The Junior Wallabies have ticked one box in 2019 but flyhalf Will Harrison says their focus has turned to one thing ahead of the World Rugby U20s Championship: winning.
Australia’s U20 side took a big 24-0 win over New Zealand in the Oceania U20s this month, a result that provided some timely positive news for rugby.
Harrison said there was little time for them to savour that win, thought, with the real prize on offer at next month’s World Rugby U20s Championships.
“Even straight after New Zealand, Gilly had us in the shed and said,that's one tick but our heads turn straight to that World Cup, with a tough pool with that first game against Italy,” he said.
“I think looking into it, we've got a lot of hard work to do. It's one of those tournaments where you can't miss a beat and you can't lose but I've got full confidence in our team and our coaching staff that we can go all the way.”
Australia hasn’t been on the U20s podium since 2011 and finished sixth in last year’s tournament but the team has more access to Super Rugby players this season for the entire tournament and from earlier in their preparation time.
Harrison said they had just one goal in mind for the competition.
“We're going there with only one thing and that's to win,” he said
“You can't have a top four finish, we're going there to win.
“I've got full confidence. We've worked really hard in the four months leading into it, tough pool but you've got to beat everyone to win it so we want to win it.”
Australia has been burned by slow starts in the tournament before with an opening loss to Wales in 2018 costing them a semi-final berth.
Coach Jason Gilmore has seen the margins between finals and a pool finish in the tournament and said it didn’t take much to take a big step up the rankings.
“This is my fourth one that I've been to, so I was lucky enough to be at the one in 2010 when we made the final and probably some different ones were 2016 and last year, it comes down to bonus points and points differential and that type of thing,” he said.
“Whilst the squad's finished 5th and sixth for a couple of years you're only talking about one potentially and in World Cups that's the difference between top four to the next four.”
Gilmore said the bond in his team had been the obvious difference he had seen heading into next month’s World Rugby U20s competition.
“It's pretty tight,” he said.
“The biggest thing we've done with the boys is just worked on our off-field stuff, so on-field's always a focus but getting together as a team and building that culture between them collectively has been a really big focus for us this year.”
The Junior Wallabies will have their last hit-out on Wednesday night before heading to Argentina for the championships.
Gilmore said that clash would be a good physical test, featuring some fellow U20s prospects and a host of club players.
“We're just looking for some physicality from the Baabaas against our young guys just to help us with our prep,” he said.
The Junior Wallabies take on the Australia Barbarians on Wednesday May 22 at Chatswood Oval, kicking off at 7pm AEST.
All times AEST.
Tuesday June 4, 11:30pm - Australia vs Italy
Saturday June 8, 11:30pm Australia vs Ireland
Thursday June 13, 4:30am - Australia vs England