LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS SANDTON, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 11: George Robson looks on during the England training session held at St. David’s School on June 11, 2012 in Sandton, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) Starting XV:15, Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Anthony Allen, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Danny Care, 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Joe Gray, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 4 Graham Kitchener, 5 George Robson (C), 6 James Haskell, 7 Carl Fearns, 8 Thomas WaldromReplacements16 Tom Youngs, 17 Rupert Harden, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 George Lowe, 22 Nick Abendanon Nick Abendanon, who joined the England camp this morning to replace the injured Mike Brown, took a full part in training and will be on the replacements’ bench.England v SA Southern Barbarians,Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at GWK ParkKick:off: 1400 BST, live on Sky Sports HD Robson will captain England against SA BarbariansGEORGE ROBSON will captain England in Wednesday’s match against the South Africa Southern Barbarians in Kimberley.In a double for Aviva Premiership club Harlequins, Robson will follow Chris Robshaw in leading a team out in the second tour match at GWK Park.The starting line-up is completely changed from the one for the 1st Test in Durban and England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “Every one of the 22 is desperate to play. They have trained superbly and their attitude while waiting for their chance has been first class. There is a lot of competition for places across the board and Wednesday gives these players a chance to lay down a marker and for the whole squad to build some momentum towards Saturday’s Test.“George (Robson) has had a tremendous season for Harlequins, has made a great contribution to this tour already, both in training and as part of the leadership group, and I know he will captain the team well. Only Ugo Monye and Alex Corbisiero will not have had any game time by the end of Wednesday but there will still be three matches to go and their opportunity will come.”
LEICESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 21: Tom Croft of Leicester Tigers in action during the Heineken Cup Pool 4 match between Leicester Tigers and Aironi Rugby at Welford Road on January 21, 2012 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) Twelvetrees’ bold move to Kingsholm at the start of the season has allowed the England Saxon to establish himself as a first-team regular and his varied kicking skills offer Lancaster options.Joseph will be looking to stop the Gloucester man from taking his spot in the pecking order however and the centre’s quick feet and strong fends must come to the fore if he is to deny Twelvetrees bragging rights.Owen Farrell v Danny Cipriani (Saracens v Sale Sharks, Sunday 3pm)Perhaps this is not the stage for Danny Cipriani to stake a claim for selection in the Six Nations, though his clash with Owen Farrell is a high-profile opportunity to prove his detractors wrong.Much maligned in the press for his defensive limitations by ex-coach, John Mitchell, the former Wasps fly-half will not want to come up short against Saracens.Cipriani’s attacking prowess has never been in doubt, whereas Farrell, who has been told he will get more game time at 10, needs to start showing the game management skills that have been masterfully displayed by the man occupying his shirt, Charlie Hodgson.Welcome return: Tom Croft is backMatt Kvesic v Tom Croft (Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers, 8pm tonight)Tom Croft’s return on Friday night will mark the end of a miserable eight months for the England flanker following a neck injury picked up against Harlequins in April.Croft will hope to maintain his excellent lineout reputation that made him an England incumbent. With over a stone added in weight, he packs down on the opposite side of the scrum to the highly rated openside, Matt Kvesic, who is tipped to be an England regular by the World Cup in 2015. Though neither player is likely to feature heavily this Six Nations, the game at Sixways this evening showcases two men who could be wearing the Red Rose together in years to [email protected] LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Head to head: Premiership speedsters Tom Biggs and Christian Wade will be eyeing an England call-upBy Max ForsythWITH NEXT Wednesday’s announcement of England squad announcement looming, Rugby World looks ahead to five head-to-head clashes in this weekend’s Aviva PremiershipTom Johnson v Tom Wood (Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints, Saturday 3pm)Sandy Park will play host to a joust of epic proportions between two blindsides who have had mixed fortunes with England in the last 12 months. Tom Johnson, so impressive around the field on the tour to South Africa, paid the price for his side’s frustrating 20-14 defeat against Australia when he was dropped ahead of the Springboks’ return leg at Twickenham in November.Johnson’s place was taken by Tom Wood, who starts on the bench on Saturday, and he will want to prove his lineout skills and unrelenting workrate are worthy of retaining the England shirt that saw him pick up the Man of the Match award against New Zealand.Christian Wade v Tom Biggs (London Wasps v Bath, Sunday, 3pm)Form suggests that full-back Mike Brown will wear the left-wing shirt when Scotland visit England’s HQ on February 2 but it is clear the Harlequin prefers the extra space given to him playing at 15. Unfortunately wing is one position England are not blessed with strength in depth and Brown will undoubtedly do a job.Christian Wade, the jet-heeled flyer has been making waves in the Premiership and Europe and his 15 tries in 28 Premiership appearances – he’s second in the Premiership scoring charts – is proof of a formidable strike rate. You’d wager Wade can’t be too far from an England call-up.Tom Biggs meanwhile is a great finisher, scoring a memorable hat-trick against Wasps at Twickenham in 2011, and his form earned the Bath man a call up to the England training squad before the New Zealand test.Class operator: Jonathan Joseph faces Billy TwelvetreesBilly Twelvetrees v Jonathan Joseph (Gloucester v London Irish, Saturday 3pm)Billy Twelvetrees may just have lost his personal duel with Anthony Allen to back up Saracen Brad Barritt last weekend, but he will have another chance to stake his claim for a place in the midfield when he pits his creative skills against Jonathan Joseph.
