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IRB Junior World Championships - Pool D Preview

IRB Junior World Championships - Pool D Preview
Saturday 14 Jun 2008 [10:45]
France might have lost four key men to injury and suspension but Wales coach Patrick Horgan does not expect to face a weakened opposition in the Pool D decider at Swansea's Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

French captain Morgan Parra, who sustained a fractured finger in the win over Italy on Tuesday, and flanker Wencelas Lauret, who suffered a neck sprain in the same match, are out of the tournament.

Centre Mathieu Bastareaud and wing Djibril Camara, meanwhile, will miss the Wales match through suspension. But Horgan played down the potential impact of their absence.

"I don't think that it's going to have much effect on them at all," he said.

"France have an abundance of rugby talent. It's a big country and they have masses of rugby players out there and always seem to produce these fantastically gifted players."

Horgan said he expected the French to be direct in midfield, with outside centre Yann David the rising star of their side.

"They're just a talented bunch of players. We can't give them any breathing space."

Horgan, however, is confident his side is primed for the contest.

"All along we knew the French game was going to be the decider. The majority of our preparation from a month ago has been geared towards playing against the French, so we've prepared and we're ready to go."

Best form

The Wales coach believes his team is not far off its best form, and with a little luck, might have recorded more emphatic victories over Italy and Japan.

"We look back to the Italian game and we had two tries disallowed for forward passes, a drop goal that presumably went over that was disallowed and a knock-on right on the try-line under the posts in the first half we could have been 30 points up at half-time.

"Against Japan, we had a bonus point in the first half. We fell off in the second half but in patches we've been creating opportunities. We just need to maintain that now and start completing these opportunities."

Horgan had his own injury setback this week when fly half Gareth Owen picked up a knee injury in the win over Japan on Tuesday. He is replaced by Rhys Williams, while on the left wing, Jason Tovey is preferred to Jimmy Norris.

"It's a little bit disappointing when players like Gareth Owen, [Mathieu] Bastareaud and Morgan Parra miss this tournament because you really want to see the best at Under 20 in the world playing here," Horgan said.

Best to come

Wales fly half Dan Biggar agrees the best is yet to come from the hosts and is quietly confident they can turn it on against the French.

"We're still finding top form, but it's got to come some time and hopefully it will come on Saturday with a very good performance against the French.

"If the weather is good and the pitch is good, they are going to have a go and throw it about. It's going to come down to those small margins. Hopefully if we do the small things better than they do, we'll come out on top.

"It's going to be tight, it's effectively the quarter-final of a world cup, and we're expecting a tough game off them."

His captain, Sam Warburton, believes the powerful French side will provide a huge test for his team but Wales have the "grunt" to match their forward muscle.

Hosts under pressure

France team manager Philippe Sella was philosophical about the team's injury and suspension setbacks.

"That's life," he said, adding that Wales also would be feeling the heat as host nation.

"They will want absolutely to play in the semi-final because they are the hosts. But when you are host, there's pressure because you say, 'we need to do something great for the supporters, for the federation, for Welsh rugby'.

"Sometimes the pressure can be very strong as well and we will see tomorrow during the match what will happen with that team."

In the earlier Pool D match in Swansea on Saturday (kick-off 15:00 local time), Japan take on Italy, with both sides aiming to clinch the victory that will keep them on track for a placing from ninth to 12th; the loser will be condemned to last place in the group and a potential 16th placing.


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