The 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship is proving to be compelling viewing, it is also proving just how level the playing field is becoming in rugby at this age-group.
Before the tournament if someone had said that Scotland would beat Australia, Ireland would beat New Zealand, and Wales would beat Georgia by just a solitary point, you would likely have laughed. Even Argentina beating both France and South Africa, within 4 days of each other, at this age-grade, is a bit of a stretch.
It has all happened though, and it has thrilled us all so far.
Round 2 at the Manchester City Academy Stadium started with New Zealand, champions and 55-0 round 1 winners over Georgia, against Ireland, who came from 17-0 down to beat Wales.
The odds were stacked in the Kiwi’s favour, but Ireland defied the odds to secure a brilliant, memorable, historic 33-24 win over the Baby Blacks. The beauty of the Irish win, from their point of view, is that things are now entirely in their control and they have the opposition that they would have chosen, Georgia, in their final game on Wednesday.
A win over Georgia would see the Irish qualify at the top of the pile and reach the semi finals. Of course that is not quite as simple as it sounds though, for in the second game at the Academy Stadium, Georgia scared the life out of Wales, running them so close, only to lose 10-9. They were a spilled ball away from winning too. With the clock in the red they had the ball and might have been thinking about setting up for the drop goal, but alas they spilled it and the chance was gone, leaving Wales, theoretically, in with a shout of qualifying for the semis, if they beat the Baby Blacks.
The third game at the Manchester City Academy Stadium saw a mini Caluctta Cup clash as hosts England took on Scotland.
With Scotland having beaten England in the 6 Nations, and having beaten Australia on Tuesday, this one seemed wide open. However England were simply magnificent, blasting the Scots out of the way for a 44-0 victory, and putting themselves in pole position not just to qualify, but to qualify as top seeds for the semi finals. You can see our report form that game here: England U20 v Scotland U20.
Over at the AJ Bell, Australia kicked things off against Italy, desperate to get back on track after that surprise defeat to Scotland on Tuesday, while the Italians were looking for a pride boost after a heavy loss to England.
Australia got what they wanted, a strong 38-10 win, and set themselves up nicely for Wednesday’s Pool decider against England, though they will need a bonus point win to usurp the hosts.
Next up saw France, wounded v Argentina, take on Japan, who thrilled but ultimately fell to a heavy defeat against South Africa.
It was a similar story for the Cherry Blossoms again today as they played some neat rugby at times but were beaten well by a French side who were bang on form, eventually finishing things off with a 46-14 scoreline.
The final game of the day had the feeling of being an early Pool decider, South Africa v Argentina.
It was a brutal affair, one of the closer games in this competition to Test match intensity. It went back and forth, but Argentina took a decisive 13-6 lead into half time after a late first half score.
In the second half South Africa’s discipline cost them dear, conceding plenty of penalties, one of which resulted in a yellow card that really could have been red. Argentina refused to get involved though, doing their talking with the ball and securing a superb 19-13 victory, putting them firmly in the frame to go on and lift this title. Perhaps the big test for them will be squad depth in this tournament of four day turnarounds, where your squad is really tested.
If they pass that test, and Japan on Wednesday could be the perfect opportunity to rotate, then they really could be a side to look out for as dark horses.
That is the beauty of this year’s World Rugby U20 Champioship. It is wide open. Truly, wide open.
Bring on Wednesday!
World Rugby U20 Championship Round 2 Results:
New Zealand 24-33 Ireland (Pool A)
Wales 10-9 Georgia (Pool A)
Australia 38-10 Italy (Pool B)
England 44-0 Scotland (Pool B)
France 46-14 Japan (Pool C)
South Africa 13-19 Argentina (Pool C)
World Rugby U20 Championship Fixtures:
Wednesday 15th June
Scotland v Italy (Pool B, Manchester City Academy Stadium, 15.15)
Argentina v Japan (Pool C, AJ Bell, 15.15)
Ireland v Georgia (Pool A, Manchester City Academy Stadium, 17.30)
New Zealand v Wales (Pool A, AJ Bell, 17.30)
South Africa v France (Pool C, Manchester City Academy Stadium, 19.45)
England v Australia (Pool B, AJ Bell, 19.45)
Monday 20th June – Semi Finals Day (Pool Winners and best runner up compete in semi finals, next two runners up and top two third place in 5th – 8th seeding games, three pool losers and worst third placed side in 9th – 12th seeding games)
Saturday 25th June – Finals Day
|World Rugby U20 Championship – Pool A Standings|
|World Rugby U20 Championship – Pool B Standings|
|World Rugby U20 Championship – Pool C Standings|