Getting in a tizzy over Izzy: Israel Folau caused havoc in the first Test, benefitting from the Lion’s scrambling defenceBy Alan DymockTHE DIFFICULT second Test is coming and both teams have finalised their lineups. The Wallabies have swapped out injured players, while the British and Irish Lions have made five changes.Warren Gatland himself said: “I don’t know about not changing a winning side; it is about picking the best team to do the job for us.” He is hinting at tactical reasons for the cutting and pasting of his team sheet. Looking back at the first Test footage, he certainly has reasons to change.DefenceLooking at the game, there is cause for dropping Tom Croft, as well as requesting that defence coach Andy Farrell shores things up.Shooting stars: Defensive shape in Test one tied centres upFor Australia’s first try, 12 minutes in, Will Genia took a tap penalty. He ran, in a position where it was three on three and the Lions were retreating. Croft gambled, shooting out of the line to get at James O’Connor, but Genia dummied and Croft was stranded. With a three on two, Mike Phillips was all at sea, chopping in and out trying to keep up with Genia, and as North and Halfpenny converged to try and close the attack down a sublime grubber allowed Israel Folau the freedom to canter over the line.This was not an isolated incident, though. For Folau’s second, Croft shot out again, this time after a few phases. He was not helped by the fact that, relatively close to the middle of the park, both Jonathan Davies and Brian O’Driscoll advanced beyond the defensive line, tackling together but then trying to disrupt the ball. This meant a re-shuffling of the defensive line and by the time Croft flew up on Stephen Moore and the hooker threaded the ball to his outside support, there was a deep lying three opposite two drifting defenders. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 24: Dan Lydiate who will captain the Lions against Melbourne Rebels looks on during the British and Irish Lions captain’s run at AMMI Park on June 24, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) Maybe with discipline and touch-finders, things will get that little bit easier for the Lions, defensively, in the second Test.Check out our tactical explanation of why change was needed for the Lions attack, here. The defensive strategy of pushing up a defensive pair in what is ostensibly the traditional 13 channel is a step away from the inside push towards the touchline and also the outside push from the wingers and full-back that had been so heavily punished by the Waratahs and Queensland Reds earlier in the series. However, this meant that when Folau got the ball in space he was opposite Jonny Sexton, who he brushed off, Alex Corbisiero who he palmed away, and then a racing Leigh Halfpenny who cannot match him for muscle.Shooting does seem to be a recurring issue. The defensive schizophrenia which saw the Lions defend one way against the provinces and another against the Wallabies means that the personnel are a week or so behind, even if they don’t know it yet.Enforcer: Lydiate will keep the defence honestJust before Kurtley Beale’s first successful penalty in the second half, 59 minutes in, George North flew out of the line while the team were on the halfway, five points ahead. He was off his wing. Why is a blitz more important than re-positioning when you are ahead and in a relatively safe position?This is one instance where the crossover of League-style defence seems lost in Union. So while scrambling and desperate, with a mix of positions in your line, players get greedy at the breakdown, desperate to incite a turnover rather than consolidate. This is why Paul O’Connell had to kill ball on his own five metre line after Sexton and Davies were still blitzing away from others only inches from their own try-line.A team shape would be better against a counter attacking Aussie team, and clearly Dan Lydiate is preferred as the man who can enforce this. Croft is still on the bench for his attacking prowess, but discipline is needed. Alex Cuthbert is also on the bench after his own positional naivety and Ben Youngs is brought in for a better kicking option.
