Mercer 'proud' as England U20 progress

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England U20 captain Zach Mercer said pride and character got the side through their final pool game against Australia as they sealed a semi-final place in the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Max Malins sent over a late penalty to seal a 20-19 victory and set up a last four place against South Africa.

And Mercer was delighted with how his side came through the game.  

“It was outstanding, that’s the only word that sums it up, we put a huge effort in and wore that England jersey with pride,” he said.

“We showed similar character and heart to win the Grand Slam against Ireland and we’ve shown it again against Australia. Credit must go to our strength and conditioning staff for getting us into good shape to play for the full 80 minutes. I’m over the moon.”

England were trailing in a tough first half before wing Gabriel Ibitoye scored a superb try to spark them into life and Mercer paid tribute to him.

“Gabs did that last week also, so good on him, he’s coming into his own and hopefully he can continue his form. However, it’s been a squad effort, including the lads who have been ruled out of the tournament and I’d like to dedicate the victory to the guys that have had to leave because of injury.”

England now face South Africa in a repeat of last year’s World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final and Mercer knows what to expect.

“We showed once again how hard we work for each other and will celebrate the victory and then focus on South Africa who are a strong side so I’m sure that will be another tough game," he said. "We are excited for that challenge.”