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Home > Blogs > Rupert Bates - A weekly blog from the world of rugby
Your NewsRupert Bates - A weekly blog from the world of rugby

Sunday 26th June 2011

 England 22 New Zealand 33

 By Rupert Bates


This was one of the great games of rugby at any level. The fact that this final was played out by teenagers at the end of a ferocious tournament made the intensity and skill levels on display even more remarkable.

New Zealand won their fourth successive Junior World Championship – they’ve won them all – but they did not deserve to win this one. It was Lucky Blacks not Baby Blacks in Padova, Italy tonight as an inspired England, by far the more adventurous and purposeful, were thwarted by crucial errors and lack of composure at key moments – not to mention being on the wrong end of a couple of refereeing decisions.

Meanwhile New Zealand, wise beyond their years, had the game management, led by outside-half Gareth Anscombe, and showed they have the defensive qualities as well as the offensive flair and opportunism to win big games. New Zealand at junior level, unlike their senior counterparts, do not choke in World finals.

It was a big night for New Zealand captain Luke Whitelock as he lifted the trophy. The number eight is the latest in the Canterbury Whitelock dynasty and was winning his second Junior World Championship.

England were immense to a man from the moment they belted out the National Anthem with lung-busting pride. The front-row did their grunt work superbly and showed great skills in open space. Sussex can be proud of its second row of Charlie Matthews, not long out of Hurstpierpoint College where he was head boy and partnered in the engine room by Joe Launchbury, a product of Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, while England’s back-row were tireless. Behind the pack England were a joy to watch, but lacking precision at times, with wheels that frightened New Zealand and that has never been said at this level.

“It was a tough battle. We thought we could take them tonight. The strength of our squad has been to dig deep and fight for each other. New Zealand have got a bit of everything and are dangerous all over the park,” said England’s outstanding captain Alex Gray.

England made a really positive start; clearly not intimidated by the scary statistic that New Zealand have never lost a game in the history of this championship.

George Ford, at just 18 the youngest player in the tournament, played a clever kicking game getting in behind New Zealand, playing in opposition territory.

England showed plenty of pace and invention outwide and it was the speed of Wasps flier Christian Wade, taking a clever inside pass from Owen Farrell, that produced England’s first try, although there was a suspicion Wade might have just brushed the touchline on the way in.

Gray was leading the huge forward effort, epitomized by tight-head Henry Thomas. The giant Sale prop, a product of Millfield, made a terrific try-saving tackle on wing Mitchell Scott on 22 minutes.

But New Zealand’s other wing Charles Piutau opened New Zealand’s try account in the 26th minute. New Zealand, spotting wing Andy Short down injured, spun it wide and a great run by Canterbury hooker CodieTaylor put Piutau away.

Auckland outside-half Gareth Anscombe was Dan Carter-esque with the boot and just before the break a driving maul from a lineout created a try for prop Ben Tameifuna, giving New Zealand a 20-10 half-time lead.

Anscombe stretched the advantage and then Ford missed a penalty in front of the post. But England then produced a magnificent try, started by a sumptuous offload from the tournament’s heaviest man Mako Vunipola and after a lovely floated pass by Owen Farrell, finished by fellow prop Thomas, showing pace and a nose for the whitewash that should mean instant dismissal from the front-row club. Ford converted from the touchline.

England were now on fire, playing terrific rugby, rocking the supposedly invincible Baby Blacks. Ford made a little step and offload to Matt Kvesic, but somehow New Zealand scurm-half TJ Perenara got an arm under the ball as the Worcester flanker, a warhorse throughout, tried to ground it.

No problem. England simply came back again for more and a beautiful kick by Elliot Daly was skilfully kicked on and touched down by Wade for the RGS High Wycombe alumnus to score his second of the game and seventh of the tournament, only for another Anscombe penalty to put New Zealand 26-22 ahead on the hour.

England were relentless, but mistakes were thwarting their ambition. On 71 minutes Ford, such a rich talent but hot and cold as a kicker, missed another penalty.

New Zealand had all the luck and five minutes from time Beauden Barrett, the Taranaki full-back, who has played for the New Zealand Sevens side, clearly handed off Ford before he gathered the ball for the crucial score and the unerring boot of Anscombe did the rest.





