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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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A Miller's tale from Tokyo

Rob Miller
Rugby Union's Rob Miller in action

Newcastle Falcons fly half Rob Miller reports from the England Under 20 squad in Tokyo while they are there for the  IRB Toshiba Junior World Championship.

TUESDAY JUNE 16 12.07pm
WE'RE LOOKING forward to the semi final against South Africa after recovering from playing in the crazy heat and humidity against Samoa.

Just warming up was tiring, so all credit to our lads in winning the game 52-7. We were really clinical in the first half of the game and scoring tries gave us a great cushion and that took a bit of the pressure off.

Samoa battled back okay and the game became a bit scrappy in the second half but we got through it, everyone's okay and we haven't picked up any injuries.

Apart from one. Our kit man - former Royal Marine Gary Lester - went down with a calf strain when he ran onto the pitch.

He's off his crutches now and at the bottom of the medical team's treatment list. We found him a wheelchair in the hotel which he got very upset about! It was last seen being used as a go-kart by Chris York and George Lowe.

We trained the day after Saturday's game and Monday was a full day off with no meetings and great chance to unwind without thinking about rugby for a few hours.

Even when we've had the chance to get out and about before there have always been scheduled meetings and work to do. We'll be into our team run tomorrow refreshed and after that it's all guns blazing for the rest of the tournament.

There were a few different outings and a group of about eight of us went to a flea market in a district called Ameyoko. Everything you can imagine was on offer from crafts to local produce. A couple of lads now have new watches, Calum Clark picked up two for some reason.

Gloucester's Charlie Sharples was our tour guide as he's appointed himself the squad expert on Tokyo and its railway system. He gets a lot of stick.

South Africa are our next opponents in the semi finals on Wednesday and we'll be having a close look at them after watching their deciding pool game against France.

They've got big players but they've also got some pace out wide, so there's some variety about their game and they have different styles.

We know about some of their players from last year's game like Francois Brummer, a fly half who's been playing at 12 for them here. They have been using two playmakers in midfield, a system that has pros and cons. We'll see how they cope with us.



IT WAS good to start in our 30-7 win against Scotland and get a full game under my belt at the Junior World Championship. It's been a while.

The club season in England finished for Newcastle at the start of May. Since then I've played in a Sevens tournament in Belfast with the Kooga Whalers, in our warm-up against Loughborough and just done conditioning training.

It was good to get a second win but there are things for us to work on. We spent most of the first half struggling to retain possession.

We had the platform but either forced the offload or made a mistake and allowed Scotland to stay in the game.

But at the interval we were still 20 points up having not put together many pieces of play.

We defended really well, there was lots of hard work, we scrambled well when they got behind us and there were some great cover tackles from Will Hurrell, Tom Homer and Charlie Sharples.

In all our analysis showed that we had 29 pieces of possession to use in that first half and 24 times we couldn't get past one phase which was frustrating.

But in the second half we put some phase play together, created some pressure and straight away we went through six phases and prop Shaun Knight offloaded to Luke Eves who scored.

Henry Trinder got another try when we got some free ball from a maul and the outside backs made me aware that the kick was on and I was able to push the ball through a gap for him to score.

Our next opponents Samoa were on the pitch after us.

They have two wins from two so there's lots for us to play for on Saturday.

They're very strong on the counter-attack, like to play off the cuff and have a strong offload game.

We have to be aware of that, be more clinical and create phases of play to break them down.

Some England players had their own defences broken down when they ran into actress Megan Fox in Tokyo.

Flanker Calum Clark, fly half Rory Clegg and full back Tom Homer wandered straight into the set-up for the world premiere of Transformers 2 in Roppongi Hills.

They slipped back to the hotel to get a video camera but strangely kept the discovery to themselves and didn't alert the rest of the lads.

Calum clearly struck gold with Megan, who signed his hat as he waited next to the red carpet and captured the meeting on film.

England U20 30 Scotland U20 7

England cruised through their second pool game without locating top gear against struggling Scotland in Tokyo.

They scored four tries, Gloucester's Charlie Sharples and Henry Trinder touching down in the first half and Bristol's Luke Eves and Sale Sharks' Carl Fearns in the second, with London Irish full back Tom Homer kicking the rest of the points.

