Max Malins believes that a change of tactics could be the key to retaining the World Rugby U20 Championships, which kicks off in Georgia on Wednesday.
The Saracens fly-half was part of the England side that won the Six Nations grand slam title in March, but hints that a different game plan will be adopted this time round.
“We’ve been working on not being as predictable in attack,” said Malins. “We seemed to play the same patterns throughout the Six Nations and the latter teams caught on to it.
“We were getting quite predictable, so our [preparation] has been about trying to be more unpredictable. Playing a different way, a different style to catch teams off guard.”
Malins added: “We’re confident as a group that, any team put in front of us, we can do a job and if we play at our best we’re confident we’ll win.
“We have a really tough pool – Samoa, Wales and Australia will be our three main aims going into the World Cup.
“We’ve got games that we can look at who have played us before. We’ll do our preparation and preview on them beforehand and I’m sure they’ll bring something else to the table which you’ve got to expect.”
In doing so, Malins will lock horns with Australian flyer Henry Hutchinson in the final game of the pool stages. Hutchinson’s rapid rise to success includes debuting for Australia in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens as a 17-year-old in Cape Town back in 2015.
The Australian racked up 27 tries in his first season that culminated in him winning Rookie of the Year award and subsequently touching down 25 times in the following campaign.
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Indeed, Malins hasn’t been short of success himself — boasting a man-of-the-match display against France in the opening round of the Six Nations as well as making his senior debut for Saracens in the Premiership and helping his club to an Anglo-Welsh Cup semifinal.
But following last year’s World Championship success on home soil and a Six Nations grand slam, Malins is confident that his England team-mates can build on the achievements that have been ingrained at age grade level.
“We have a reputation on our heads now,” he continued. “If we play as well as we can do, I’m sure we’ll be able to win that group and then focus on the semi and the final after that. It would be brilliant to win it again.”
But the young No. 10 believes that New Zealand — who are fresh from their recent Oceania U20 Championship win — could be the team who stand in the way of a fourth title win in five years.
At the forefront of the Baby Blacks’ attack will be Tiaan Falcon. Son of former Hurricanes and Maori All Black Gordon Falcon, the Hawke’s Bay fly-half produced a standout debut performance against Fiji in the opening fixture of the Oceania U20 Championships, scoring 19 points.
“They are the team to beat, being the best team in the world, but I think we should be seen like that as well,” said Malins.
South Africa will be determined to spoil the party. Despite missing out on a place in the Springboks squad, the Junior Boks have bolstered their ranks with Curwin Bosch. One of the top performers in Manchester last year, Bosch has been at the helm of the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign this season.
At just 19-years-old, the fullback turned fly-half already has over a dozen Super Rugby games under his belt, scoring just shy of 140 points in the process.
If Bosch is on song, the Junior Boks could be a side challenging for their first World Championship title since 2012.
But for Malins and England, the reputation and favourites tag will need to be handled with care as they begin their title defence with a first-ever meeting with Samoa on Wednesday.
“Being World Championship winners and now grand slam winners, we don’t want to take that for granted so we’ll go game by game.”
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