The SaintsSuper subFinally, after 17 defeats (some of them clutched agonisingly at the last minute from the jaws of victory) Worcester Warriors claimed their first Aviva Premiership win of the season, and the unlikely hero was a replacement centre making only his fourth league appearance.With 69 minutes on the clock in the basement battle at Newcastle Falcons, the score was 12-12. Then Andy Symons, all 6ft 5in and 16st 5lb of him, lit up the game with a charging run from just inside the Falcons’ half. When he was stopped a couple of metres from the line on the left, Josh Drauniniu was on hand to take the pass and dive in for the try in the corner and this time the Warriors hung on for a 17-12 victory.Worcester are still nine points adrift of Newcastle at the bottom of the table with four games to play and as they have to travel away to Saracens and Bath their hopes of survival are still slim. But as their director of rugby Dean Ryan said: “We knew if we didn’t win here today it was gone. This breathes a little bit of life into us. I am really pleased the group have got a reward.”In the Niko of timeGlasgow Warriors were 6-9 down at home to the Ospreys with five minutes on the clock, in a game they needed to win to keep up the pressure in their hunt for a top-four spot in the RaboDirect Pro 12.Niko Matawalu broke from his own half and put a great kick through which Tommy Seymour chased. The Scotland wing did superbly to bravely beat Dan Biggar to the touchdown and score the try, but Duncan Weir missed the conversion, so the Warriors had some nail-biting to do at just 11-9 ahead.They thought they had extended that lead when Finn Russell touched down a couple of minutes later but the try was disallowed and the Ospreys went looking for the winning score. The Welsh visitors patiently created a drop-goal chance for Biggar, but who was there to charge it down and save the game – Matawalu.The win leaves the Warriors in fifth spot, just one point behind the Ospreys but with two games in hand, so with every chance of moving up into the play-off places.Rees is the wordThe British Isles rugby family held its breath and hoped for the best when Wales and Lions hooker Matthew Rees announced he was being treated for testicular cancer last October. But on Saturday the Cardiff Blues hooker returned to action and helped inspire his team-mates to a 28-23 victory over Ulster.Inspiration: Rees (left) is back in actionThe Blues’ performance was an utter transformation from last weekend’s lame 34-9 defeat by the Ospreys. All-action Josh Navidi was man of the match, the pack were magnificent and Alex Cuthbert deserves a mention for a magical back-handed pass to set Robin Copeland on his way to a great try.Caretaker coach Dale McIntosh said his team had done a lot of soul-searching after the loss to the Ospreys and talking about Rees he summed up the feelings of many, saying: “The guy is an icon. We look at him and he’s an example to us all. He came out there and looked like he hadn’t been away from the game.”Rees himself thanked everyone for their amazing support through his illness and Martyn Williams, a former team-mate for the Blues and Wales, added: “His positive mindset has been unbelievable – an absolute inspiration to everybody.” TAGS: Cardiff BluesGlasgow WarriorsHighlightWorcester Warriors Try time: Drauniniu is congratulated by team-mates including Symons (23) Suni side upEvery international team wants to go to the World Cup finals and two tries in quick succession from the Suniula brothers, Shalom and Andrew, ensured that the USA will be there in 2015.Playing over two legs for the right to take up a place in Pool B at the tournament in England, the USA Eagles and Uruguay were locked together at 27-27 after the first leg.Uruguay took a 13-3 half-time lead in the second game and looked to be firmly in the driving seat as the USA made a lot of errors, but they fought back after the break and the Suniulas struck in the last 15 minutes to take their team to a 32-13 win on the day and a 59-40 triumph on aggregate.The SinnersKicking himselfHe will doubtless enjoy many moments in his career when he is the match-winning hero, but like all goal-kickers, George Ford is also sometimes cast as the villain after missing a crucial kick and that was the case this weekend. In wet conditions which made kicking difficult, the young Bath fly-half effectively cost his team the game against Sale Sharks when he missed a conversion and two drop-goal attempts in the last five minutes, with Bath trailing 11-12. It meant the Sharks pulled up to within four points of Bath in the race for fourth spot in the Aviva Premiership, so leaving the west-country side with work to do to ensure they don’t blow their playoff chances.In a tangle: Ben Foden and the Tigers physioTiger’s tripLeicester became the first team to beat Northampton at Franklins Gardens in the Premiership this season, sneaking home 22-16 in a game that had its share of controversy.There was talk of Dylan Hartley biting Tom Youngs, although the Northampton player was not punished at the time and is not being cited, then Leicester had two players sent to the sin-bin – something which never goes down well with Tigers’ boss Richard Cockerill.The final talking point came right at the death when Manu Tuilagi took the ball into touch in the right-hand corner, close to his own goal line, and Ben Foden’s attempts to take a quick lineout to steal a potentially winning score at the death were thwarted by a Leicester physio, who stumbled over the ball in touch and therefore made a quick throw-in impossible.Did the physio kick the ball deliberately? Should he had been a little further away from play, rather than running along beside it? Should referee Wayne Barnes have used some discretion and allowed the lineout to be taken despite the fact time was up? The answers to all three questions are debatable, and there’s no guarantee that Northampton would have scored and converted a try if play had continued – although they were facing only 13 men. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS We select our heroes and villains from a tense and action-packed weekend However, it’s worth the powers-that-be considering what should happen if an employee of a club such as a physio is involved in a similar incident in the future.