Ben Ransom (Saracens); Andy Short (Worcester), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Christian Wade (Wasps); George Ford (Leicester), Chris Cook (Bath); Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Mike Haywood (Northampton), Henry Thomas (Sale), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Charlie Matthews (Harlequins), Sam Jones (Wasps), Matt Kvesic (Worcester), Alex Gray (Newcastle – capt)




Rob Buchanan (Harlequins)

Will Collier (Harlequins)

Sam Twomey (Harlequins)

Matt Everard (Leicester)

Dan Robson (Gloucester)

Ryan Mills (Gloucester)

Marland Yarde (London Irish)




New Zealand


Beauden Barrett (Taranaki); Mitchell Scott (Tasman), Francis Saili (Auckland), Lima Sopoaga (Wellington), Charles Piutau (Auckland); Gareth Anscombe (Auckland), TJ Perenara (Wellington); Solomona Sakalia (Wellington), Codie Taylor (Canterbury), Ben Tameifuna (Hawke’s Bay), Steven Luatua (Auckland), Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay), Brad Shields (Wellington), Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty), Luke Whitelock (Canterbury -capt).




Sefo Setefano (Waikato)

Michael Kainga (Wellington)

Dominic Bird (Canterbury)

Carl Axtens (Bay of Plenty)

Brad Weber (Otago)

Rhys Llewellyn (Canterbury)

Waisake Naholo ((Taranaki)


Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)


5-0 Wade try

7-0 Ford con

7-3 Anscombe pen

7-8 Piutau try

7-10 Anscombe con

7-13 Anscombe pen

10-13 Ford pen

10-18 Tameifuna try

10-20 Anscombe con


10-23 Anscombe pen

15-23 Thomas try

17-23 Ford con

22-23 Wade try

22-26 Anscombe pen

22-31 Barrett try

22-33 Anscombe con



Posted by: , on June 26th 2011 on 07:23pm0 Comments
Thursday 23rd June 2011
England through to World Junior Championship final

Wednesday June 22, 2011
Issued by Stefan Curtis
England U20 fly half George Ford dives over to score
England U20 fly half George Ford dives over to score

England U20 33-18 France U20

England U20 are through to the final of the IRB Junior World Championship for the third time in four years after beating northern hemisphere rivals France 33-18 in Treviso, Italy. They will play reigning champions New Zealand on sunday.

Tries from London Wasps wing Christian Wade, Leicester Tigers fly half George Ford, Saracens full back Ben Ransom and Newcastle Falcons No. 8 and captain Alex Gray helped England to the win in what was a topsy-turvy encounter, played in hot conditions.

England started with real intensity and a strong scrum in the middle of the park was rewarded with a penalty that was kicked into touch by Ford. Northampton Saints hooker Mikey Haywood delivered a good throw from the line out and the ball was worked back to Farrell who kicked a grubber through for Wade to touch down for his fifth try of the competition. Ford missed the conversion.

France’s response was immediate, heavy pressure from the restart resulted in Perpignan prop Sebastian Taofifenua burrowing over to score, and the successful conversion from Jean Pascal Barraque gave France the lead at 7-5.

Both sides then exchanged penalties, Barraque for France and Ford for England, to make the score 10-8. Ford then missed a three-pointer that would have reclaimed the lead for Head Coach Rob Hunter’s men, dragging his kick just wide.

Ford’s nifty footwork freed up space in open play minutes later, but the 18-year-old fly half couldn’t find the support to back him up. England were applying heavy pressure on the French defence and almost broke through five minutes before the break. Ransom found some space behind the French line but was denied by an excellent last-ditch cover tackle.

England’s second try came just before half time, again, sustained pressure from the English pack resulted in Ford displaying some deft footwork to dodge several French tackles before crashing over to make the score 13-10 at the break, after the conversion was missed.

Sloppy play from England at the start of the second half handed France two early penalties, No. 13 Barraque missed the first but made no mistake with the second to tie the scores up at 13-apiece.

French wing Marvin O’Connor scored his side’s second try of the game with 52 minutes on the clock, making some space for himself along the touchline before cutting inside Ransom to touch down. The conversion was missed, giving France a five-point lead at 18-13.

England hit back with their third try just five minutes later. Ransom, who came within meters of scoring in the first half, made no mistake second time around, touching down wide of the posts after some strong phase play from his teammates. Ford’s successful conversion gave England back the lead at 20-18.

A Ford penalty after 65 minutes opened England’s lead up to five points, but France almost scored their third try ten minutes later in bizarre circumstance. A French line-out was won by England, but another ball appeared on the pitch while England had possession and the line-out was taken again. France won at the second attempt and almost scored in the corner, but the TV Match Official ruled that the ball wasn’t touched down.

Ford’s radar was again spot on with seven minutes left to play, converting a long range penalty to give England an eight point lead at 26-18. France then went over England’s try line, but Irish referee John Lacey pulled it back after spotting a forward pass in the build up.

