England Under-20s captain Jack van Poortvliet credited his side’s physical defence for overturning reigning champions Ireland to keep their Grand Slam bid alive.
The Leicester Tigers scrum-half skippered his side to an impressive 24-15 win over their Irish counterparts at Cardiff Arms Park with all the tries coming from the forwards and bruising back rower Jack Clement named Player of the Match.
“I think our defence won us that game, it was really tough that first half playing into the wind, but we just kept that good defensive line with no cracks,” said Van Poortliet.
“The effort in defence was unbelievable and some big turning points in the game came from it.
“Big credit to our defence for shutting them down as they are a difficult team to break down.
“Physicality was something we spoke about in the week, something we knew we had to bring if we wanted to stop the Irish on the front foot.
“We really showed up physically – all credit to the forwards and backs they all stepped up.
“A really physical battle but one I think we came out on top of, all credit to the boys and their mentality, it was really good fight from them.”
Only Wales and Italy stand in the way of a clean sweep for Alan Dickens’ men and the England coach admitted he was proud of his side, who have rattled off three wins on the spin after beating France and Scotland in Rounds 1 and 2.
“We’ve played three games so far and I’ve been extremely proud with the boys in all three,” said Dickens.
“The first game [against France] from being 19-3 down, coming back and certainly with that second-half performance, I was very proud of that.
“Last week, difficult circumstances against Scotland who came really hard at our breakdown. We had a real focus on that this week – we knew the Irish were going to come hard.
“We met them today, we were solid in defence, very, very physical.
“The effort from 1-26, the whole squad all week has been outstanding and from an excellent training week you get a performance like that.”
Dickens suggested England’s togetherness off the field is driving performances on the park but refused to get carried away with talk of a Grand Slam.
“What I learnt about the side is how tight they are, I really do like the pathway programme, some of these boys have played together at international level since Under-16s through Under-17s and 18s,” he said.
“They grow close to each other; they’ve got bonds and you see that within the group.
“To put a performance in like we did today, those bonds have got to be there, and the culture is certainly within the group – they are working for each other.
“You saw today that if we put our game plan on the pitch, the score will take care of itself.
“The hard work and the effort the players have put in so far this season has been outstanding and we will continue to push that in these next two games.
“As we said last week it’s a win and our sole focus is on Wales next week.”