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Fight and spirit shone through despite defeat, says England U20 coach Vass

Fight and spirit shone through despite defeat, says England U20 coach Vass

Head coach Ian Vass hailed his England U20 side’s fight and spirit after they were beaten in the World Rugby U20 Championship final by New Zealand.

The Baby Blacks ran in ten tries as they dominated the contest in Tbilisi, Georgia, from the start, but England crossed the whitewash three times themselves through Saracens’ Ben Earl, Alex Mitchell of Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby’s Josh Bayliss.

It was a sixth U20 championship crown for New Zealand, while England had reached their fifth final on the spin.

However, despite New Zealand having too much for them on the day, Vass waxed lyrical about the efforts of his side in the game, and in the weeks and months leading up to the crunch clash.

“The way we fought back in the second half shows the fight and the spirit in the team that we have displayed the whole tournament,” said Vass.

“You are not defined by winning or losing and we are massively proud of their efforts over the past three weeks and the whole season.

“This group have developed and learnt so much over the past three weeks and the experience of facing these big southern hemisphere teams can only put them in good stead for next year.”

England had secured bonus point victories over Samoa and Wales, and a late try from captain Zach Mercer in the semi-final against South Africa had cemented their place in the final at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium.

And it is the rigours of the tournament, coupled with the physical power of the Baby Blacks, that Vass believes proved to be the difference between the sides.

“We had to play a lot of tight games and I think that took its toll in the end,” Vass added.

“The physical attributes of New Zealand meant they just kept coming and unfortunately we weren’t able to stick with them to make it the tight game that we wanted.

“We are a fit team so we needed to try and get New Zealand into the second half still in touch but unfortunately they came out too strong.”

Skipper Mercer added: “We are disappointed with the result, but we can leave Georgia with our heads held high, due to what we’ve put on this campaign.

“I’m really proud of the boys’ effort, I just hope we keep our heads up and push on when we get back to our clubs.

“New Zealand were exceptional; I’ve never witnessed a team that have the work rate and desire in attack and defence to keep coming at you.

“We were trying to play at the end but they just kept coming at us, and we couldn’t do much about it.

“We’ve had a good campaign and it’s a young squad – there are a lot of boys who will be playing there next year – we’ve learned a lot.”

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