Now only Samoa - 17-14 winners over the Scots last week - stand in their way of reaching the semi-finals of the IRB Toshiba Junior World Championships.

England made 10 changes from the side that put Japan to the sword 43-0 in the opening game, including a first start for Gloucester scrum half Dave Lewis.

They only played in patches, though, before the game flattened out in the final half-hour and weren't put under any pressure by a woefully poor Scottish side that will face a real challenge to qualify for the 2010 tournament in Argentina.

The start was an undistinguished one but England's ability to punish Scottish mistakes kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Homer got them off the mark with a 50 metre penalty in the third minute after flanker Chris Fusaro infringed on the floor.

England should have gone further ahead when Eves carved his way through the middle without being able to find Trinder with a scoring pass.

They struck from a turnover 13 minutes in, though, Ashleah McCulloch fumbling at the base of a ruck and Sharples streaking away up the right and outpacing the defence with Homer adding a superb touchline conversion.

Scotland shaded possession for the rest of the half without showing any of the precision needed to trouble the No.2 seeds.

Will Hurrell needed to pull off one vital tackle on Alex Dunbar five metres out, with Trinder and Homer dislodging the ball from Richie Gray's grasp immediately afterwards.

England's errors and missed touches kept the underdogs in the game until they showed a more ruthless streak at the end of the first half.

Sharples threatened again down the right and from a close-range lineout they drove for the line before Miller stabbed the ball between the Scottish centres for Trinder to touch down his fourth try in five games.

Homer converted again, then added a penalty on the stroke of half-time after the Scots twice killed the ball in midfield for a 20-0 lead.

England came back out full of energy to strike within two minutes and enjoy their best spell of the game.

Eves scored his second try of the tournament after a prolonged attack - Gloucester prop Shaun Knight providing the assist - and Scotland looked visibly tired.

Trinder went close, York drove at the line and more errors prevented them from adding to the score with the game effectively over with half-an-hour left to play as they opted for attacking lineouts and scrums rather than kick at goal.

A bit more structure might have helped but Scotland simply couldn't cash in, the luckless McCullough knocking on with the line at his mercy 10 minutes from time.

Fearns made sure of the bonus point by following up Josh Ovens's drive from close range two minutes from time. Scotland gained a late consolation from the final move when Peter Jericevich burrowed over.

England U20: Tom Homer (London Irish); Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Luke Eves (Bristol Rugby, captain), Will Hurrell (Leicester Tigers); Rob Miller (Newcastle Falcons), Dave Lewis (gloucester Rugby); Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs), Jamie George (Saracens), Shaun Knight (Gloucester), James Gaskell (Sale Sharks), Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Josh Ovens (Bath Rugby), Chris York (Harlequins).
Replacements: James Clark (London Irish) for George 52, Bob Baker (London Wasps) for Moon 66, Dan Williams (Gloucester Rugby) for Gaskell 51, Carl Fearns (Sale Sharks) for Lawes 70, Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) for Lewis 60, Rory Clegg (Newcastle Falcons) for Eves 49, Jack Cobden (Leicester Tigers) for Homer 58.

Scorers: Tries: Sharples, Trinder, Eves. Conversions: Homer 2. Penalties: Homer 2.

Scotland U20: Peter Horne; Grant Anderson, Ashleah McCulloch, Robbie Johnston, Alex Dunbar; Robbie McGowan, Henry Pyrgos; Dougie Orr, Finlay Gillies, David Morton, Nick Campbell, Richie Gray (captain), Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro, Stuart McInally.
Replacements: Gavin Cameron for Gillies 71, Grant Gilchurist for Morton 30-52, Grant Shiells for Gray 56, Robert Harley for Campbell 56, Struan Dewar for Fusaro 47, Peter Jericevich for Pyrgos 56, Steven Aitken for Johnston 38.

Scorers: Try: Jericevic. Conversion: Horne.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)

Monday June 8 9.23am

THE DAY before our game against Japan was a quiet one and we checked out part of the Tokyo shopping district of Shibuya and the High Street fashions on offer there.

No-one's bought much so far as it's pretty expensive out here.

On Friday our opening match against Japan came and went pretty quickly.

