Skippers sing the praises of the U21 World Cup
June 27, 2002

With the final round of matches fast approaching, the captains of those sides competing in the IRB U21 Rugby World Cup spoke on the importance of the tournament.

Teams are aiming for higher positions, be it being in the final or the semi-final or aiming for a higher ranking than their initial seedings. This underlines the competitive nature of this inaugural World Cup.

Teams arrived in Johannesburg with a wealth of international experience, be it at the IRB U19 Championship, the Six Nations Championship or previous U21 tournaments. They all agree this is the one from which they will reap the most returns.

Sporting a smile, but hurting inside after their loss to South Africa in the final seconds, New Zealander Jason Shoemark explains: "This is an awesome experience. You clash against players that you would otherwise not have the chance to compete with. There is a new culture in the tournament, it is a real World Cup." In his third year as U21 and with two U19 Championships behind him, his goal "is to become an All Black. Rugby has been my life and every since I was a little boy I've dreamt of
playing for my country."

For French captain Gregoy Lamboley, whose team was aiming for a semi-final and will have to settle for a 5th-6th place play-off said: "This time there is a big difference. The World Cup simply adds a lot more motivation; it has a bigger sense." And he wants "to cement my place at Toulouse and then hopefully see my career take me to the Tricolours."

Marian Miu, the Romanian skipper, believes that "Being here I am getting a lot of experience for the future of my career as a rugby player. It is a great step forward from the U19 Championship, the standards are a lot higher. It will be my last experience in this age group and it has been fantastic."

Swansea centre and Wales captain Matthew Brayley agrees with Miu. "It is certainly of high standard. Personally, this might be the last time I represent my country, as you never know where my career will take me, so that is also something to cherish."

For a team like Fiji, this is a lifetime experience. Captain Ilaitia Gavidi says "Most of the team had never left Fiji before. It is an enormous learning curve for all of us. The whole feeling of playing in a World Cup is unbelievable. An enormous step up for us, but still a great experience."

Italy's Silvio Orlandi's said: "This is my last year at U21 level and playing in a World Cup is a great way of graduating. It is a great window to show our game."

Matt McCullough, has been an inspirational captain for Ireland said: "The standard here is exceptional - the top teams are very powerful and well organised. Unbelievable experience for all of those involved."

England's Mark Soden also agrees that the quality of players and teams will help him and his team develop. "You can gage yourself against teams from the different countries. A great challenge. Playing in this World Cup can give you a sense of how good you are in terms of international rugby."

Referee appointments for IRB U21 World Cup FINALS - Friday June 28th

Fiji v Romania at Wits Univ. Stadium, kick-off at 11:00 (local time)
Referee: Louis Mzomba (South Africa) - 11th/12th Place
Japan v Italy at Wits Univ. Stadium, kick-off at 13:00 (local time)
Referee: Greg Davies (Scotland) - 9th/10th Place
England v Argentina at Ellis Park Stadium, kick-off at 11:00 (local
time) Referee: .Lyndon Bray (New Zealand) - 7th/8th Place
Ireland v France at Ellis Park Stadium, kick-off at 13:00 (local time)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales) - 5th/6th Place
New Zealand v Wales at Ellis Park Stadium, kick-off at 15:00 (local
time) Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia) - 3rd/4th Place
FINAL South Africa v Australia at Ellis Park Stadium, kick-off at 17:15
(local time) Referee: Simon McDowell (Ireland) - 1st/2nd Place

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