A thrilling final round of group games at the World Rugby U20 Championships saw the semi finals confirmed.
There are three sets of semi finals at the World Rugby U20 Championships, the main semi finals for the top four seeds from the groups, the 5th-8th semi finals for the next four seeds, and the 9th-12th semi finals for the bottom four seeds.
The winners of each semi finals will then meet in finals, with the losers in placings finals. So the winners of the two main semi finals will be in the World Rugby U20 Championship final, with the losers in the third place play off and so on and so forth to the 11th place play off, which will see the losers relegated from next year’s competition in Italy in favour of the World Rugby U20 Trophy winners.
After six appearances in a row in the main final, England will miss out this year as they are in the 5th-8th semis having finished third in their group despite a thumping 56-31 victory over Australia on Wednesday evening. They will face Ireland in that 5th-8th semi finals, who finished second behind Australia in England’s group but just missed out on a place in the main semis by a point. The two are super familiar, having met twice this year already, with Ireland winning both, including a 42-26 victory in the opening game for these sides in this year’s competition.
For Australia, who were already guaranteed safe passage to the main semis prior to that heavy defeat to England, which included a second minute red card for a high and dangerous tackle, this could be a chance for a first ever World Rugby U20 Championship title. They have looked superb all tournament, even in defeat to England, and in openside Fraser McReight they have one of the players of the tournament so far.
Their task is a tricky one, at 5pm in Rosario on Monday against the hosts, Argentina. The hosts will be absolutely bouncing ahead of what will be just their third main semi final, they lost the others in 2012 and 2016. They secured their place with an absolutely outstanding 47-26 defeat of reigning champions France, sealing them top spot that holding that head to head record.
It was a mad game, featuring red cards for both sides and some wonderful and unexpected tries, but the champions, France, still make it through to the semi finals thanks to a try scoring bonus points seeing them ranking the best of the second placed sides in the groups.
France will face South Africa in their semi final, South Africa have been on fire in Group C and are actually the only side to go through the group stages unbeaten, having seen off Scotland and Georgia convincingly before a 25-17 victory over New Zealand in the final game of the group stages.
For New Zealand it was a heartbreaker, a losing bonus point would have been enough to see them through to the main semi finals ahead of France, however with the clock in the red they knocked on in contact and will now face Wales in their 5th-8th place semi final.
Wales, like England, finished third in their group – level on wins with the sides above them but with fewer bonus points. They finished up with a strong 44-28 victory over Fiji though, despite this year’s promoted sides giving them some really testing times in the early stages of the game.
Fiji will therefore be in those 9th-12th place play offs, fighting desperately to avoid appearing in that relegation play off and avoiding going back to the Trophy. They will have a tough task though as they face a Georgia side that scared the life out of Scotland in the opening game of the final round, coming from behind with some thrilling rugby for a 17-12 victory thanks to a late try that sealed them the top seeding in the 9th-12th play offs.
Scotland meanwhile must regroup after heavy defeats to South Africa and New Zealand, followed by that disappointing heartbreaker against Georgia. Their task is not going to be easy though, they face an Italian side that has played so much better than their bottom placed finish in Group B deserves. It took a last-gasp penalty for England to beat them in the second game, and back in the Six Nations they ran champions France seriously close as well as earning a 32-22 win in Scotland, the second year in a row they have beaten the Scots.
Scotland will want their revenge, but more importantly they will not want to appear in that relegation play off, where their U20 Championship survival would be on the line.
What these group stages have shown us is that across the board U20 rugby is more competitive than ever, two out of the three groups ended with three sides winning two of their three games. Across all three only one side was unbeaten, and even in defeat there was promise, with no side failing to collect at least one bonus point.
The 5th-8th place semi finals of England v Ireland and New Zealand v Wales could just as easily be main semi finals, indeed of the 11 World Rugby U20 Championship finals, only on 4 occasions has there been a team other than these four playing.
That also creates plenty of excitement when it comes to the main semi finals. Should either Argentina or Australia end up in the final and win it would be their first ever title. For South Africa and France, despite all of their heritage, it would only be a second title each.
An exciting day of semi final action certainly awaits us on Monday ahead of what should be a thrilling set of finals on Saturday 22nd June.
All games live on Premier Sports and https://www.world.rugby/u20 with highlights and the final on ITV, all Wales games shown on S4C.
Matchday 1 – Tuesday 4th June:
Argentina 25-30 Wales
France 36-20 Fiji
Australia 36-12 Italy
England 26-42 Ireland
New Zealand 45-13 Georgia
South Africa 43-19 Scotland
Matchday 2 – Saturday 8th June:
Argentina 41-14 Fiji
France 32-13 Wales
Australia 45-17 Ireland
England 24-23 Italy
South Africa 48-20 Georgia
New Zealand 52-33 Scotland
Matchday 3 – Wednesday 12th June:
France 26-47 Argentina
Wales 44-28 Fiji
England 56-31 Australia
Italy 14-38 Ireland
Georgia 17-12 Scotland
South Africa 25-17 New Zealand
Matchday 4 – Monday 17th June (Semi Finals):
Argentina v Australia – 5pm, Racecourse Stadium, Rosario
South Africa v France – 7.30pm, Racecouse Stadium, Rosario
5th-8th Semi Finals:
New Zealand v Wales – 2.30pm, Racecourse Stadium, Rosario
Ireland v England – 7.30pm, Club Old Resian, Rosario
9th-12th Semi Finals:
Scotland v Italy – 2.30pm, Club Old Resian, Rosario
Georgia v Fiji – 5pm, Club Old Resian, Rosario
Matchday 5 – Saturday 22nd June (Finals):
Racecourse Stadium, Rosario
5th Place Final, 2.30pm
3rd Place Final, 5pm
World Rugby U20 Championship Final, 7.30pm
Club Old Resian, Rosario
11th Place Final, 2.30pm
9th Place Final, 5pm
7th Place Final, 7.30pm
World Rugby U20 Championship Group Standings: