The World Rugby U20 Championships are over for another year, but what a glorious month of rugby we have been treated to by the world’s most talented youngsters this June.
Finals day today was yet another wonderful day of rugby, and for England it was the perfect day as they claimed the title in brilliant fashion, making it three in four years as they added to their 2013 and 2014 victories.
They did so quite spectacularly, beating a very strong Irish side 45-21, in perhaps their best performance of the campaign. You can see our report form the game here: England v Ireland.
It is a stunning transformation from England, who just a few months ago finished 5th in the U20 6 Nations, having lost to everyone bar Italy. They reacted well though, bringing in a new Head Coach in the form of Martin Haag. Haag’s work with the team has been brilliant, over the last month they have become a formidable outfit in both attack and defence, never more so than in today’s final, where the pressure was truly on in front of a packed AJ Bell Stadium.
Of course where there is joy for one there is despair for others. Ireland have been superb throughout the tournament, from coming back from 17-0 down against Wales to beating the reigning Champions, New Zealand. Unfortunately today was just a game too far for them, but for this group of players there will be some very special days ahead, they have some true stars of the future in their ranks, not least James Ryan and Max Deegan in the pack.
Ireland are not the only side returning with disappointment tonight though. Japan’s 41-17 loss to Italy in the 11th place play off means that they finish bottom of the pile in this year’s Championship and sees them relegated to the World Rugby U20 Trophy for 2017.
It is a shame for Japan, but they will fancy their chances of being promoted next year, they will likely be challenged most by Fiji in that competition next year.
Promoted from that tournament for 2017 are Samoa, the victors of this year’s Trophy. They follow on from Georgia, who were promoted last year and competed in their maiden championship this year.
It has been a successful tournament for Georgia, who host the Championships next year. They finished 10th, losing 27-24 to France in the 9th place play off. Even that game was another impressive one from the Georgians though, who are surely pressing ever nearer to 6 Nations inclusion, they have beaten Italy and come within a single score of beating both Wales and France in this Championship.
Wales have had a topsy turvy Championship, blowing a 17-0 lead against Ireland, then only just sneaking past Georgia, before then coming within a last minute penalty of beating the Baby Blacks last week.
They then got humiliated by the same side on Monday in their semi final, shipping 70 points to New Zealand, but they restored their pride today, beating Scotland 42-19 to secure 7th place in this year’s Championship.
Though it was a defeat for Scotland today, it was a successful championship, their 8th place equaling their best ever finish, which they achieved last year. They even beat Australia for the first time, so will go home feeling that they have some players of real promise coming through.
So to the reigning Champions, New Zealand. They started with a big win over Georgia in the groups before losing to Ireland and wobbling hard against Wales.
Since the group stages though, they have been sublime, putting 70 on Wales and then beating Australia in today’s 5th place play off 55-24. 5th place may be the Baby Blacks lowest ever finish in these Championships, but do not be fooled, there is serious talent in their ranks.
There is also serious talent in the Argentina ranks. They secured third place today with a magnificent 49-19 victory over South Africa. Los Pumitas have become the neutrals’ favourites in this tournament, they sheer joy bringing a smile to ever watching face in the crowd, and their third place being a deserved reward.
The final word must go to England though. Since 2013 they have been the dominant force in world rugby at U20 level, and they showed that again in this tournament. The sheer depth of talent at their disposal is quite brilliant, but so is the sense of joy that emanates from them every time they take to the field. Watching them, you get the sense that this is genuinely fun for them. No doubt tonight’s celebrations will take that joy up a notch even further.
It has been a truly brilliant championship, and the excitement carries on as we watch these wonderful young players from around the world turn into the biggest names in World Rugby over the next few years.
World Rugby U20 Championship Finals Day Results:
Final – Ireland 21-45 England
3rd Place Play-Off – Argentina 49-19 South Africa
5th Place Play-Off – New Zealand 55-24 Australia
7th Place Play-Off – Wales 42-19 Scotland
9th Place Play-Off – Georgia 24-27 France
11th Place Play-Off – Italy 41-17 Japan
World Rugby U20 Championship Final Standings:
4 South Africa
5 New Zealand
*Japan relegated to the 2017 World Rugby U20 Trophy, with Samoa promoted to next year’s U20 Championship, having won this year’s Trophy.