The curtain will come down on a hugely competitive and enjoyable World Rugby U20 Trophy 2017 on Sunday at the Charrúa Stadium, in Montevideo, with a match-up between first-time finalists Portugal and a Japanese side hoping for an immediate return to the World Rugby U20 Championship.
Japan scored 16 tries and 111 points en route to Sunday’s showpiece occasion as winners of Pool A, impressing in victories over Canada, Chile and the previously unbeaten Namibia. But all that will count for nothing if they fall at the final hurdle to a dogged Portugese side that has grown used to upsetting the odds and 'winning tough.’
Portugal have been a revelation with a good pack of forwards that know what it needs to do to provide their silky backs time and space. The polished boot of fly-half Jorge Abecassis, both from hand and kicking for the posts, is integral to the way they play and they have shown great spirit under the coaching of former international Luis Pessarra.
The European U19 champions stunned hosts Uruguay 20-18 in round one before seeing off Hong Kong 31-24 and then, on a day of high drama in Punta del Este, they booked their place in the final with a nerve-wracking 16-13 win over Fiji.
Ably led by capped winger Antonio Vidinha, they go into the final as the underdogs. “We know we are the underdogs, again! That is how we like to play. Everybody thinks that Japan will beat us easily but we want to show the what we are made of," said Vidinha. “It is now about recovery, setting our game plans and then putting it out there on the pitch."
“Japan are a very strong side, with great forwards," he continued. "They are very dynamic but we relish the defensive side of the game so I have no doubt it will be a very intense game and a good one to watch.”
JAPAN FOCUSED ON ONE GOAL
Relegated from the U20 Championship in 2016, Japan are now just 80 minutes away from an immediate return to the top level of age-grade of international rugby.
Tongan-born flanker Faulua Makisi has showcased his incredible skills with five tries in the last two games, and will be one to watch again, but Japan will not be taking anything for granted on Sunday.
“Portugal are strong in defence so we’ll have to play the game in the right areas of the field,” captain Taichi Mano. “But we are well-prepared for the game and determined to take the trophy back to Japan.”
Had it not been for a poor first half performance in their opening game against Portugal, Uruguay could so easily have been contesting Sunday’s final instead of the Junior Os Lobos.
Los Teritos recovered from that setback to record emphatic wins over Fiji and Hong Kong which left them one point behind Portugal in the final Pool B standings and facing a bronze medal match against Namibia, runners-up in Pool A.
Improving Chile will take on the physical might and flair of Fiji for fifth, while the seventh-place play-off is between Canada and Hong Kong.
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