Round Two of the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championships took place on Wednesday, with England, South Africa, and reigning champions New Zealand all keeping their perfect records.
The three sides, who are the only sides ever to have won the Championships, each have two bonus point wins from their two games, while France also have two wins from two but just failed to pick up the try scoring bonus against Georgia on Sunday, leaving them a point behind South Africa in Group C.
Those four are therefore in the driving seat to make the semi final spots on Tuesday 12th June, but with a round to go Australia, Wales, Argentina, and Italy all have the possibility of sneaking into that main semi final section, particularly with France and South Africa meeting in Thursday’s key third round.
Beginning with Group A though, New Zealand are in the driving seat. They backed up last week’s 67-0 win over Japan with another impressive win, this time beating a good Wales side that had already beaten Australia. The 42-10 victory was a strong statement to the rest of the teams in the competition, while Australia scored some great tries as they scorched to a 54-19 win over Japan to go second in the group.
Over in Group B the result of the round was surely Argentina’s 29-13 defeat of Scotland. The warning signs were there after Scotland’s last play defeat to Italy last time out and the problems that Argentina caused England in the first half last time out, however this was still one of Argentina’s best ever World Rugby U20 Championship results.
It keeps them in the hunt for a semi final spot, indeed the winner of their game against Italy on Thursday has a huge chance of a semi final particularly if they can get a bonus point, while it rules Scotland out and probably condemns them to a 9th-12th place semi final.
England meanwhile put on a show against Italy, with Marcus Smith earning his first start in an U20 shirt and turning in a display of real majesty as he scored two tries and steered his side to a 43-5 victory, including 18 points of his own.
Skipper Ben Curry was also outstanding, while London Irish wing Ben Loader also picked up a brace. Their was one sour note for England though when second row Sam Lewis saw red for contact with the head of an Italian player towards the end. With squads of just 28, the likes of Josh Basham and Ted Hill may have to spend a bit more time in the second row rather than the back row as planned over the next couple of games.
Group C meanwhile has been fierce. Ireland are now out of contention for a main semi final spot despite having played reasonably well. They just lost out to France in their opener before losing 30-17 to a strong looking South African outfit on Sunday. They actually led 17-12 with half an hour to go, but three South African tries in a brilliant final 30 minutes changed the look of the game entirely.
France meanwhile made it two from two as they beat a really tough Georgian outfit 24-12. Against both South Africa and France the Georgians have forced their opponent to work hard for their wins and we can expect more against the Irish on Thursday.
What this group now gives us though is that fantastic France v South Africa game on Thursday. The winner will guarantee themselves a semi final spot, while the loser will face a nervous wait and no doubt a little bit of a maths test too.
It should be a fantastic round of matches, with huge games in all three groups, that South Africa v France game, New Zealand v Australia, England v Scotland, and perhaps the surprise package as a key game, Italy v Argentina.
World Rugby U20 Championship Results:
Australia 54-19 Japan
New Zealand 42-10 Wales
Argentina 29-13 Scotland
England 43-5 Italy
France 24-12 Georgia
South Africa 30-17 Ireland
New Zealand 67-0 Japan
Wales 26-21 Australia
England 39-18 Argentina
Italy 27-26 Scotland
France 26-24 Ireland
South Africa 33-27 Georgia
World Rugby U20 Championship Fixtures (All times BST):
Thursday 7th June:
Wales v Japan, 5.30pm, Perpignan
New Zealand v Australia, 8pm, Perpignan
Thursday 7th June:
Italy v Argentina, 5.30pm, Beziers
England v Scotland, 8pm, Beziers
Thursday 7th June:
Ireland v Georgia, 5.30pm, Narbonne
South Africa v France, 8pm, Narbonne
Semi Finals – Tuesday 12th June
2nd v 3rd – 6pm, Narbonne
1st v 4th – 8pm, Perpignan
6th v 7th – 1pm, Narbonne
5th v 8th – 3.30pm, Narbonne
10th v 11th – 3pm, Perpignan
9th v 12th – 5.30pm, Perpignan
Finals – Sunday 17th June
11th Place Play Off – 10am, Beziers
9th Place Play Off – 12.30pm, Beziers
5th Place Play Off – 1pm, Beziers
7th Place Play Off – 3pm, Beziers
3rd Place Play Off – 3.30pm, Beziers
Final – 6pm, Beziers