New Zealand hungry for more JWC success
Photo: www.irb.com\Getty Images
A New Zealand victory against Australia in the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 semi final at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo in Treviso on Wednesday will secure their place in a fourth consecutive final.
Following a 48-15 defeat of Argentina in their final Pool A match, the Baby Blacks marched into the semi finals as the leading point and try scorers in this year's competition, adding to their earlier 64-7 and 92-0 victories over Italy and Wales.
They now face a familiar foe in the semi finals in Australia, a team they defeated emphatically in last year's final, and will be hoping to take one step closer to a fourth title.
But despite heading into the match as most people's favourites and the added pressure to match expectations from previous years, coach Mark Anscombe insists his side's feet remain firmly on the ground.
"We have really been trying to develop this team and get through pool play and we have done that with not too many injuries," Anscombe said. "But now we look to the challenges of the last week but we can’t look any further than Australia.
"We know it’s going to be a tough game and we have to play well if we are going to get the right result.
"You have got to keep the players grounded by the performances and what we have to work on to be better.
"The thing is what we have tried to drive with this team is lifting the standard of the bar they need to get to is their standard and no-one else’s and they have got to cut their own path instead of following someone else’s.
"The challenge in New Zealand is having had three teams win it, no-one wants to be in the team that doesn’t win it, so they are quite a competitive group.
"There is a lot of talent as we know but that isn’t always enough and it is about the right attitude, preparation and looking after yourself and getting up for the game."
In last year's final New Zealand, under the guidance of previous coach Dave Rennie, recorded a 62-17 victory against their trans-Tasman rivals to add the title in Argentina to victories in Wales and Japan.
But Anscombe, under his own pressures as coach, believes last year's match will have no bearing on the encounter in Treviso, insisting the rivalry with their old foe is always a challenge.
"It’s a different challenge and a different team and clashes between New Zealand and Australia are always tough games, we know we are in for a battle.
"With living close together it’s gloating rights and no-one likes to say they got beaten by Australia, like the Australians don’t like to say they got beaten by New Zealand.
"I am sure they will be looking to avenge that loss [in Argentina]. They have got six or seven players and coaching staff back from last year and you never like getting beaten like that.
"We have only got two guys back and only one guy who played in that game so it is a totally different team and I think both teams have different strengths and weaknesses so last year’s result means nothing."
The Baby Blacks will also be aiming to continue an 18-match unbeaten run, having never suffered defeat in the history of the tournament.
After maintaining their run with pool match victories against Italy, Wales and Argentina, New Zealand face an Australian side who lost to France in the Pool B decider and joined the three pool winners as the best runner-up after victories against Tonga and Fiji in the opening two rounds.
Riding the wave
The tournament's leading points scorer, Gareth Anscombe, remembers the Baby Blacks producing an exceptional display of rugby in Rosario in 2010, and like his coach and father, is anticipating a different proposition on Wednesday.
"It is a local rivalry, we have played them before in other matches and with them being just across the Tasman, we play the same style of rugby, so they are a good challenge," added Gareth.
"I know a few of the boys in the side from last year and I watched it. It was one of those performances where not much went wrong in those 80 minutes and we will try to do what they did last year here.
"But that was last year and we can't look into that. They might be hungry for revenge, but we are hungry too. It is never an easy challenge against them, but this is a semi final and there is no second chance so we are hoping we can make the final.
"This side has its own challenges, we are not looking at previous sides and want to be a better team ourselves, but we have different individuals and want to put in our own performances for 80 minutes.
"I am lucky I am at the back of a side that is pretty good. Our forwards provide good ball and make my life easier as well. Hopefully our forwards can get going and set up our backs so we can ride that wave."
Irrespective of results, the final is guaranteed to have one northern and one southern hemisphere side competing - New Zealand or Australia will face the winner of England's semi final with France.
Having reached their first semi final in JWC history after their victory against David Nucifora's Australia, France face 2008 and 2009 runners-up England. But what do the Anscombe-duo make of the other semi finalists and potential final opponents?
"I watched England against South Africa the other day and very impressed," added coach Mark. "England held on at the end as South Africa came back at them and there seems to be a lot of spirit, they have got a lot of firepower, are a big team and they look very strong.
"France were very physical against Australia so they are going to be a handful, they have got some really lovely balanced backs which gives them a good balance to the physical forward pack, so hopefully if we can do the business we’d like to think that those two teams would beat each other up, but we can’t worry about that until after our own performance against Australia on Wednesday."
Fly half Gareth added: "That match will be interesting. Both are big sides and both like confrontation. England won the Six Nations so they will be favourites, but France beat Australia and I am sure it will go down to the wire. They are used to each other so it will be interesting to see how it goes."