With the clock past 80, France were throwing everything at England, but a loose pass in their own half was snapped up by captain Gray who ran through unopposed to touch down between the posts and Ford’s conversion brought the game to a close.

Points: Wade 1T, Ford 1T, Ransom 1T, Gray 1T; Ford 3P 2C.

England U20 starting XV v France:

15 Ben Ransom (Saracens)
14 Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)
13 Guy Armitage (London Irish)
12 Owen Farrell (Saracens)
11 Christian Wade (London Wasps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
9 Chris Cook (Bath Rugby)
1 Mako Vunipola Saracens
2 Mikey Haywood (Northampton Saints)
3 Will Collier (Harlequins)
4 Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
5 Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)
6 Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
7 Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers)
8 Alex Gray (C) (Newcastle Falcons)


16 Rob Buchanan (Harlequins) on for Mikey Haywood 53 mins
17 Ryan Bower (Leicester Tigers) on for Will Collier 77 mins
18 Sam Twomey (Harlequins) on for Joe Launchbury 77 mins
19 Sam Jones (London Wasps) on for Matt Kvesic 57 mins
20 Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby) on for Chris Cook 65 mins
21 Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby) on for Owen Farrell 50 mins
22 Marland Yarde (London Irish) on for Guy Armitage 56 mins


Posted by: , on June 23rd 2011 on 09:38am0 Comments
Tuesday 21st June 2011
England U20 team for World Junior Championship semi-final

 England U20 have named their team for the IRB Junior World Championship semi-final against France in Treviso, Italy tomorrow - kick off 5.00pm (UK time). The game will be shown live on Sky Sports 4.

Head Coach Rob Hunter has shuffled his pack after their 26-20 win against South Africa on Sunday, making five changes for the France game with Jonathan Joseph (London Irish), Guy Armitage (London Irish), Christian Wade (London Wasps), Will Collier (Harlequins) and Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers) all coming into the starting XV.

Newcastle Falcons No. 8 Alex Gray captains the side, while Worcester Warriors flanker Matt Kvesic remains the only player to have started in each of England's eight games this season as Hunter's side bid to win their ninth consecutive game.

England beat France 19-8 in this season's 6 Nations campaign at Worcester's Sixways Stadium, and will need to produce a similar display against an on form French side who beat Australia 31-25 in the final round of Pool matches.

England will be hoping to reach their third final in four years and Gray, who watched from the stands in Rosario a year ago when Australia won 28-16 to deny England a third successive final appearance, says that those memories will prove a motivation for him to avoid a repeat against France on Wednesday.

“It’s pretty much a new squad compared to last season," Gray said. “But we’ve got players from that team who are now the team leaders and it will be our job to show the way for some of the other guys.”

Those leadership qualities stood England in good stead during their Pool C decider with the Baby Boks on Saturday, especially in the dying minutes as the Baby Boks threw everything but the kitchen sink at their opponents in an attempt to overturn the 26-20 deficit.

Gray and his fly half George Ford, the youngest player at JWC 2011 in Italy having only turned 18 on March 16, both agree the match was the most intense they or many of their teammates have ever faced in their young careers.

“It was a massive match, just the physicality and what they brought to the game. It was a massive challenge, we had to stand up and I thought we did that well and our team spirit showed,” explained Ford.

“I think if anything it proved to us as a team if we work hard and fight for each other the team spirit is there and that is vital in tournaments like this. We take a lot of confidence from it but we are under no illusions as to what France will bring.” 

England U20 starting XV v France:

15 Ben Ransom (Saracens)
14 Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)
13 Guy Armitage (London Irish)
12 Owen Farrell (Saracens)
11 Christian Wade (London Wasps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
9 Chris Cook (Bath Rugby)
1 Mako Vunipola Saracens
2 Mikey Haywood (Northampton Saints)
3 Will Collier (Harlequins)
4 Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
5 Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)
6 Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
7 Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers)
8 Alex Gray (C) (Newcastle Falcons)


16 Rob Buchanan (Harlequins)
17 Ryan Bower (Leicester Tigers)
18 Sam Twomey (Harlequins)
19 Sam Jones (London Wasps)
20 Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby)
21 Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby)
22 Marland Yarde (London Irish)


Posted by: , on June 21st 2011 on 07:10pm0 Comments
Monday 20th June 2011
England World Cup training squad announced

 ENGLAND today announced a 45-strong Preliminary Training Squad for the Rugby World Cup.

All of the 2011 RBS 6 Nations squad are included, while there are call-ups for Saracens’ Matt Stevens and Mouritz Botha and Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples, all of whom helped England Saxons retain the Churchill Cup against Canada on Saturday.

