Northampton Saints’ Harry Mallinder is focussed on the Baby Boks after his match-winning performance sealed a 17-13 win for the English youngsters against their Australian counterparts and a spot in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship semi-finals.
Martin Haag’s side fell behind early on Wednesday night thanks to superb play from Australia Under-20 pivot Mack Mason, his break sent Jack Maddocks galloping over after just a minute at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Aussies led 13-6 at half-time, but Mallinder turned the game on its head when Harlequins’ Joe Marchant collected his perfectly-weighted grubber kick to score before the Saints youngster kicked two further penalties to complete a 12-point haul.
England Under-20s now face their South African counterparts at Manchester City Academy Stadium in the semi-finals, with the Baby Boks just sneaking through as highest runners-up with a 40-31 in their final group game against Thomas Lièvremont’s French youngsters.
Mallinder was jubilant following the win – their third win from three in the tournament that confirmed their place as top seeds – but urged his men to refocus for the Boks’ clash.
"It's a great feeling, we wanted three wins," said Mallinder.
"Australia battled right to the end, it was a tough challenge and credit to them.
"South Africa will be another massive challenge and we'll need to step up again for that game."
“We are delighted to get the win, it wasn’t pretty at times, but we stuck at it and got the win. We will enjoy tonight because we are through to the semi-finals and that is an achievement in itself."
England Under-20 are aiming to become the first host side since the Baby Boks in 2012 to win the tournament on home turf, while they will also look to seal a seventh final in nine global tournaments.
And while Mallinder will certainly be critical to English hopes, the man himself believes the home crowd will be vital.
"The home crowd massively helped us and it’s so nice to be playing in Manchester in front of so many fans who are so passionate about the game," he said.
"There is enormous belief in the group, we didn’t have the first half we wanted and I’m just chuffed to bits with how all 23 men contributed to help us get the victory.”
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