Colchester in rugby world cup final
CONFIDENT Mike Haywood, pictured right, has backed England to inflict New Zealand’s first-ever defeat in rugby’s Junior World Championships and bring home the trophy in tomorrow night’s final.
The former Colchester Rugby Club youth hooker has played a key role in England’s route to the final which has seen them beat old foes Scotland, narrowly hold off South Africa and then overcome France in Wednesday’s semi-final.
Standing in their way is another strong Under-20s New Zealand side who have won the three previous world championships – without losing a single game.
But Haywood remains defiant in the face of that daunting statistic, insisting there is little to choose between the two sides before the televised final.
He said: “Our main goal at the start of the tournament was to try and win the World Cup. The group has had the confidence all the way through and we are delighted we have achieved what we set out to do.
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“We always thought New Zealand would be our toughest opponents and both us and them have had a great tournament. We saw their semi-final win over Australia and they were looking pretty sharp. But I think both sides have been quite equal throughout and it is going to be a close game.”
After starting the opening-game win against Ireland, Haywood, who tasted 6 Nations glory with his country in March, was forced to sit out the comfortable win over Scotland with a dead leg.
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But the Northampton Saints hooker came roaring back to start against South Africa, a win that ensured qualification, and then overcome the French to book a place in tomorrow’s night final against the self-titled ‘Baby Blacks’.
Haywood said: “I am feeling good and fresh after the semi-final win. The group is very together and working for each other. We even have had a bit of time-off at a water park after we beat France.
“I hope to play in the final. But we have strong competition for places which is great as it pushes everyone on.”
John Powell, chairman of Colchester Rugby Club, said: “Mikey progressed through the mini-groups which led to Northampton Saints. He’s been back on a number of occasions and presented his England Under-16s shirt to the club. He was there at a number of club presentations. He’s a role model, a smashing guy and he’s a very down to earth, hard-working rugby player who enjoys the sport.
“He’s a very good player and a first-class hooker. Everyone in East Anglia should be cheering him on.”
The final will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 tomorrow night from 5.45pm.