Also named are Thomas Waldrom and Manusamoa Tuilagi – Rugby Players’ Association Player and Aviva Premiership Young Player of the Year respectively – as well as Richard Wigglesworth from champions Saracens.

England Team Manager Martin Johnson said: “Every one of these players has the chance to be in that final 30 going to New Zealand. The camp is going to be intense and competitive, as you would expect leading up to a World Cup, but all the players are ready for it.

“We have guys such as Lewis, Jonny and Mike Tindall who have been in this situation before but also a lot of players who won’t have experienced a World Cup training camp. It’s now up to all of them to set down their marker over the next 10 weeks before we head to New Zealand.”

Forwards (25)
Mouritz Botha (Saracens)
George Chuter (Leicester Tigers)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers)
Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints)
Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Hendre Fourie (Sale Sharks)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Unattached)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Lee Mears (Bath Rugby)
Lewis Moody (Bath Rugby)
Tom Palmer (Stade Francais)
Tim Payne (London Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Simon Shaw (London Wasps)
Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks)
Matt Stevens  (Saracens)
Steve Thompson (London Wasps)
Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)
David Wilson (Bath Rugby)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Joe Worsley (London Wasps)

Backs (20)
Delon Armitage (London Irish)
Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints)
Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby)
Danny Care (Harelquins)
Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks)
Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
Riki Flutey (London Wasps)
Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)
Shontayne Hape (London Irish)
Charlie Hodgson (Saracens)
Ugo Monye (Harelequins)
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby)
Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester Rugby)
David Strettle (Saracens)
Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby)
Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

* The final 30-man squad will be announced on Monday, August 22

Posted by: , on June 20th 2011 on 09:10am0 Comments
Saturday 18th June 2011
England into Junior World Championship semi-finals

England 26 South Africa 20
by Stefan Curtis of

England U20 secured their spot in this season’s IRB Junior World Championship semi-finals after a hard fought 26-20 win in Padova, Italy. South Africa were always within touching distance of Rob Hunter’s men, but England’s dogged defence and accuracy in the attack proved too much for the Springboks.

The win means England will face France in their semi, a side who they beat 19-8 in this year’s 6 Nations, and will be hoping to secure their ninth consecutive win under Hunter.

Tries from London Wasps centre Elliot Daly, Newcastle Falcons No. 8 Alex Gray and Wasps wing Christian Wade helped England to the success, while Leicester Tigers fly half George Ford scored 11 points with the boot.

England got off to a blistering start with Ford scoring a long range penalty before Daly showed great initiative to pick up a loose ball near the Springboks try-line, go round two men and touch down in the corner.

But South Africa came back into the game with a try of their own after 25 minutes. A simple line-out near England’s try-line was taken cleanly and No. 6 Nizaam Carr went through the gap to score. The conversion was missed to keep the score at 8-5.

A Ford penalty then gave England an at 11-5 lead minutes later, but a long range South African penalty from No. 10 Johan Goosen made the score 11-8 after 37 minutes, and the fly half levelled things up at 11-apiece with another penalty just before the break.

England started the second half just as they had done the first, captain Alex Gray rounded off an excellent cross-field team move to score in the corner, but Ford’s conversion sailed just wide.

South Africa came close to scoring their second try of the match five minutes later, but a last-ditch try saving tackle from Worcester’s Matt Kvesic saved England. The Baby Boks did score their third penalty of the game soon after, Goosen again slotting between the posts to make the score 16-14 to England.

A Ford penalty momentarily reclaimed England’s five-point lead, but a Goosen three-pointer made the score 19-17 with 15 to play.

Wasps wing Wade then showed why he’s such hot property, scoring his fourth try of the competition, displaying great pace to evade several defenders before touching down between the sticks. Ford’s conversion made the score 26-17, giving England a nine point lead with five minutes to play.

South Africa almost hit straight back, and would have done but for another try saving tackle, this time from Wasps lock Joe Launchbury. As the clock ticked past 80, Saracens prop Mako Vunipola was sinbinned for persistent offenses, and Goosen scored the resulting penalty to make the score 26-20.

With South African a converted try away from the lead, they began to exploit their man advantage, forcing a line-out on England’s try-line, but replacement hooker Koree Britton found his man with a high pressure throw and England held out for the win.

Points: Daly 1T, Gray 1T, Wade 1T; Ford 3P, 1C.

