Junior World Championship: Wales have 'fighting chance' of reaching semi-finals

By Nick WebbBBC Wales Sport
Keelan Giles
Keelan Giles scored two tries in Wales Under-20s' 26-25 defeat by Ireland Under-20s

Wales Under-20 head coach Jason Strange insists the team still have a "fighting chance" of reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship despite a shock opening defeat to Ireland.

Strange's side must now go on to defeat New Zealand in their group, a feat Wales achieved in the 2012 tournament.

"Even though it is going to be more difficult, we've got a fighting chance," said Strange.

After Wales' 26-25 defeat to the Irish, New Zealand beat Georgia 55-0.

Wales took two losing bonus points from the match, and face Georgia in Manchester on Saturday, 11 June, before tackling the top seed All Blacks in Salford on Wednesday 15 June.

"That's not impossible by any means, we'll be preparing well and looking forward to the challenge," Strange said of the New Zealand match.

Grand Slam winners Wales took a 17-point lead against Ireland but were stunned by an Ireland fight-back, while Keelan Giles' 78th minute corner try went unconverted as replacement Jarrod Evans sent a difficult kick wide.

Wales U20
Wales Under 20s won the Grand Slam in the 2016 Under 20s Six Nations

Fly-half Dan Jones created two of the early tries but could only land two kicks from five attempts at goal.

"It's painful after an outstanding first 25 minutes with everything going to plan. But Ireland frustrated us and we gave some soft penalties away, so the momentum quickly changed," Strange told BBC Wales.

"We left [goal-kicking] points out there, but I don't think we lost because of the goal-kicks. There were a number of reasons. We lost composure, we conceded soft penalties and to be fair to Ireland, their recycling game was very good."

It represented a turn-around in fortunes from the Six Nations, when Wales came from behind in the second half against Ireland, France and Scotland to win the title.

"It's all part of their learning, much as you enjoy winning. They'll stay tight, you have highs and lows in rugby but how we respond now as a group is important" Strange added.

Scotland pulled off the surprise of the opening round, beating Australia 15-10.

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