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Martin Haag proud of electric English youngsters


Head coach Martin Haag was full of praise for his World Rugby Under-20 Championship-winning side after Northampton Saints’ Harry Mallinder inspired them to a 45-21 win over their Irish counterparts and a third title in four years.

Mallinder bagged two tries and was named man of the match as he led England Under-20 to a 21-0 half-time lead in what Haag dubbed an ‘electric’ performance at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Harlequin Joe Marchant showed all the pace and guile that earned him eight Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances this season to open the scoring, while Newcastle’s Callum Chick and Worcester's Huw Taylor also crossed as Haag’s men banished an indifferent Under-20 Six Nations campaign from their memory.

Though Nigel Carolan’s side fought back in the second period with tries from Adam McBurney and Shane Daly, Mallinder crossed twice and Marchant completed his brace to ensure the English youngsters became only the second side to win on home turf after South Africa in 2012.

And former Bath Rugby man Haag was ecstatic about the way his charges has performed.

“I thought the performance was outstanding, the way we adapted and turned defence into attack was brilliant. We played with high intensity, the first half was superb,” he explained.

"We’re in a good place, the first-half performance was electric to watch. We’ve shown incredible team spirit which is a key ingredient for any side.

“We didn’t get everything right, but overall I’m delighted with how the boys have played. The players have driven that and (coach) Rory Teague has done great work with the backs and the attack.

“That’s how these guys want to play, they want to play an exciting brand of rugby.

“Sometimes there are a few errors that come with this, but these guys want to play in a way where they can express themselves, and it’s great we’ve been able to implement that in a short space of time."

Haag blooded ten new caps during the tournament and believes that this team can go on to replicate the impact that 2013 and 2014 winners Maro Itoje and Jack Clifford have had for the senior England side.

“These players have a huge amount of potential, they have a bright future ahead of them and this is just part of their rugby journey,” he said.

“We saw England complete a series whitewash on Saturday morning and the majority of those guys have come through the pathway, our challenge as coaches is to continue that.

“They key thing for me is that they’ve made some friendships and bonds that will last for life and have made a little bit of history for themselves.

"Some of this group will be available next year and we want to continue the great work that is being done at under 16 and 18 by John Fletcher in the player pathway.”

For more information about the World Rugby U20 Championship click here #FutureStarsofRugby

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