Kiwis targeting elusive junior title
Fri, 27 Dec 2013 11:27
As New Zealand prepares to host the 2014 edition of the IRB Junior World Championship, the country's juniors will be aching to get their hands back on a trophy they must have come to see as their own.
The 2013 tournament provided remarkable drama from first to last as records fell in north-west France and a new champion was crowned after England came from behind to beat Wales 23-15.
It was the first all-northern hemisphere final in the competition’s history after New Zealand and South Africa were both beaten in the Cup semis and finally the English got their hands on the trophy after three previous final losses to New Zealand between 2008 and 2011.
The final was the proverbial game of two halves; the first belonged to Wales and their fly half Sam Davies, who produced the kind of brilliance that would ultimately see him named IRB Junior Player of the Year.
Wales led 15-3 and seemed on track to avenge their loss to England in the Under 20 Six Nations title decider but full-back Jack Nowell began the England revival just before the hour mark with a try and 20 minutes later they were celebrating in Vannes.
South Africa finished third after beating New Zealand in an enthralling 11-try feast, 41-34. The Baby Blacks had raced into a 21-0 lead and threatened to run away with it, but South Africa came racing back to tie things up and, with the Baby Blacks down to 13 men, they hit the front just before the hour mark and held on.
There were also wins on the final day for France, Australia and Samoa over Argentina, Ireland and Scotland. Hosts France did it the hard way against Los Pumitas in La Roche-sur-Yon, trailing by 22 points at half-time before battling back to win 37-34 and finish fifth overall.
USA found life difficult on their return to the elite tier for the first time since 2008. They had scored just six points going into the 11th place play-off against Fiji and the Fijians proved too strong running out 46-12 winners.
Italy took their place in the pool draw for the 2014 event by winning the 2013 Junior World Rugby Trophy. They face defending champions, England, Australia and Argentina. In the other pools Fiji face European trio France, Ireland and Wales, and hosts New Zealand line up against South Africa, Samoa and Scotland.
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