- “We always tell our lads to have a go. If it comes off, it's fantastic” – Walton
- Forwards coach says his pack adapted very well
England Under 18 Forwards Coach Peter Walton was satisfied with a 23-3 victory over Australian Schools and praised the patience and adaptability of his team.
John Fletcher fielded a side that included a smattering of new names to complement those players who had toured South Africa in the summer, meaning it was crucial for an unfamiliar group to gel quickly.
With that in mind, Walton explained that a coherent effort from England’s pack was a resounding positive to take away from the win at Harrow School.
“I was very pleased given the short time we’ve had together,” he said. “We’ve only had a few sessions and there have been lads that are fresh to the team who have never played with each other before. From a forwards point of view I am chuffed to bits.
“Our set-piece was good. There were a couple of times we were penalised in the lineout, but in general it was very strong even after changing all our calling structures. I thought the Leeds boys [Lewis Boyce, Jack Walker and Paul Hill] were really strong in the front row as well.
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“We should maybe have got away in the first half but that is credit to the Australians working really hard on defence. I think the scoreboard was about right in the end and we’ll take a lot from the game.”
Walton also singled out a hard-fought breakdown tussle as an important area of learning for the hosts. In the same manner Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy have proved exceptional at slowing down opposition ball for the Wallabies this autumn, Australia Schools competed very well on the floor.
But England prevailed and two late tries through captain James Chisholm and replacement wing Will Hayward showcased some impressive pace and handling – testament to the youngsters’ attacking ambition and fitness levels.
“The fitness work the lads do at their academies is something we have to trust,” Walton continued. “We know we can keep playing for 80 minutes that way.
“That try at the end was fantastic – it was risky, but we tell the lads to have a go. If it comes off, it’s fantastic. If it doesn’t, you just hope it doesn’t lead to a try for the opposition.”
Chisholm now heads into Nick Walshe’s England Under 20 set-up with a strong contingent of his Under 18 teammates, and Walton seemed sure they could make an immediate impact.
“There are always good lads coming through with England and the next crop [of Under 18s] is outstanding, especially in the forwards.
“There are some crackers from the lads leaving up to the 20s and I am really excited for them – there are some special players there.”