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Jack Bracken: 'Third try was pretty good; lucky with the bounce'

By Liam Heagney
England players celebrate one of Jack Bracken's tries versus Argentina (Photo by Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

What a way to introduce yourself to the world at the age of just 18. Jack Bracken wasn’t part of the England squad that clinched the Six Nations U20s title 15 weeks ago, yet he was in Cape Town on Saturday justifying his recent call-up with a dream debut hat-trick.

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He volunteered in the Athlone Stadium tunnel to RugbyPass that his third score was the best, latching onto his own kick to pounce out wide on the right. However, his first try was the most important as England were down 0-14 following a sluggish start and needed some momentum to pierce Argentinian exuberance.

It came in the 35th minute with successive out-the-back-door passes from Ben Redshaw and Henry Pollock followed by a carry and a slick pass to Bracken from scrum-half Ollie Allan. That possession invited the No14 to fly past a defender and score with a fast gallop from the 22-metre line.

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In a blink, the game changed. England were level by half-time and they went on to largely dominate the second half, winning 40-21 with a flourish that included a crosskick catch try from Bracken before he went solo, kicking ahead from the 10-metre line, regathering it five metres short of the try line and then rolling over after hitting the deck.

“The third try for me was pretty good. Lucky with the bounce but enjoyed it,” he chuckled after returning down the tunnel for a quick interview before the bus journey back into the city from the Cape Flats venue. “It’s really incredible. I can’t describe it.”

But he did. “It was really special. Really thankful for the opportunity. Yeah, credit to the boys. It was a good game. It was really special with the brotherhood that we have got going. Yeah, special… Yeah, my ability to beat defenders is one of my strong points. I got given the opportunity today and I took it pretty well.

Tough first 20. Credit to Argentina, they really made it hard for us. But we got momentum towards the end of the first half and kept it going throughout the second, so it was good. Definitely, physicality was a step up. Speed of the game a step up but I think yeah, worked a lot harder and I coped with it pretty well. Great vibe in the changing room after a big win but looking forward to Fiji next week.”

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Bracken wasn’t daunted stepping into the environment of a title-winning team that had done its business impeccably earlier this year when he wasn’t on the England U20s selection radar. Injuries helped to open the door, but his form wasn’t shabby either and they welcomed him in without any awkwardness.

“So I started with the 18s, then played 19s and did well enough to get selected for the 20s. Then to get my first start, really grateful for the opportunity. Everyone has been really welcoming. They welcomed me into the group and I know a lot of the boys. We have grown together and they have all been really welcoming. It has been a smooth transition.”

One that his famous World Cup-winning father Kyran is watching from afar. “He’s watching from home, it’s a bit far to travel. I’m sure he and all my family were watching. My brother Charlie was here (last year with the 20s) and he didn’t go either. It wouldn’t be fair if he came here for me.”

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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