Taking on the biggest job: Freddie Burns has been picked at fly-half for England, facing Aaron Cruden While the sillier chat before this game has seen the All Blacks being accused of getting England players’ names wrong and not knowing who they are facing and England boys off to get their hooves tended to at the salon, posing for pictures mid-pedicure, the fact of the matter is that some experienced England players will lead some not-so-experienced England players into a match at Eden Park that would force most mere mortals to relieve themselves with fear.Knowing me, knowing you: Eastmond will be tested by NZ, but he may surprise them tooAn exciting challenge, no doubt, but while England monitor Danny Care’s fitness after a ‘jar’ to his shoulder and holding a weary, newly-arrived Premiership champion like Lee Dickson on standby, New Zealand have an axis of Aaron Smith, Cruden, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith to run their plays.If England are to upset New Zealand under lights on Saturday, they will need form and comfort to go out of the window and for wiser, more battle-hardened partnerships in the Kiwi backline to be truly shocked by the lesser-known names in England’s.Let’s hope Burns and Eastmond are truly unknown to the All Blacks, and that they catch them off guard with a run or two. A little bit of mystery would be a welcome part of a Test that is already being prematurely written off as predictable.England XV to face New Zealand: Mike Brown; Marland Yarde, Manu Tuilagi, Kyle Eastmond, Jonny May; Freddie Burns, Danny Care; Joe Marler, Rob Webber, David Wilson, Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw (c), Ben Morgan.England bench: Joe Gray, Henry Thomas, Matt Mullan, Dave Attwood, Tom Johnson, Ben Youngs, Danny Cipriani, Chris PennellAll Blacks XV to Face England: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Cory Jane; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino. All Blacks bench: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Victor Veto, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.Read all about Danny Care, Danny Cipriani and Israel Dagg in the latest edition of Rugby World– and you can find out where to buy your copy here or download our free magazine finder app here. Plus, download the digital edition here. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS For the first Test in a colossal three-match series against the All Blacks, Stuart Lancaster has named what he feels is a “strong side”.Well-worn logistical issues and injuries have meant that an untried pairing of Freddie Burns and Kyle Eastmond make up the vital channel between No 10 and No 12 while James Haskell’s impressive end-of-season form for Wasps sees the flanker usurp Tom Johnson on the blindside, but there are familiar partnerships throughout the pack and with the English back three.However, while Lancaster is delighted to call upon some experienced Test animals on such a big week, his starting 15 collectively have 299 caps to their names. The All Blacks XV to face them at Eden Park in Auckland this Saturday has 779.The theme of returning to the Test arena may well be the one that pulls up the headlines. 50-capper Haskell comes onto England’s flank, Danny Cipriani is on the scene and Jerome Kaino packs down at No 8 for the All Blacks on his return from Japanese rugby, replacing the concussed and rested Kieran Read. There is no shortage of players holding their hand up for selection.Caged animal: Jerome Kaino is back from Japan and packing down at No 8“I look at the pack, with James Haskell coming in who hasn’t had an opportunity for a while, with Geoff Parling in the side, Rob Webber who has been a good player for us and gets his opportunity,” said Lancaster on his team. “I guess the key decision centres around fly-half. Freddie Burns had done enough to warrant the start. Danny Cipriani has definitely made some good progress and I’m more than happy to accommodate him on the bench.”Lancaster also suggests that fate has dealt him a good hand with one selection, with injury meaning that Chris Pennell coming in for an injured Anthony Watson on the bench and impressing in training.On the other side of the divide, Steve Hansen has had his own decision to make at fly-half. Beauden Barrett sits on the bench with Aaron Cruden taking the starting No 10 jersey for the All Blacks.While Hansen joked about new sensation Malakai Fekitoa being the replacement second five-eighth – No 12 to you and me – despite only being seen at 13 or on the wing, he has a “caged animal” in Kaino coming back and a stand-off he trusts to take it to Burns, with the chat in New Zealand being just as much about Cruden’s form as chat in England has been about Burns banishing the ghosts of a forgettable domestic season,“It comes down to a number of things,” Hansen said of his decision to pick Cruden over Barrett. “One: he’s the incumbent. Two: we think he plays better starting rather than coming off the bench. Three: he’s got a couple of games under his belt and he’s back to his cheeky self around here. He’s ready to go and he’s a good reader of the game, a good organizer and I believe he’s very comfortable now in that role.”
