Wales will meet New Zealand at Rodney Parade in the first semifinal of IRB Junior World Championship tonight night.
Rugby 365 reports that the host nation progressed to the final four after their last gasp 23-19 victory over France at the Liberty Stadium last Saturday.
And the Kiwis, after a third successive pool victory – 60-0 over Argentina – have kept alive their dream of emulating the success of last season’s Under 19 Championship win in Northern Ireland.
It promises to be a wonderful occasion for both sides with Wales desperate to defy the odds and book a place in the final in Swansea on Sunday night. Wales head coach Patrick Horgan said: “I was delighted with the way we stuck in there against the French and carried on until we finally got the winning score. However, at times they were too physical for us and we know that the All Blacks will be even tougher in that department.
“Still, we are there on merit and the boys will give it their best shot. We are not going to Newport just to make up the numbers, that’s for sure. There is no reason for us to be concerned, we just have to make sure that we play to the best of our ability. Nobody can ask for anymore than that.”
Three straightforward pool victories have hardly stretched New Zealand although they are unlikely to be easing up against a Wales side who will certainly have plenty of support behind them,
Assistant coach Rob Appleyard said, “The fans have been absolutely fantastic in Swansea and they really helped us home at the weekend. I am sure that we will get some of the same at Rodney Parade.”
The All Blacks have the likes of senior Super 14 players Sean Maitland, Zac Guildford, Nasi Manu and Kade Poki leading their challenge, but outside half Daniel Kirkpatrick said, “It went well against Argentina and it was certainly enjoyable playing behind such a dominant pack. However, the semi final will be another hard game especially against the home team.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland, who will be at the game, said: “It’s a great achievement in itself to reach the semis and to be competing amongst the top four countries in the world at this level.
“I won’t be giving the Wales Under-20 coaching team any advice about the New Zealand team – I’m sure they’ve done plenty of research. But I would tell the players to go out and play with confidence against the Kiwis and put them under pressure.
“One thing we learned with the senior team in South Africa was that we gave initially gave the Springboks too much respect. You just can’t do that in international rugby.
“This is a great opportunity for these young players. It’s a shop window for them to stake a claim for places in regional squads for next season and it will show how they can play at a high level.”
Kick Off at Rodney Parade, Newport, at 19.00 GMT (20:00 SA Time)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Touch judges: Phillip Bosch (South Africa), Robin Goodliffe (England)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch/ Les Peard (Wales)
Television match official: Andrew Small (England)
New Zealand: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Kade Poki, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Mathew Luamanu, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Chris Smith (captain), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Paea Fa’anunu.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Josh Townsend, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Grayson Hart, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Andre Taylor.
Wales: Daniel Evans, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Gareth Owen, Jimmy Norris, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Ryan Bevington, Ryan Prosser, Scott Andrews, Haydn Pugh, Josh Turnbull, Justin Tipuric Dan Franks, Sam Warburton (captain )
Replacements: Ben Roberts, Sam Hobbs, Patrick Palmer, Lloyd Phillips, Ashley Sweet, Gareth Williams, Luke Ford
For streaming Audio from the IRB listen here from 19:00 GMTTweet