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NZU20 can still defend their Junior World crown

irb.com     13 Jun 2012    

Unlike in previous years, there are only three teams unbeaten going into the final round of pool matches after Wales handed four-time champions New Zealand their first ever JWC loss and Argentina backed up a win over France by upsetting Australia last Friday.

For Wales, Argentina and three-time runners-up England the equation is simple for match day three, win their final pool match and they will be guaranteed top spot and a place in the semi finals to be played at Newlands on 17 June.

That would leave the Baby Blacks in the driving seat to join them as the best runners-up across the three pools. They currently have six points, the same as France and South Africa, but their point differential is the best.

If the pool leaders slip up against Samoa, Scotland and hosts South Africa respectively then the door opens for New Zealand, Australia, France, Ireland and the Junior Boks to salvage their title hopes by claiming top spot.

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Wales and Argentina both face sides yet to taste victory at JWC 2012, but are certainly not underestimating the threat that Samoa and Scotland pose to their hopes of reaching the semi finals and undoing all their hard work so far.

“The boys are still on cloud nine,” admitted Wales wing Tom Prydie, who kicked the penalty to seal the 9-6 win over New Zealand. “It was an amazing win and everyone has had a brilliant feeling in the camp, but we’ve really got to focus on Samoa and move on with the rest of the tournament.

“Samoa showed against New Zealand they are a tough test. We have got to play safe against them, keep ball and nothing more than a win is acceptable for us. We have got to make sure we do our homework on Samoa and make sure we win.”

Wales have only reached the semi finals once before, at the inaugural tournament in 2008 when Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies played, and victory over Samoa will ensure they at least match that finish of fourth place.

New Zealand captain Bryn Hall said Wales deserved their win, the first defeat suffered by a Baby Blacks team in four years.

“I think they gave the most respect to the conditions and played with a lot of passion and that is what got them the win. We have taken a massive lesson out of it and hopefully we can bounce back.
“We certainly do need a bonus point win, it was tough not getting that bonus point and having them score that late try really rattled us.

“Fiji is a very good team. We’ve seen in their two games that they’re very physical and passionate just like Wales."

“We’re expecting a very tidy and physical game from them and hopefully we can execute our game plan a bit better and if we did that we’ll come away with a result.
“I guess that’s one positive you can take from that loss. We did get that bonus point and our boys didn’t give up and played for 80 minutes so I guess that was some reward for that disappointing performance. Hopefully that comes back to help us.”