There are two sides to Mike Brown. The public image is intense, heart on sleeve, in-your-face buccaneering England full-back, with the moniker Mr Angry. Yet away from the madding crowd, Mike Brown cuts an altogether more relaxed mien. Away from the camera lens, he’s at ease; laughing and joking with his England colleagues and putting in the time to coach a glut of starry-eyed youngsters at the Harlequins’ training base in Guildford.With the Grand Slam still fresh in the memory, the worry lines etched on his brow from England’s World Cup despair are absent and on a sunny day in the Surrey Hills, he has the look of a man happy with his lot in life.Minutes after clinching the Grand Slam, Brown was captured embracing his father in the throng of the cavernous Stade de France. It was win that had acted as catharsis from the trauma of the autumn. “You’re right”, he smiles. “It was a special, emotional evening to finally do it. We were only the 13th England side to win it in over 130-odd years and to be honest we were fed up of finishing second. There’s now no doubt we’re the number one team in Europe and to be able to say that is amazing, a testament to all the hard work we’ve put in.”Putting it back in: Mike Brown passes on his sage advice to up and coming playersThe turnaround from the dark days against Wales and latterly Australia, when sections of the crowd booed the team are tangible, and it speaks volumes for Eddie Jones’ restorative powers that England didn’t carry any emotional scars during the tournament.When probed on the reasons for the turnaround, Brown, who was appointed vice-captain, along with Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, points at Eddie Jones’ refocusing on the fundamentals of England traditional strengths, namely a strong set-piece, physical dominance and fusing it with a pressing, offensive game. “We probably showed that expansive side in two of our five games but more important was not taking a backward step, and exerting pressure on the opposition.”There were other tweaks too. Where the House of Lancaster was said to be stifling as the World Cup approached, Eddie Jones, a veteran Test coach of Australia, South Africa and Japan, has set a more relaxed tone. “Off the field Eddie invested in the social side a bit more, or as Mako Vunipola said ‘burgers and beers’. Eddie is an astute man.”On the burst: Mike Brown makes a break against Wales in the Six NationsWhile Jones, who plays the wily Aussie larrakin perfectly, throwing out grenades at will, he knows when to unwind, he also knows when to ramp it up and Brown says the players are in doubt of his edge. “Eddie is hard when he needs to be. He challenges you physically and mentally to get better around camp. He knows how to build up team spirit with a team like England who don’t get to see each other enough before tournaments.”There were other moments of ingenuity from Jones in Brown’s eyes; bringing in Wallaby snaffler-supreme George Smith and England icon Jonny Wilkinson. “That was a genius move. George is still at the top of his game and having Jonny’s presence around the camp was incredible. He’s still got it, I can tell you that.” The France game was a milestone for Brown personally. He became the most capped England full-back of all time, passing Matt Perry on 36 caps (of Brown’s 48 caps, 11 have come on the wing), but it’s not something he’s be dwelling on. “Someone mentioned that milestone but I’m not one for looking back. I’ll pat myself on the back when we’ve won a World Cup. I still have so much to achieve. It’s about the team goals, not just picking up caps.”End of the road: England will face Australia this summer after World Cup heartacheBrown’s impatience is shared by his coach, as within an hour of winning England’s first Grand Slam since 2003, Eddie Jones was courting the press about the need for the Slam to be the stepping stone for England; a start not an end, with a Series win in Australia next on the list. “It’s about time someone was bullish about us. It gives us confidence that he believes in us enough to talk us up in public. He can be a tough and challenging but he’s a proven winner.”In June, England will be running out at the hostile amphitheatres of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, with hot-steppers Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Tevita Kuridrani expected to fend with but Jones’ boys, but Brown swats away talk of the Wallabies threats, instead focusing inwards. “What will stop us is what we do”, he says pointedly. “If we let them play their game, they’ll win, simple as that. They deserved to win the World Cup game. End of. They were fantastic but if we play like we can, we will cause them problems. We will go Down Under as Europe’s best and the next step is taking on the World’s No 2 team on their own patch.”Heavy traffic: Harlequins need to perform to secure a vital top six Premiership placingFor now, Brown has domestic matters to attend to, with a tricky win over London Irish chalked off in the Challenge Cup meaning silverware is still on offer and a top six spot in the Premiership to secure with Quins still duking it out with Sale Sharks, after a season which has left Brown less than impressed. “We haven’t done it this year. It’s been a disappointing if we’re honest. We’ve not been good enough which is why we are where we are. We’re still in with a chance in the Challenge Cup but we know we have to win every game in the league – we don’t want to finish 8th again!”With that, it’s back out onto the paddock to shape young minds. The battles for world supremacy can wait.Mike Brown was speaking at the adidas Rugby Insiders ‘Better Player’ event. For more info or to take part in future events www.adidasrugbyinsiders.co.uk or follow @adidasUK #rugbyinsiders LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS After securing a first England Slam in 13 years, MIke Brown says England’s next target must be regularly going toe-to-toe with the best, with world No 2 Australia in his sights For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here.
