April 15 2001
“SIMPLY THE BEST”
“By Matt McIlraith at the FIRA-IRB junior World Cup in Santiago, Chile.
New Zealand’s world champion Under-19 side of two years ago has already provided six players of Telecom Super 12 standard, and there’s every indication that the current crop of junior blacks could be just as productive after they swept to the FIRA-IRB World Junior Cup title in Chile last Monday.
The Dennis Brown and Aussie McLean-coached New Zealand side captured the title after they came from behind to beat France 36-23 in an epic struggle at Santiago’s San Carlos De Apoquindo Stadium on Sunday afternoon (Monday morning. NZ time).
France led 20-3 at one stage. but the belief within the New Zealand side was such that the players never doubted they could come back and take the game.
The success capped off a process which began in December when a large group of players gathered at the adidas Institute of Rugby in Palmerston North for the first Under-19 training camp.
The boys have worked very hard to get to this point, and I’m sure they will enjoy their success,” New Zealand coach Dennis Brown said shortly after the final.
“I’m very proud of them and how much they’ve achieved, both as players and as people. They have been a great bunch to be associated with.”
New Zealand’s triumph owed much to the brave decision of the selectors to opt for a mobile but highly skilled unit when they selected their squad.
New Zealand was far from the biggest side on show at the competition, but the superbly drilled forwards gave as good as they got against larger opponents, while the backs possessed a touch of class that stood them out above the rest.
Pleasingly, as far as the future is concerned, six of this year’s team will be eligible again in 2002. That group includes talented North Harbour first-five Luke McAlister. The 17 year old, who is the son of former Taranaki winger Charlie McAlister, was New Zealand’s leading pointscorer at the tournament with 49 points.
Fullback and skipper Sam Tuitupou and halfback Jimmy Cowan were other backline members who were always prominent, while in Bryan Milne and Casey Laulala, New Zealand possessed midfielders of great promise.
The forwards were led superbly by prop Tim Fairbrother, who is yet another young tighthead making huge strides. Fellow frontrower Soane Tonga’uiha was always difficult to stop when he was used as a battering ram in general play, while locks Kane Thompson and James Ryan both displayed excellent athletic ability and great ball skills.
One of the key ingredients to New Zealand’s mobile game was the ability of the loose trio to scavenge and link, and the players selected complemented each other superbly.
Openside Sam Harding was consistently first to the breakdowns, blindside Adam Thomson worked diligently around the track while No 8 Thomas Waldrom supplied the raw power. Although he looks quite clumsy at first take, the young Wellingtonian is a skilful and highly mobile player who possesses an uncanny ability to come up with the big plays.
Throughout the tournament, the New Zealanders scored 190 points (27 tries) while conceding just 83 (six tries).”
From “Rugby News”, Issue 8 2001 p. 10.