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England Under-20s coach blames team's mindset after loss

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England head coach Alan Dickens believes his side strayed too far from their game plan in their Six Nations Under-20s Summer Series defeat against South Africa.

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Dickens’ side lost 30-22 in an enthralling Pool A opener, taking the lead early on courtesy of a John Stewart score from the back of a lineout drive.

But that was as good as it got for England, whose set piece was a particular cause of concern for Dickens.

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“It was really disappointing,” he said. “The lineout didn’t function. I think we were at 53 per cent at the end of the game. And for possession we only had 41 per cent come 80 minutes.

“The boys are disappointed and I’m disappointed for them. Certainly our mindset in the first half, we wanted to keep the ball in hand and run South Africa round and we didn’t.

“We did it for 10 minutes and looked pretty dangerous and then we went to a kicking game. That didn’t quite work and they had some dangerous runners.”

England led until just before the interval, but a Nico Steyn try just before the break and two scores within the first 10 minutes of the second period ultimately put the game beyond reach.

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A converted score from captain Emeka Ilione took England to within five points of the Junior Boks who then eased clear as the game wore on before a late consolation try for Conor Oresanya.

With pitch side temperatures hovering at 33 degrees, England perhaps left themselves with a deficit too great to turn around in the second half, as the unfamiliar Italian heat took its toll. But Dickens says the environment offers no excuse.

“We had two excellent games against Scotland up in Newcastle,” he said.

“I just put it down to the mindset, our approach going into the game, we then didn’t carry that out but I’m sure these players can change that.”

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Defeat ended a run of five consecutive wins over South Africa at U20s level. But four of those victories had come by a margin of eight points or fewer and Dickens regrets that his side were not able to capitalise on their chances in what was always going to be a tight affair.

He said: “One of the disappointments for me was that we got back in it with Emeka’s score and then we gave a penalty away which took them eight clear and we needed two scores again.

“It was certainly a game that got away from us and certainly one that we could have got a result from.”

England are back in action at the Payanini Centre on Wednesday against France, who delivered a quite stunning display to beat Ireland 42-21 in Friday’s second match in Treviso.

The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series takes place from 24 June – 12 July. Fans can watch every match live. For more information visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJHm6BFw-9JRA1CMekNLwMg

By Ben Hart for Sports Beat in Verona

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