 25th.
Manager Mot, a former international hooker, knows his team will go out
to win. "That is what we will aim for. Our ambition is to finish in
ninth position and for that we must win the next two games. Italy will
not be easy as we expect them to scrum well and attack us all the time.
But we know how good it feels to win a game, so that is what we will
look forward to."
The Italians will be happy that they will have Martín Castrogiovanni,
who won a full cap against New Zealand less than a month ago, fully fit
for this game. The Argentine-born prop returned to Argentina for 36
hours for personal reasons. He said: "I arrived back the morning of the
game against Italy and I did not contribute too much. I slept like two
days after that and I am looking forward to the game against Romania, a
must win match for us,".
Confirmed starting lineups:
Romania (15-1): Stefan Dumitru; Eugen Petre, Silviu Tofan, Victor
Trufasu and Bogdan Voicu; Marin Dumbrava and Razvan Stanca; Petrisor
Spataru; Onal Agiacai and Florin Draghia; Marian Miu (captain) and
Marian Butugan; Sebastian Ungureanu, Costin Sardescu and Ionut Baraulea
Italy (15-1): Andrea Masi; Claudio Spadaro, Diego Sacca, Matteo Barbini
and Stefano Varella; Vittorio Mariuzzo and Simone Picone; Sergio
Parisse; Silvio Orlando and Andrea Frassinella; Antonio Pavanello and
Marco Montani; Martín Castrogiovanni, Giacomo Rigonelli and Claudio
80-minute effort needed from Fijians
Their ambition was, similar to the teams that are playing for places
from 9th to 12th, to finish in the top eight. It wasn't to be for Fiji.
Too many of their stars players were plying their trade for the full
Fijian side that is currently playing in the RWC 2003 Qualifying Rounds
and others are in Australia with Fiji A. So, it wasn't totally out of
the question that it might take some time for Fiji to adapt to the
requirements of playing in the First IRB U21 World Cup.
They have been working hard to perform better since they arrived in
"Except on Sundays," says manager Suliasi Ravunikau. The past two
Sundays the Fijians have been in Johannesburg, "we have not trained. We
went to Church - the Rhema Ministry - to pray and spend the rest of the
day taking it easy."
Number eight Ilaitia Gavidi knows that their next game against Japan
will not be easy. "Against Romania we did perform for eighty minutes, we
allowed them to come back and snatch the win. If any, that is our
biggest lesson: we must play until the final whistle."
Gavidi, the son of a diplomat, lives in Canberra and plays for the
Tuggeragong Vikings; he is one of three overseas-based players (the
other two play in New Zealand). He knows his team will not take the
Japanese lightly. "We know that they can play some very good rugby. We
will not underestimate them as we did with the Romanians."
Fiji has not won a game in this tournament whilst Japan beat Italy in
the third round. The Pacific Islanders lost against France (10-80),
Ireland (10-63) and the Romanians 26-28 on the final minute.
Japan also opened with two losses against Argentina (24-46) and New
Zealand (8-99), but managed a morale boosting win against Italy by
There is one change to their starting fifteen with Hiroki Yoshida taking
the right wing position from try scorer against Italy Hiroki Mizuno;
management will wait until 24 hours before kick-off to announce who will
join Sato Taira in the second row.
Confirmed starting lineups:
Japan (15-1): Seiichi Shimomura; Hiroki Yoshida, Katoni Otukolo, Shinya
Jinkawa and Tatsuya Kusumi; Yasuyuki Miki and Junji Enya; Koliniashi
Holani; Tomonori Nakai and Yuki Okuzono; Sato Taira and A.N.Other;
Hideyuki Sakao, Taku Inoguchi and Tomonori Fukuda
Fiji (15-1): Sailosi Tagicakibau; Eparam Lagi, Isaia Turuva, Semesa
Manulevu and Filimoni Bolavucu; Nolani Daveta and Kelemedi Bolatagane;
Ilaitia Gavidi (captain); Inoke Veikune and Manoa Vosawai; Joeli
Lutumailagi and Neumi Donumainasava; Vereniki Racaga, Apenisa Leano and