England U20 starting XV v South Africa

15) Ben Ransom (Saracens)
14) Andy Short (Worcester Warriors)
13) Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
12) Owen Farrell (Saracens)
11) Marland Yarde (London Irish)
10) George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
9) Chris Cook (Bath Rugby)
1) Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
2) Mikey Haywood (Northampton Saints)
3) Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
4) Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
5) Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)
6) Sam Jones (London Wasps)
7) Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
8) Alex Gray (c) (Newcastle Falcons)


16) Koree Britton (Gloucester Rugby) on for  Mikey Haywood 79 mins
17) Ryan Bower (Leicester Tigers) on for Henry Thomas 65 mins
18) Sam Twomey (Harlequins)
19) Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers) on for Sam Jones 76 mins
20) Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby)
21) Guy Armitage (London Irish) on for Elliot Daly 45 mins
22) Christian Wade (London Wasps) on for Marland Yarde 57 mins

Posted by: , on June 18th 2011 on 08:59pm0 Comments
Saturday 18th June 2011
England Saxons win Churchill Cup

 England Saxons 37 Canada 6
by Simon Mills

Miles Benjamin scored two spectacular tries on his home ground to earn England Saxons a sixth and final Churchill Cup title.

The Worcester Warriors wing raced 70 metres for a first half interception try – then soared to claim Rory Clegg’s superb cross-kick and put the Saxons out of sight on the hour.

Sale Sharks flanker James Gaskell, Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples and London Irish flanker Jamie Gibson also touched down with Harlequins fly half Clegg adding three conversions and two penalties against a hard-nosed Canada side that proved tough to break down.

They responded with a first-half drop goal from fly half Ander Munro and a penalty from James Pritchard but couldn’t turn some thrilling counter-attacks into points on the board.

The Saxons had broken a Churchill Cup points record with their 13-try 87-8 win over the USA and followed it up with a 41-14 win against Tonga that included three penalty tries.

Canada, though, are a level above both those teams at 15th in the IRB rankings and recognised as a well-organised side with a mean-spirited defence which they underlined for long spells at Sixways.

So while the Saxons enjoyed plenty of early possession, they only had Rory Clegg’s penalty – cancelled out by Munro’s drop goal – in the bank after the opening 20 minutes.

They broke the deadlock with one superb score – Jordan Crane, Mike Brown and James Gaskell combining down the left for Sale Sharks flanker Gaskell to score in the right hand corner.

Three minutes later it was Gaskell’s defensive pressure that delivered the ball to Benjamin who intercepted and went 80 metres to strike under the posts.

Clegg’s conversion put the Saxons 15-3 ahead but Canada dug in again and Pritchard kicked a 30thminute penalty and missed an equally kickable one shortly before the interval.

Clegg extended the lead with his second penalty 10 minutes into the second half and Canada survived one major scare when the fly half’s angled low kick created mayhem in their defence.

Chauncey O’Toole led one thrilling counter-attack though and Ciaran Hearn produced another surge down the right that threatened to haul Canada back into the game.

But their resistance was finally broken 20 minutes from time by Benjamin’s second score, Clegg’s cross-kick plucked out of the air at full pelt by the Worcester wing.

As the game broke up Canada were punished again as they lost the ball in attack, Mouritz Botha kicking through and Sharples regathering and holding off a tackler to roll over and score.

Gibson added a fifth try five minutes from time, following up to finish things off after Henry Trinder’s lightning break through the middle. 

England Saxons: M Brown (Harlequins); C Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), H Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), B Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers), M Benjamin (Worcester Warriors); R Clegg (Harlequins), P Hodgson (London Irish); M Mullan (Worcester Warriors), D Paice (London Irish), M Stevens (Saracens), M Botha (Saracens), G Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), J Gaskell (Sale Sharks), T Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), J Crane (Leicester Tigers, captain) 
Replacements: J Gray (Harlequins) for Paice 70, N Catt (Bath Rugby) for Mullan 70, J Gibson (London Irish) for Kitchener 7, C Fearns (Sale Sharks) for Johnson 70, M Young (Newcastle Falcons) for Hodgson 65, A Goode (Saracens) for Brown 51, T Ojo (London Irish) for Benjamin.                
Scorers: Tries – Benjamin 2, Gaskell, Sharples, Gibson. Conversions – Clegg 3. Penalties – Clegg 2. 

Canada: M Evans; C Hearn, P Mackenzie, R Smith, J Pritchard; A Munro, S White; H Buydens, P Riordan (captain), B Erichsen, J Cumore, J Sinclair, C O'Toole, A Carpenter.
Replacements: T Hotson for Erichsen, N Dala for Carpenter, N Hirayama for Munro, C Trainor for Hearn.
Scorers: Drop-goal – Munro. Penalty – Pritchard.

Referee: R Poite (FFR)

Posted by: , on June 18th 2011 on 08:57pm0 Comments
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