Australian under 20s crash at Rugby World Cup
Australia has recorded its worst result in the history of the IRB under-20 World Cup after failing to reach the tournament’s semi-finals, raising questions about the development of our young talent.
Last night the Aussies were spanked 31-7 by France in their final pool game, their second losses in three matches.
The Australian side could only manage the one try against a livewire French outfit, but that one was more they could muster against the Argentinians who beat the young Wallabies 15-3.
A weak scrum, misfiring attack and shabby defence proved to be the Australians undoing in South Africa. The youngsters started off the tournament well, notching a big 67-12 win over Scotland. But they then faced an impressive Argentine unit that beat Australia for the first time at junior level.
Dominant scrummaging and fantastic defence in tough weather conditions was the backbone of Argentina’s win.
Australia’s misery has been compounded with a comprehensive beating at the hands of the French. They seem to throw the ball around at will, with our players falling off tackles and the French moving from one end of the field to another with ease.
Following the creation of the Junior World Championship in 2008, this is Australia’s worst performance. Five years ago we finished fifth with a win over France. In 2009 we were fourth, going down in the semi-final to South Africa. A year later we made the final, but were humbled by New Zealand, and then in 2011 we came third after beating France in the semi-final.
Now we are battling for positions five through eight, taking on the French again on June 17. The winner of that game takes on the winner of Ireland vs England on 22 June.
After yesterday’s match, you would expect us to be eventually playing off for seventh place. Seventh place in world rugby, is that where Australia should be?
It’s true that we did have a much tougher pool this year than in previous tournaments, and many of the second-tier nations have improved dramatically, which is good for rugby as a whole. But surely Australian rugby should be aiming higher.
This under-20s team was led by Reds flanker Liam Gill, and included five players with Super Rugby experience. There were 11 players from NSW, 11 from Queensland, 3 from the ACT, 2 from WA and one from Victoria. Queensland University and Sydney University were the clubs with the most representation, followed by Eastwood, Sunnybank, GPS, Easts and Queanbeyan.
The under-20s program is a key stepping stone for Super Rugby and the Wallabies. In recent years the under-20s side has produced around 30 players who have go on to earn Super Rugby contracts, as well as the likes of Quade Cooper, David Pocock, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne and Will Genia. Others to have come through the ranks include Michael Hooper, Colby Faingaa, Dom Shipperley, Ed Quirk, Tom Kingston, Luke Morahan, Damien Fitxpatrick, Matt Tooma, Robbie Coleman, Nic White, Jake Schatz, Rod Davies, Kane Douglas, James Lipper, Nathan Charles and Richard Kingi.
So, do we no longer have the same levels of talent that we have enjoyed in recent years?
Are we just having a bad year, a blip, or was this team poorly coached?
David Nucifora was in charge of the team, what is his view?
Should we expect more of the same next year?
While we shouldn’t lose our heads, hard questions need to be asked about our development programs and the future of the Australian rugby talent pool.
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