Portugal make history as they retain the U20 European Championship titleFor the first time ever, Portugal clinched back-to-back titles in Rugby Europe’s U20 European Championship, matching the feat of Georgia. In an echo of last year’s triumph, they defeated Spain in the final in front of a full house in Sérgio Conceição Stadium in Taveiro (Coimbra).But how did Portugal and Spain end up in the final? What of Romania or Russia, two sides who in the past have had a major say in the competition?Well, there were some surprises. Who would have thought that the Netherlands would claim a spot in the semi-finals? The Dutch aren’t accustomed to battling it out so deep into tournaments, but they reached the last four for the first time by ousting Romania in an outstanding nail-biter that finished 40-38.Romania lacked the speed and capability to suppress the Netherlands’ back-line attack and conceded three tries in each half. It wasn’t enough to dominate the scrum or lineout, as the Romanians gave away too much possession through handling errors. In contrast, the Netherlands were clinical behind a quick and impressive pack.Dutch class: the Netherlands (left) came up in leaps and bounds, making the semis (Antonio Fernandes)Despite a last-minute try by Romania, their chances of levelling the score were shattered as the conversion went wide. So history was made and the Netherlands advanced to a semi-final against the home team, Portugal. The Dutch dream versus the 2017 champions.Due to a vacancy left by Germany, a regional Portuguese side completed the eight-team line-up and was easily defeated by the Portugal national side in the quarter-finals. The semi-final was a close affair for long stretches but Portugal proved too strong for the Dutch in the scrum and emerged 22-7 winners.The Netherlands then lost the bronze-medal match 38-7 to Russia, but their growth between 2017 and 2018 has been impossible to miss. In the future they will need to figure out how to counter their opponents’ scrum and to be more disciplined at the breakdown.One player to watch in the coming years is Kevin Krieger. The No 8 and captain played a huge role in the Netherlands’ success in this competition.Another name to remember is Marc Mistoun, a powerful inside-centre who always threatened to break the line and score tries. He can also kick at goal, with his accuracy off the tee instrumental in the victory over Romania.Romania with plenty to ponderSome may be surprised to hear that Romania – a fixture in the senior World Cup – are failing to achieve higher placings at U18 or U20 level in the last couple of years. Third place is the best they’ve managed recently at youth level.Romania U20 have big athletes, with a brutal and powerful drive giving them dominance in the pack. Valentin Matache and Peter Chiriac were two of the best forwards in the competition, with that aggressive physicality that Romanians are known for.But their game execution became stale because of a lack of speed in the build-up plays and insufficient strength at the breakdown.Might of the maul: forward power is never a problem for the Romanians (Antonio Fernandes)After losing to the Netherlands, Romania went on to secure fifth place by beating Portugal Regional Centro-Norte and Ukraine by handsome margins. Yet you could see real issues in the open play, as poor passes and knock-ons ended some interesting moves.There are ideas there but rugby is quicker now than ever before, forcing players to be quicker and agile, and the Romanians lost that battle against the Dutch.Fifth place behind Portugal, Spain, Russia and the Netherlands is a sign that something is wrong and it must be addressed if Romania are to close the gap on Portugal and Spain.More pain for SpainThis is not proving a great year for the Spanish union after failing to get to Japan 2019 and incurring heavy suspensions for five players that will take some quality from their set-up.Their U20 side was again close to achieving the dream of qualifying for the World Rugby U20 Trophy with superb performances in the quarter- and semi-finals. In the first match, Spain brushed aside Ukraine 81-0, with openside Simon Zubizarreta delivering a fine exhibition.Kicking on: Juan Carrasco kicks points for Spain v Russia before injury intervened (Antonio Fernandes)The Spanish players looked fresh and composed, slick moves easing their passage to the final. Russia, stronger at the scrum, never really menaced Los Leones, coughing up possession.Although not the biggest team around, Spain showed that a combination of speed, agility and intensity can unlock most opponents. Wing Lucas Martin, a real speedster with good handling skills, and Juan Carrasco were two who caught the eye in the first two games.Unfortunately, injury cost Spain the services of their fly-half Carrasco for the final against Portugal. It dealt a serious blow to Spain as he was the one who set up most of the plays or took pressure off his team with a smart kicking game.That wasn’t the only problem for Spain as their rivals would put an end to their dream.Portugal turn on the style Victory over Spain in Coimbra clinched back-to-back European U20 titles for Portugal. Francisco Isaac reports on a championship of thrills, spills and surprises Champions: Portugal celebrate after their convincing defeat of Spain in the final (Tatiana Contreiras) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Portugal conceded only one try in three games, an all-time best in the competition and evidence of the rich promise they have at youth level.Former Portugal captain Luís Pissarra is the mastermind behind the coaching team and Portugal have won nine of their last ten games, the only defeat coming against Japan in the U20 World Rugby Trophy last September.What are the secrets behind Portugal’s victory in 2018? Perfection in every area of the game. Against Spain, they won five of their opponents’ scrums, pushing back Spain to win penalties that drove the home team forward.Portugal seized every opportunity to turn over the ball, showing real prowess in the breakdown, something that Spain never managed to do.Nuno Mascarenhas, already a senior international, José Roque, João F Vital and Manuel Pinto are some of the Portuguese forwards that provided that consistency. In the final, flanker Pinto stole Spanish ball on six occasions, attacking the breakdown with speed and wit.Try time! Portugal scrum-half Duarte Azevedo crosses Spain’s line in the final (Antonio Fernandes)But more than anything, what paved the way to the title was the tackling and defensive strategy. Portugal missed only ten of their 100 tackles, closing every gap and space that Spanish players tried to escape through.Rugby fans all over the world remember that Os Lobos in 2007 were recognised for their fearsome and brave tackling, showing a relentlessness that took most by surprise.At U20 level, missing a tackle doesn’t seem to be an option as they showed during the whole competition. Additionally, Portugal mounted strong attacking