England 21 South Africa 20: We deserve to retain title, declares Itoje
England 21 South Africa 20: Maro Itoje says the Red Rose deserve the Junior World Championship title
Maro Itoje insists England got what they deserved after he led them to a successful defence of their Junior World Championship title in New Zealand.
The hosts were the only country to ever defend the crown but they were beaten by South Africa in the semi-finals, who set up a showdown with England at Eden Park.
And the reigning champions edged a nerve-jangling clash 21-20, through tries from Itoje’s Saracens teammate Nathan Earle and Exeter Chiefs flanker Joel Conlon.
We have a fantastic squad and fantastic coaches; they’re just awesome boys
South Africa’s Jesse Kriel scored two tries for his side, who threw everything they had at England for the full 80 minutes, but Nick Walshe’s troops came out on top.
“It’s an amazing feeling; we have been working so hard,” said captain Itoje. “It’s just joy, this has been a fantastic experience for us, our boys worked so hard and we got what we deserved.
“We believed that if we stayed to our principles and stayed to the plan we’d do well and we did, we won the World Cup.
“We have a fantastic squad and fantastic coaches; they’re just awesome boys.”
And Gloucester fly-half Billy Burns saluted a tremendous squad effort against a tough South African side.
“They’re big physical guys and they really brought it to us,” he said. “We felt at half time we were in a good place but we still needed to push on and to come out and to give that performance I give all credit to the boys.
“It’s a full 23 effort and the boys off the bench made a big impact, to get over the finishing line is a real achievement and I’m really happy.
“That last 20 minutes was nail biting and to get through it is a massive achievement.
“All credit to the boys, we deserved that. We’ve worked hard all campaign it’s been tough but to come through and win something at the end of it just shows how hard we’ve worked so it’s real satisfying.”