Australia under-20s coach Adrian Thompson says his team were nervous against Italy but is pleased they got the job done with the focus now on England.
Australia defeated Italy 38-10, for their first win of the Under-20 World Championship. Their final group game is against hosts England on Wednesday (Thursday morning Australian time), with a win needed to stay alive in the tournament.
Australia suffered a shock upset against Scotland in their opener and started slowly against the Azzurri in heavy rain. They were down 7-10 at half-time but finished strongly, with three tries in the final 19 minutes to jag a bonus point.
“Considering how disappointing we were after Tuesday and the conditions we’re probably not real used to,” Thompson told The Roar.
“I thought the Italians played really well in that first. So At the end of the day to walk out with a bonus point win was great.
“I think they realised we lose today and we’re out of the tournament effectively. So they were a bit nervous. But credit the Italians, they’re a young team and they’re building towards next year.
“They were really competitive in the Six Nations and took it to us at the start of the day as well.
“We want to play a decent Australian-type footy. To do that we have to muscle up at scrum-time and lineout-time, which we’re getting back at, and we just have to play footy then.”
Australia started to improve with the injection of fresh troops in the second half. The injection of big boppers Lukhan Lealaiauolo-Tui and Shambeckler Vui off the pine was pivotal with both scoring tries.
The giant Tui made his Super Rugby debut this year for the Reds against the Bulls. The 19-year’s old try was a thing of beauty, taking a number of defenders over the line with him.
“He was part of last year’s team,” Thompson said.
“He’s been away with the Reds a lot and hasn’t had a lot of game-time with us, so we’re trying to ease him back in.
“We got him a good 30 minutes today and he made a massive difference obviously when he came on.”
Vui’s try was arguably better. The fridge-like prop went straight up the middle, skittling the Italian defence like nine-pins in a long runto score in style. The tighthead is a former Queensland and Australian schoolboy, and is contracted to the Force.
“He’s a young kid, he’s got another year left in the 20s. He’s from Queensland originally and over at the Force now. He does that a bit actually, loves that little truck up the middle of the field.”
More than 7000 fans are expected for the England game at the AJ Bell Stadium in Manchester. It will mark a start contrast to the 500-600 supporters who have attended the first two days of play.
“Good, I hope our boys don’t get stage fright,” Thompson said.
Fly-half Mack Mason was named as Australia’s man of the match. The playmaker said his team was “pretty disappointed” to be beaten by Scotland in their first game.
“It was a long way to come from Australia to Manchester to lose,” he told The Roar.
“Everyone licked their wounds and moved on. We got the win today, which was good.
“At the start there it was a bit scrappy, just getting used to the conditions, and then as we got into the game a bit, especially in the second half, we stuck it to them and end it up blowing out a bit at the end.
“But the Italians really stuck it to us in the first half.”
Mason, who is contracted with the Reds, crossed for Australia’s final try against Italy. He admits taking on England, who reached the final in last year’s World Cup, in front of their own fans is a massive challenge.
“They played pretty well in the first game against the Italians,” Mason said.
“We’ll watch them today and see how we good. They’re a very strong team and a good outfit. [After the Wallabies’ first Test loss] it will be good to get one back.”
Follow John Davidson on Twitter @johnnyddavidson