lines with Manuel Cardoso Pinto – remember that full-back who scored one of the best tries in the 2017 European Championship? – and Rodrigo Marta wreaking havoc in the Dutch and Spanish lines.Duarte Costa Campos, Martim Cardoso and Duarte Azevedo were Portugal’s try-scorers in the final, with João Lima and Simão Van Zeller adding extras with the boot. Lander Mujika kicked Spain’s solitary penalty in what proved a 25-3 reverse.The European Championship will return in 2019, with doubt remaining over Germany after they failed to appear in Portugal due to budget issues. Luxembourg, Belgium and Czech Republic declined an invitation to replace Germany this year due to a lack of preparation time, leading to a Portuguese regional side stepping in.Portugal will now prepare for the World Rugby Trophy taking place in September in Romania. Fiji, Samoa (relegated from last year’s U20 World Cup), Uruguay, Namibia and Hong Kong are some of the teams that have already booked their place in the competition.Samoa, being tackled during the 2015 Junior World Cup, are back in the Trophy competition (Getty)Pissarra, the former Lobos international scrum-half and coach of Portugul U20, spoke with us after this championship…RW: Luís, were Portugal the best team? What was the secret to beating Spain?LP: For me, Portugal were the strongest team through the tournament. In the final, Spain had ten minutes of dominance but we quickly recovered and started to work very well in the breakdown. We controlled the game from that moment until the final whistle.Our wins against Spain and Netherlands go way beyond strategy or good performances, it’s about the group and the ‘family’ we have built. The team believed it was possible to win the tournament and they followed the game plan to perfection.No doubt that the way we tackle, the pressure we apply and our aggressive work in the breakdown took our adversaries by storm. The scrum was also important to win space and show dominance.Pass master: Luis Pissarra, the current Portugal U20 coach, in action at the 2007 World Cup (AFP/Getty)RW: Do you feel the overall quality of the tournament compared well to 2017?LP: I think the absence of Belgium and Germany was felt throughout the competition. Russia and Romania were a bit under the radar, but Netherlands showed they are developing quite nicely. Spain are doing an excellent job and deserved the spot in the final.RW: How will your team prepare for the U20 World Rugby Trophy?LP: Now starts the hardest part. We have to be strong mentally and physically as we are going to be away from home for two weeks in September. We are going to face Fiji, Uruguay and USA or Canada in our pool, so it will be hard and challenging.FINAL DAY SCORESChampionship final: Portugal 25-3 SpainBronze final: Russia 38-7 NetherlandsFifth-place final: Romania 76-13 UkraineSeventh-place final: Poland 29-19 Portugal Regional Centro-Norte RUGBY WORLD INDIVIDUAL PRIZESPlayer of the Tournament: Nuno Mascarenhas and João Lima (both Portugal)Best tackler: Daniel Barranco (Spain)Best forward: Kevin Krieger (Netherlands) and Manuel Pinto (Portugal)Best back: Rodrigo Marta (Portugal)Best try: Manuel Cardoso Pinto, for Portugal v NetherlandsBest referee: Neil Chivers (England)
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw takes swipe at refereeGreig Laidlaw appeared to criticise referee Romain Poite when he was interviewed on the pitch after Scotland’s 22-13 Six Nations defeat by Ireland at BT Murrayfield.The Scotland captain was doing his post-match interview with the BBC and said: “Romain doesn’t seem to like us. He refereed us against South Africa as well and we don’t seem to see eye-to-eye.”Scrum-half Laidlaw was referring to the November Test against the Springboks, which Scotland lost 26-20, and also pointed to a specific decision he didn’t agree with in the Ireland fixture.Watch the full interview here… Scotland play France next while Ireland head to Italy.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Greig Laidlaw has a dig at Romain Poite after Scotland’s Six Nations defeat by Ireland Coach Gregor Townsend had sympathy for Laidlaw’s exasperation, saying in his post-match press conference: “Nines always get frustrated when they don’t get the ball away cleanly or quickly, if they’re not getting rewards for players’ hands on the ball. I can understand his frustration but it’s a tough game to referee and Romain is an outstanding referee.”The words came after Ireland had scored three tries to Scotland’s one in this match.Ireland led only 12-10 at half-time but extended their lead in the second half with a Keith Earls try and Scotland’s errors meant they couldn’t work their way back into the match.Related: Jacob Stockdale scores try, makes try and stops try against ScotlandThese two sides meet again on the opening weekend of this year’s World Cup – and Ireland look to hold the advantage right now having beaten their pool rivals at home.And Ireland secured that victory without fly-half Johnny Sexton for much of the game. The World Player of the Year left the pitch in the 24th minute after taking several big tackles – one particularly powerful hit coming from Allan Dell as he set up Jacob Stockdale for a try – and didn’t return after failing an HIA.Related: What’s a head injury assessment?Joey Carbery came on and ran the game well, releasing Rob Kearney in the wide channels on several occasions and providing the try-scoring pass for Earls. Feeling blue: Greig Laidlaw looks dejected after Scotland’s loss to Ireland (Getty Images) “He doesn’t seem to like us,”Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw wasn’t impressed with the performance of referee Romain Poite after his side were beaten by Ireland in the #SixNations.Continuing #SCOvIRE reaction https://t.co/BkHCpGp693#bbcrugby #SixNations2019 pic.twitter.com/U11h6fBM0f— BBC Rugby Union (@bbcrugbyunion) February 9, 2019While Laidlaw went on to say he didn’t blame Frenchman Poite for the defeat by Ireland, saying that the team had to look at themselves, it is unusual for players to be so outspoken in terms of officials.
