This year’s Junior Rugby World Championship (JRWC) is nearly upon us. I’ll take a look at the structure of the competition, the pools and teams.
This year the competition is being held in Italy. The 12 teams are split into 3 pools of 4 teams who all play each other. The results of these games are then used to produce an overall standings table. The teams are then split into 3 groups to play for 1-4, 5-8 and 9-12 so all teams will play 5 games.
You might have already noticed that it’s 3 groups into 4 semi-final places for the Championship. This means that the three group winners plus best placed second will make it. Last year this came down to points difference. This means that bonus points are essential and winning margin very important. Every game will be played at the max for the full 80 minutes as all the scores could make a material difference at the end of the day.
Before I get into the pools and teams a little history. Only 3 countries have won this competition. New Zealand won the first 4 competitions from 2008 to 2011. South Africa won it on home soil in 2012 and England have taken the last two titles.
Australia and Wales have also made finals so it is a bit of a closed shop. This is a tournament for the established rugby nations. We aren’t going to see a surprise victory as we have seen in 7s from Kenya or the USA.
Three of these sides have already faced each other in the junior 6 Nations. England came out on top in that competition beating France and losing to Wales in the process. However France and Wales were only 1 win behind England on the table. So whilst England will go into this as favourite’s it should be tight between these three. Japan arrive here after losing all their games in the Oceania U20 Rugby Championship and I’d expect them to come last here as well.
Compared to the mini 6 Nations this group won’t know each other so well. Italy got white washed in the 6 Nations earlier this year so I’m not expecting much from them. From the other three Australia comfortably beat Samoa recently in the Oceania U20 Rugby Championship so I would see this group between them and South Africa. South Africa have the better pedigree and are coming off the back of a double win on tour against Argentina. So I’m going for South Africa to top the group with Australia second.
New Zealand won the Oceania U20 Rugby Championship and I see them topping this group too. In the junior 6 Nations this year Scotland came second equal with France and Wales with 3 wins and 2 losses. Ireland were surprisingly second to last with only 2 wins. Scotland did beat Ireland but it was only by 7 points so it’s going to be close between these two. Argentina are difficult to evaluate as the only results I’m aware of are against South Africa which were 2 losses. They are dark horses and might cause an upset but for now I’m tipping them to come last.
In short I’m expecting England, South Africa and New Zealand to top their groups. I feel that Australia will come out as the best second place team. I see the teams in the other groups either take points off each other or at least keeping the games close.
So who’s going to win it?
It’s hard to look past the previous 3 winners as they all come into this competition off winning records. From there it’s a matter of guess work as they haven’t faced each other recently. As this is age grade rugby you can’t really use last year’s results either as there will have been large player turnover. Finally these might also not be the best teams that these counties could field. There has been at least 1 player pulled for Super Rugby duty.
So with all those caveats I’m plumping for New Zealand to regain the title.
I’ll be doing my usual predictions and reviews so please join in the fun with my SuperBru prediction league.