England U20 on the verge of JWC semis

England U20s all but secured their semi final place in the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship with a bonus point victory over Australia.

The reigning champions, who are making a real effort to distance themselves from that triumph, labelling it as ‘last year’s U20s achievement’, beat the Wallabies 38-24 in a performance laden with attacking brilliance.

England still need to beat Argentina on Tuesday to guarantee qualification, but given Italy’s shock victory over the Pumas today, England will feel confident – particularly as they beat Italy by 60 points.

England’s attacking ambition and willingness to stretch the defence both ways has been a real feature of their game in these opening two games, following that 60 point victory over Italy they crossed the line for a further five tries again today.

Saracens’ former Oaklands College winger Nathan Earle was the star of the Italy game with a hat-trick, and he was in full flow once again today, bagging a well taken brace and almost charging down a conversion as he showed off his exceptional pace.

Loughborough University and former Cranleigh School captain Henry Taylor started at scrum half ahead of squad captain Callum Braley and rewarded the selectors decision with a cheeky brace of his own, one a smartly taken sniping try, the second after some good support from a James Chisholm break.

Gus Jones was also on the scoresheet once again, the London Wasp and former Eton College openside dotted down early in the second half, and try scoring sees to be becoming something of a habit for him having touched down in his last three appearances.

It was not all rosy for the young English side though, attacking wise they were exceptional but there will be a few words spoken about shoring up defensively ahead of the knockout stages after allowing the Wallabies to score three tries despite being under immense pressure.

Indeed it looked as though England could be in for a real battle as the Australians began with a bang, scoring a very early try through winger Andrew Kellaway, who then scored another later in the half to make the score at the break England 24-17 Australia – a far closer scoreline than England’s attacking performance had deserved.

They tightened up well in the second half though, allowing the try scoring to continue but with some of their big defensive forwards such as Jones, Charlie Ewels, and the truly outstanding Maro Itoje putting in some monumental effort.

Indeed there is quite some momentum building in praise of Itoje in the media, the former Harrow pupil is being hotly tipped as the most likely to break through to the big time first, and you can see why – his blend of physicality and athleticism is archetypal of the modern lock, what an area of strength this is across all formats of England rugby.

With the South Africans beating New Zealand handsomely down in Group C, it looks as though the England and South Africa are now the two big favourites for the competition. England are playing by far the most ambitious rugby at the moment, however the South Africans are, as South African teams do, playing some brutally physical and very controlled rugby. It will be an excellent battle, should it come.

If England carry on playing like this though, they will feel that they have the keys to break any defensive lock.

England U20 38-24 Australia U20

Group A Standings

 

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Points

England

2

2

0

0

10

Australia

2

1

0

1

5

Italy

2

1

0

1

4

Argentina

2

0

0

2

1

England U20 XV:

1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints)  2 Tom Woolstencroft (Bath)  3 Paul Hill (Leeds Carnegie)  4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, captain)  5 Charlie Ewels (Bath)  6 Ross Moriarty (Gloucester)  7 Gus Jones (London Wasps)  8 Joel Conlon (Exeter Chiefs);  9 Henry Taylor (Loughborough University)  10 Billy Burns (Gloucester)  11 Nathan Earle (Saracens)  12 Harry Sloan (Harlequins)  13 Nick Tompkins (Saracens)  14 Henry Purdy (Leicester Tigers)  15 Howard Packman (Northampton Saints).

Replacements:  16 Jack Walker  17 Alex Lundberg  18 Harry Rudkin  19 Hayden Thompson-Stringer  20 James Chisholm  21 Callum Braley  22 Sam Olver  23 Aaron Morris.

Australia U20 XV:

1 Rory O’Connor  2 Harry Scobie  3 Allan Alaalatoa  4 Matt Phillip  5 Tom Staniforth  6 Sean McMahon (captain)  7 Rowan Perry  8 Ross Haylett-Petty;  9 Joe Powell  10 Jake McIntyre  11 Andrew Kellaway  12 Jimmy Stewart  13 Lalakai Foketi  14 Brad Lacey  15 Jonah Placid.

Replacements:  16 Feleti Kaitu’u  17 Cameron Orr  18 Tom Robertson  19 Jack Payne  20 Jack Dempsey  21 Angus Pulver  22 David Horowitz  23 Luke Burton.

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