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Elwood: Time To Front Up And Bounce Back

Elwood: Time To Front Up And Bounce Back

The Ireland Under-20s sit bottom of Pool A as they enter the final round of pool matches at the IRB Junior World Championship. After defeats to Argentina and New Zealand, the Irish need a win over Tonga this weekend to give themselves a boost before the knock-out stages begin.

After trying to contend with the Baby Blacks, last year’s Under-19 World champions, the Ireland Under-20s switch their focus to Saturday’s must-win clash with Tonga at Cardiff Arms Park (kick-off 3pm).

The inaugural Junior World Championship has not gone to plan for Ireland coach Eric Elwood but he is determined that his side will avoid finishing bottom in Pool A, thus giving themselves a chance of better final placing in the knock-out rounds.

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Reflecting on the Irish youngsters’ 65-10 loss to New Zealand, Elwood said: “We’re extremely disappointed (with the result). We’d focused on a few key areas of the game but we didn’t perform.

“Our tackling was poor, we were second best at the breakdown and collision areas and we paid the ultimate price.

“We’re definitely much better than that but basic errors cost us and we paid dearly for that.

“We knew New Zealand would be a team of great pace and physicality and we’d done our homework. But it was our inadequacies which was a big factor in the score-line.

“We kicked loosely and conceded so many turnovers and that allowed them to use their pace out wide and they punished us unfortunately.”

Tonga have also suffered a brace of defeats so far in the tournament. The Islanders lost 48-9 to New Zealand in their opener and they were 30-10 losers to Argentina on Wednesday.

Priming his players for a big effort in their final pool game, Elwood agreed: “There’s no doubt we have to raise ourselves now. We had a chat in the dressing room and after two tough, physical games, we’ve got to regroup and keep our belief.

“It’s a must-win game and there’s no more excuses. We don’t want to even contemplate finishing bottom in the pool.”

Ireland’s fitness has certainly been tested over the last week and they will have to cope with another powerfully-built side on Saturday. As with their senior team, Tonga’s Under-20s are particularly strong in the scrum and out wide.

Like Ireland though, the Tongans have only scored one try in the tournament to date so both teams will be hoping to cut loose in their final pool game.

Elwood added confidently: “We’re fully aware of Tonga’s strengths and if we get our ship in order, we’ll be fine.

“We knew this was a very tough and physically demanding group but we must front up and bounce back.”