For some reason the Junior Rugby World Championship has bee renamed this year to the World Rugby U20s Championship. Either way it’s the opportunity for the next generation of players to test themselves against their counterparts from the rest of the world. Here is my preview.
How does it work?
The 12 teams are divided into 3 pools with the seeding coming from last year’s tournament. The teams play the 3 other teams in their pool and these results are used to rank the teams 1 to 12. The first 4 teams then go into the Cup competition, the middle 4 play off for 5-8 spots and the last 4 playoff for 9-12. This means that all teams will get 3 pool games and then 2 playoff games. The team that comes 12th is relegated and Samoa who won the World Rugby U20s Trophy in Zimbabwe earlier this year will be promoted. The only exception is if Georgia come 12th as they are hosting this tournament in 2017 and so automatically qualify in which case I presume that 11th will be relegated. All Clear?
Pool A is looking like the pool of death. New Zealand are always competitive at this level, are reigning champions and have won this competition 5 times. Wales came sixth last year but are also U2os 6 Nations grand slam champions. Ireland who lost to Wales last year in the playoffs came third in the U20s 6 Nations. Added to this list are the new boys in Georgia.
The Baby Blacks or New Zealand will be favourite to top the group but split their recent 2 game series with Australia. Wales will be looking to cause the upset and will be pushing to make the top 4. Ireland and Georgia will be looking to cause an upset and fighting to keep out of the bottom 4.
With England having been in the final the last 3 years and only ever once not been in the top 4 they have the best history. This year though England lost 4 out of their 5 games in the U20s 6 Nations this year only beating Italy. Australia have had a good year beating the Baby Blacks for the first time in the warm ups for this game. 2011 is the last time that Australia made the last 4 though. Scotland had a decent 6 Nations with wins over England and Italy and they will be looking to back those up. Italy are going to be the whipping boys again.
England will be looking to fightback after a poor 6 Nations but Australia have to be favourite this time. Scotland could cause an upset but third in the group is more likely. Italy will come last and it’s only a question about scorelines.
South Africa are always competitive at this level and will be looking at continuing their 3 year run in the top 4. France had a good U20s 6 Nations coming second. They will be looking to back up their 4th place last season by making the top 4 again. I haven’t heard how Argentina are going so they are a mystery to me but last year they beat Japan in the 9th/10th playoff. Japan played their U20s in the Asian 6 Nations so they have had a good amount of time together and were successful.
This looks like a fight between South Africa and France for the top spot with Argentina and Japan fighting it out for the lower positions.
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