The first game of a tournament's always tough, particularly in the conditions we faced, but we managed to score some good tries, finished with a 43-0 win and put a lot of what we wanted to do into action.

I came on as a blood replacement for centre Greig Tonks in the second half and ended up staying on when he came back for Rory Clegg.

There was a fair bit of shuffling around with people out of position but we still managed to get our patterns and shapes right in attack.

In the time I was on the pitch we added a couple more tries through Carl Fearns and Courtney Lawes, the second one coming nicely when we managed to keep the ball through a few phases and break them down for Courtney to get over.

We're all keeping an eye on the IRB website to see what's happening in the other pools and looking at DVDs of other games.

Things are pretty much progressing as we expected with the Southern Hemisphere sides putting up some big wins.

It's good to keep an eye on your rivals like Kurtley Beale, the Australian fly half who's been playing for the Waratahs and Zac Guildford, who was at the tournament last year and is on the wing for the Hurricanes in Super 14.

Scotland are up next, though, and I played against them for England when I came back into the squad at the end of the Six Nations.

They've got some big lads in their pack and they'll be massively up for it and out to improve on the defeat against Samoa in their opening game.

It's one we'll have to approach with a lot of focus and concentration and get stuck into them straight away.

After facing Japan we had a pool recovery session on the Friday morning and the rest of the day off saw six or seven of us hitting the shopping districts again - first to have a look Prada and Cartier places that were way out of our league, then back to Shibuya with Henry Trinder, Ben Youngs, Calum Clark, Jack Cobden and Rory Clegg in tow.

The southern boys and the Londoners seem to be into their fashion the most - particularly George Lowe, Tom Homer and Trinder.

The biggest purchase of the day, though, was by Youngsy, who's now the proud owner of a Samurai sword after visiting one dealership.

He's got all the certificates and documentation so I hope he doesn't have too many problems getting it back through customs...

Friday June 5 8.50am

Click here for a blow-by-blow account of the England vs Japan match, from  11am.

Wednesday June 3 4pm.

WE'VE BEEN in Tokyo for nearly a week now and spent first couple of days after our flight just getting used to a very different way of life.

I've never been to Japan before the culture is very different. The people are very conservative, very polite and respectful in welcoming foreigners - gaijin - to their country.

In the first couple of days we've had some light training sessions just over the road from the hotel in the local park - just going through our patterns and having a jog around to get the flight out of our bodies. For about the first 48 hours after you travel your most susceptible to injury so it was all very low key.

On Sunday and Monday things have been more serious and we've trained at the Suntory club. It was pretty intense with three sessions on the Monday and it's good to have that under our belts. We ran through our moves and picked out the things we're going to use in the first game, then had a weights session, then went into some small sided games and the forwards also did scrums and lineouts.

We've had some time to get out, though. First a few of us - myself, Calum Clark, Ben Youngs, Tom Homer, Rory Clegg - went out to a big electronics and gadget centre, basically six or seven floors of arcade games at the level where you're sitting in special pods.

We've also been out to a Sumo Stable to watch training and meet some of the wrestlers. They're massive guys and we watched them hammering into each other, then spoke to some of the older guys and found out a bit more about their day-to-day routine.

It's a very hierarchical set-up. The younger apprentices get up first, train first and prepare food for the older wrestlers and as they get older and more experienced they get to reap the rewards themselves.

We've got some of the same hierarchies in place, maybe with Gary Lester our kit man at the bottom of the pile!

There are some budding Sumo stars in our own team too. Of the props, Ben Moon had a go at pushing one of the wrestlers and did okay and Shaun Knight had the right body position. Scrum half Dave Lewis probably needs to get a bit more food in him.

The evening of our day off was spent at the British Embassy, where the Ambassador David Warren looked after us, met the players - George Lowe and Chris York went to his old school Epsom College - and tried some Japanese drumming.

Now we're all starting the build up to the Japan game with training on Wednesday and a Captain's Run on Thursday before we play them on Friday night over here.

The first game in a tournament is always tough whether you're a highly rated team or one of the underdogs. This one will be massive and a huge occasion for both sides and we're expecting a big crowd to be cheering them on.

We just have to have a clear understanding of what we want to do but we can't afford to underestimate what they'll bring to the party.

Best wishes, Rob Miller


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