The 2nd round of the first World Rugby U20 Championship in 4 years will play out in Cape Town. This comes after an exciting opening round where a number of teams laid down the marker. Bet Central bring you 4 key fixtures and the players to watch in those games.
Australia v Ireland
It was a tough opening round for both Australia and Ireland. For the Aussies, Fiji fronted up big time and gave them a tough time before 2 quick tries in the 67th and 69th minute took the game away from the Pacific Islanders. It wasn’t to be for u20 Six Nations champions Ireland as they failed to beat England with both sides settling for a 34-all draw.
They will now face each other in the early fixture of round 2 and it is imperative that Ireland get the win if they are to stay in contention for the semifinals. Australia showed a soft underbelly where if teams step up in the physicality stakes, they can rattle them. Ireland are capable of such, but they will also need to be wary of Australia’s swift movement in the backline.
Players to watch: Australia have a fantastic prospect at inside centre in David Vaihu, the Melbourne Rebels youngster was fantastic against Fiji and Ireland need to be wary of the threat he brings. For Ireland, Sam Prendergast is seen as the next great flyhalf of Irish rugby and the 20-year-old will want to show the world why he is so highly regarded at Leinster.
France v New Zealand
The French sent out a warning to all teams that they will be looking to make it a hat trick of u20 titles this year, they trounced Japan 75-12 and did so in style. The Baby Blacks on the other hand had to come from behind against Wales and claim a narrow 27-26 win in Cape Town, it was a great show of character by the New Zealanders who were down 19-5 at some point.
Les Bleuets will know this one will be a lot tougher than the Japanese game, New Zealand come with a lot of pedigree in this competition and they will fight tooth and nail to ensure they return home with the trophy and that begins with a victory over France that will all but secure top spot and a semifinal berth. Both teams have a similar style, it will ultimately come down to execution to see who will come out top.
Players to watch: In the game against Japan, Marko Gazzotti was fantastic for France, the Grenoble Rugby 8thman is only 18-years-old, but shows a rare combination of pace, power and guile. Hurricanes breakout loose forward this year Peter Lakai will be a key man for New Zealand, he brings big physicality and breakdown nous.
South Africa v Italy
The hosts South Africa had a tough time against the Baby Lelos, Georgia were tough and uncompromising and showed lots of flair in their backline play, but ultimately couldn’t hold on as the Baby Boks won 33-23. Italy lost 43-15 against the Los Pumitas. The Argentineans were fantastic as a team, but Italy showed lots of heart and if they were better disciplined it could have been a much closer score – Italy have lots of quality.
The South Africans are likely to prove too powerful for the Italians, but as Georgia have proven, the Baby Boks can be tamed and contained. Italy will always bring a bit of flair and if the weather plays ball for them, they could cause a few headaches for the host nation who are not yet convincing in seeking a 1st u20 title in 11 years.
Players to watch: Dewi Passarella of Benetton Rugby was a clear standout for Italy against Argentina,the big centre is a robust defender and a hard runner, and he boasts good ball skills – he’s a well-rounded player. Opposite Passarella will be Damian Markus, the South African centre is short and stocky, but equally as powerful on the carry.
England v Fiji
England and Ireland was a real tussle and an arm wrestle and the neutral would have felt at the end of the game that the draw was a real reflection of the game, but the same can’t be said of Fiji. The Flying Fijians would have gutted losing that game against Australia as they match the Aussies for most of the game but ultimately lost it after conceding a few soft tries.
They will be determined not to have a repeat of the game against Australia. They need to maximize their bench for this one as they ran out of steam in the end in round 1. England have a much more formidable pack and Fiji will need to step it up physically to compete, the firepower in the Fiji backline will be tricky for England.
Players to watch: The hopes of Fiji rest on the shoulders of the 19-year-old nephew of Crusaders and All Blacks star Rich Mo’unga, Isaiah Ravula is a flyhalf who plays very much like his uncle, the Hurricanes Academy player has magic feet and incredible acceleration. Connor Slevin was up against a more accomplished opponent in the 1st game but gave England great direction and he will need to do so again against Ravula.