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'The lads don't understand the magnitude of doing things like that'

By Liam Heagney
England celebrate after scoring their match-winning try against South Africa (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Mark Mapletoft strolled down the tunnel in Athlone late on Tuesday night quaffing a can of Coke when something much stronger would have been appropriate. He had just witnessed his team go to the well, grinding out a dogged 17-12 win over South Africa at the World Rugby U20 Championship that confirmed them as Pool C winners and securing a semi-final next Sunday versus Six Nations rivals Ireland.


“It was good,” he purred, giving his hot take on a performance where the rose was worn with pride by his gutsy squad. “To come over here in a ridiculously tough pool, beat South Africa in their own backyard, I don’t think the lads understand the magnitude of doing things like that. When you have been around and you are old like us, you have to cherish those moments. Really pleased for them.”

Less so the difficult conditions that the match took place in at a ground where just two of the scheduled three matches were played as the 2pm Ireland-Australia opener was cancelled before the action got underway with France-Wales at 4:30pm followed by South Africa-England at 7pm.

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What the All Blacks learnt about England in the series opener | Steinlager Series

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What the All Blacks learnt about England in the series opener | Steinlager Series

“It’s not good enough, not good enough,” candidly said the coach who has allowed fans to get a behind-the-scenes look at his U20s set-up in the RugbyPass TV documentary series, Embedded. “For this standard, it’s a showpiece event, for both teams, and you have got one match not taking place – where’s the water gone?

“I just think for me, I’m a very honest and fair person, I watch an awful lot of sport across the world in a number of different areas and for me that’s… you’ve got one game being pulled at half-time (New Zealand-Spain in Stellenbosch) and you have got one game not going on. Nah, I think it’s poor.”

What it means is a semi-final where they will face an Ireland team that won’t have played in 10 days where England have a five-day turnaround from their pool-clinching win over South Africa. “Look, we have got to rest up, short turnaround, big recovery, probably limited training over the next few days, particularly if the training pitches are going to be as heavy as this, and hopefully get ourselves into the DHL Stadium in some sort of decent position.


Turnovers Won
Turnovers Lost

“In those conditions against a fired-up host nation, to pick out individual people wouldn’t be fair,” he added, reflecting on the mud-fest versus the Junior Boks. “It was just a terrific team effort. Look, we probably have a few things we need to pick up and get better at but it is hard to be too critical.


“We have got a great squad, some good players. They work hard for each other, they really enjoy each other’s company and you then see the no-talent required pieces – they are willing to work hard with the guy next to them, their other teammates, people who come off the bench are making impacts as well. Yeah, I just couldn’t be prouder of them. To come through a tough pool like that with 14 points is a huge credit to them.

“What we demonstrated on a decent surface is we can play but we can also dog it out when it is not so good and, as Argentina went on to prove, that (40-21 round one win after being 0-14 down) was a great result. To put 40 points on a team who have gone on to get 10 points themselves, to fall behind in that game showed huge amounts of resilience.

“One thing we have challenged the lads on, and they have proven time and time again, is they have been able to find a way and it is a sign of a good side, and if you can find a way you will always keep yourself in the hunt for things.”

England appeared to pick up a few injuries against South Africa but Mapletoft wasn’t sure to what extent. “I don’t know, to be honest. Again, the pitch is so heavy you have people coming off with cramp. You have five days to turn it around and go again. We’ll see.


“Ireland are a good side. We had a great contest, didn’t we, down in Bath against them (32-all in the Six Nations in March). It’s an opportunity for someone to edge the series.”

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Wonton 3 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

18 Go to comments
Nick 4 hours ago
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Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

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