Two rising nations go head to head in final


Leading your country at any level of the game is an honour that falls on very few. And to walk out as captain in the final of a global tournament is a rarer achievement still. Two young men will enjoy that moment on Sunday as Canada take on Georgia in Lisbon for the right to win the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2015 title.

Having beaten Namibia, Hong Kong and Tonga to top Pool B, Canada captain Lucas Rumball knows his side is on a roll.

“I am very happy with our performances so far in the tournament. We have shown real grit and determination that has made us difficult to beat. Our motto has been ‘no regrets’. We want to leave everything out on the pitch so whatever happens we know we’ve done our best,” he says.

But it could have been so different. Trailing 11-10 against Tonga in the closing stages on Wednesday, the young Canucks battled hard to win a late penalty chance that was coolly slotted by Giuseppe du Toit to snatch a 13-11 victory.

“I was not worried,” says Rumball matter-of-factly. “We had a similar situation in the qualifiers against the USA when we were behind very late in the game and we came back to win with a kick. I think our supporters were more nervous than we were. We know our game well so we didn’t panic, we just continued doing what we do, confident that we would get our chance.”


With Sunday’s big game looming large – Canada’s second U20 Trophy final in three years – the formidable flanker from Toronto says he is not thinking too much about the Georgians.

“To be honest, I don’t know too much about them. We will watch some video later but really we are concentrating on what we want to do, not what we think they’ll do. I’m sure they’ll be a hard-hitting team and obviously they have done well by beating Portugal, Uruguay and Fiji so I’m expecting a great game. I am really looking forward to it.”

Rumball knows there is an expectation at home about what this team can achieve. With the senior men’s team playing at Rugby World Cup 2015 and the sevens side hopeful of qualification for the Olympic Games next year, success is not hard to find in Rugby Canada. And with the women’s 15s and sevens teams ranked even higher up the order than their male counterparts, the entire game is in a good place.

“The growth of rugby in Canada is fantastic at the moment. The game is really alive in schools and clubs around the country. There is a culture of passion that is growing stronger all the time right across the game and we want to contribute to that.”

Standing in their way will be a Junior Lelos team making their first appearance in a final, led by the robust hooker Badri Alkhazashvili. Sent off in the first match against Uruguay, Alkhazashvili is contrite and has learned from his mistake.


“We have three wins out of three so of course I am really happy with this and excited to be in the final. But it has not been perfect. In the first game, our discipline let us down so we spoke about improving in that area. 

“In the second game, we did everything we could against Fiji and it showed on the score board. And then I think we relaxed too much against Portugal and we were a bit surprised by how well they played against us. But we managed to win so overall I’m pleased.

“We are doing some video analysis on Canada to see where their strengths and weaknesses are. We will be building a game plan around that but also it’s important for us to rest and build our power for Sunday.”

Like Canada, rugby in Georgia is very much in the ascendency. Increased investment and a desire to develop at all levels is what characterises Georgian rugby at present.

“It is amazing how much rugby is growing in Georgia. There is more money in the sport now, more pitches and stadiums are being built and the people are really getting behind it. We have a traditional game called lelo burti, which is a full contact sport similar to rugby. So we understand and we appreciate the characteristics of rugby. It’s a game that suits us as a nation.


“It is an exciting time. Our youth teams are doing well, our senior team is moving up the rankings and will play at Rugby World Cup this year and we will host the U20 Championships in 2017, which will be a big honour and responsibility for our union. I know it will be a great tournament because we will give it everything we have.”

With a place in World Rugby U20 Championship 2016 on offer for the winner, the stakes are high.

Kick-off on Sunday is at 17:00 (local time). Before that, in the other games, Portugal will play Hong Kong in the seventh-place play-off and Fiji will face Namibia for fifth place, both at the CAR Rugby do Jamor ground. The action will then shift to Estadio Universitario de Lisboa for the third-place play-off between Tonga and Uruguay before that all-important final.


Georgian time


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