Get to know Argentina’s Pablo MateraIT WAS a barnstorming performance before they even reached the field. Standing in the tunnel, non-playing members of the Jaguares squad were chanting and clapping, squeezing in tight so that the starting team had to battle through a party to head onto the pitch for their Super Rugby semi-final against the Brumbies.Unsurprisingly, back-row boss Pablo Matera was bouncing, bringing the most energy to his escape. During the game he was just as vigorous. The Jaguares crushed the Aussie side 39-7.In the Super Rugby final the Argentinian outfit succumbed to the Crusaders. However, Matera was again to the fore and took the Man of the Match gong.His rise has been jet-fuelled but it all could have been so different.Roar: With Jaguares (Getty Images)“To be honest, my family had nothing to do with rugby,” Matera tells Rugby World of his start in the game. “Here the main sport is football so any young kid will start playing that. But after the 2007 World Cup, rugby started growing a lot in Argentina. Like many kids, I was really enthusiastic about learning the game, so I went to Alumni, my home club, and started developing there.“After 2007 it was something really new. Nobody knew we could go that far. As a nation we have been very amateur, but that year we had so many players who were professional in Europe. That was a great team and they knew every player in France as so many played there. I think that’s why we were able to beat them twice at that World Cup and finish third.“It was maybe the biggest thing in Argentinian rugby history.”Matera began running amok on the fields of Alumni as he turned 15, but the spark plug would soon be marked for something special. By his own admission he did not think of the Pumas at first, only of playing with his mates. But at 17 he was taken to an U20s camp.Missing out on that Junior World Championship spurred him on. The next year he was taken to South Africa with the rep side, playing the Boks in a semi-final at a packed Newlands. Then and there he decided he wanted to make a senior World Cup.He played with the U20s the next year too, in France. But after that trip he was whisked off play for the senior Pumas in all six Rugby Championship ties.“It was all really fast,” Matera, 26, says, in an ample understatement.The changes didn’t stop there. “Marcos Ayerza was playing for Leicester Tigers and he was the one who told me their coach was interested in me. That’s when I realised I could go to Europe. Leader of men: Pablo Matera in the tunnel (Getty Images) Related: Argentina 28-12 Tonga“I didn’t think about it, I just said ‘yes’. So two days later, after the Rugby Championship, I was moving to England. I was very young, didn’t think much, but I don’t regret it because I learnt a lot there and improved my game.”Matera admits to frustrations. He was on a treadmill that had been spinning for some time, going from junior caps to his senior debut for Alumni, making an Argentina XV, playing in a Rugby Championship and then landing in Leicester.He found the language difficult so new systems were tough, the weather was alien to him, he had more admin to deal with than any young man living at home with mum and three sisters ever has to do and, he laughs, he couldn’t find any meat quite as good as he was used to in Argentina.Fierce rivals: Attacking the All Blacks (Getty Images)He wanted to quit the Tigers due to a lack of games, but his mum convinced him to see out his contract. He was then one of the few pros to join the Jaguares in their early days, when many incomers were amateurs. Now he appreciates lessons from Europe.His franchise have improved yearly, as has he. People all over the globe know his name. And they know the passion he brings (it comes as no surprise that when he was asked to captain the Pumas last year – taking over from the legendary Agustín Creevy – his first call was to his mum).Matera has played in one World Cup, but with this one more eyes will be on him. He says: “People in Argentina are really excited because the Jaguares had a great season. People think that their players are able to beat any team.“We’re concerned that Jaguares rugby and international rugby are a different thing and that having a great season with the club will not mean a great year with the Pumas. We need to improve a lot in order to continue winning games.“And we are in the most difficult pool (with England and France). Losing against France in the first game will make it really difficult to go through to the quarter-finals.“But it being in Japan will make no difference to us. Many of us have already played there. We will prepare for the tournament in Australia, so we will be fine with the difference in time zones.”Things can feel so manageable when you’ve spent your career trajectory riding on a rocket.This article originally appeared in the October issue of Rugby World magazine. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Captain, totem, powerhouse – there will be no missing the Pumas flanker in Japan Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Matt Toomua: How to find space at centre Jump to it: Emily Scarratt leaps to catch the ball (Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett, the World Rugby… “Some people can jump off both legs but I favour my left leg as my take-off leg. So I find it easier if we’re kicking off on the right-hand side of the pitch, as I can bring my body round to the ball.“I’ll drive off my left foot and there’s a right-foot knee drive to get the height, then as that happens I throw my arms into the air as well.”MORE SKILLS ADVICE… Collapse Beauden Barrett: How to mix your kicks Expand The World Player of the Year gives her top tips on winning back possession Every month Rugby World features advice from professional players and coaches on specific skills. Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Jess Breach: How to deliver a hand-off Matt Toomua: How to find space at centre Jess Breach: How to deliver a hand-off Being prepared“You have to be quite brave as there are a lot of collisions and you rarely land back on your feet. It’s important to brace yourself as if you hit another person’s body and you’re limp, you’ll not get anywhere near the ball.“If two people are contesting at the height of the ball, look to tap it back as trying to catch it then is a lot more difficult.”This article originally appeared in the February 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine. Beauden Barrett: How to mix your kicks Expand The Australia back offers tips on exploiting space… The Harlequins and England wing gives her tips… Emily Scarratt: How to regain at restarts Emily Scarratt, World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in 2019, uses her height and athleticism to regain possession for her team at restarts, a skill she has transferred from her time playing sevens. Here the England centre explains how to do it…Keeping possession“Regaining restarts is more prolific in sevens, but it’s becoming a bigger thing in 15s. It’s another way of getting the ball back in a good position on the pitch.“A short kick to compete from the restart gives you a 50-50 chance of getting the ball back; with a good kicker and a decent catcher, the odds are more in your favour.”Kicking on target“Good kickers either plant the ball straight on somebody – it’s quite hard for them to gather it as they can only jump up and have no momentum – or put it into space so you potentially don’t have any competition.“Katy Daley-Mclean generally hits it towards the five-metre line, so I’ll start my run on the five so I’m coming from the outside in to catch it rather than having to get back to the ball. It’s harder to chase it back over your head.”Taking off