Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
New Zealand New Zealand
France France

Four talking points after World Rugby U20 Championship day one

By Liam Heagney
Junior Boks' Keanu Coetsee controls a round one maul versus Fiji (Photo by Shaun Roy/World Rugby)

Saturday’s opening round of the 2024 World Rugby U20 Championship produced a feast of age-grade entertainment. There were some excellent team performances and a clatter of individuals stood out. Here are the RugbyPass talking points:


The 20-minute red card impact
Australia were certainly on message regarding the new law trials that are in use at the tournament in Cape Town. Sharp as a tack, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips caught the Georgia kick-off inside his 22 at Athlone and immediately called a mark, something that wasn’t previously possible from the kick-or a restart.

The change that generated most interest, however, was the 20-minute red card. Teams are now permitted to replace a red-carded player after 20 minutes, restoring the contest to 15 versus 15 and this alteration hugely helped the Junior Wallabies to eventually win their round one match 35-11.

Video Spacer

HITS, BUMPS AND HANDOFFS! | The biggest collisions from the U20s World Championships

Video Spacer

HITS, BUMPS AND HANDOFFS! | The biggest collisions from the U20s World Championships

They were trailing 3-5 when referee Aimee Barrett-Theron sent off Harvey Cordukes in the 26th minute and they were behind 6-8 when they were able to end the numerical disadvantage by introducing Eamon Doyle as a red card replacement when play stopped seven minutes into the second half.

Up to that stage, the Georgians, who had defeated Six Nations champions England in Tbilisi in a recent warm-up, had battled away and were so frustrating the Aussies that a shock result was potentially in the making.

That idea was quickly quashed, however, by the game being restored to 15-on-15 as Nathan Gray’s side went on to ‘win’ the remaining 33 minutes of the Pool B fixture 29-3 courtesy of five tries, some slick passing proving too much for Georgia to handle.

The 20-minute red card was brought in so that matches wouldn’t be ruined by having 15-on-14 for too long in a game, but its first use at U20s essentially prevented an upset result from materialising as it empowered the team that should have been a player down to 54 minutes to flourish and win in a canter.


Praising the heaviest losers
Opening day’s most gallant outfit were Fiji, who had found themselves in the awkward situation of trying to prepare to take on hosts South Africa with 12 of their squad only getting visa clearance on Tuesday to fly from the Pacific Islands.

That was quite the one-hand-tied-behind-the-back approach to attempting to play rugby well and it hurt as they were 31-0 down at half-time at DHL Stadium and looked vulnerable to a hiding.

Somehow they managed to slow the momentum, doing better in a second half where they importantly had the morale booster of a try on 49 minutes from Anare Caginavanua, the loosehead who was one the late-arriving dozen from Nadi.

In the end, the final score was pushed out to 57-7. It was the widest round one losing margin but beaten skipper Nalani May took great heart from the defiance his minnow team had shown. “The boys playing the Fijian style, just courageous, stepping up to the plate, especially in the second half and just pulling together,” he enthused when asked by RugbyPass what pleased him most despite the loss.


What about that epic delayed journey from Nadi to Cape Town via Auckland and Dubai for a pile of his teammates? “It was definitely hard. So many things were working against us. Coming in two different groups but we left it all out on the field.”

Shaping up for the big one
The stand-out round two fixture on the horizon on Thursday in Stellenbosch is the clash of reigning three-in-a-row World Rugby U20 Championship champions France and New Zealand, winners of the inaugural age-grade Rugby Championship seven weeks ago on the Australian Gold Coast.

It was a round two meeting in Paarl last year that defined what materialised at the tournament, France hammering New Zealand and going on to win a Championship in which the Kiwis finished in a derisory seventh place.

Both will be pleased to a degree about their initial round one form. The French had the four-try bonus point in the bag at DHL Stadium with a penalty try on the stroke of half-time versus minnows Spain.

However, they didn’t kick on like they should have after the break and didn’t score again until the hour-mark in what ultimately was a 49-12 success in which the highlight was the jaw-dropping pass Hugo Reus threw out from behind his back in the third minute to create the opening try.

New Zealand also encountered a momentum issue in their match versus Wales in Athlone. They were 36-20 ahead when opposition No8 Morgan Morse was yellow carded in the 58th minute and that should have been the invite for them to finish strongly and cap a display in which they scored some lovely first-half tries.

What instead transpired was New Zealand only scoring in the final play that Morse was absent for and Wales than rallying impressively from 41-20 down to grab a losing bonus point with a pair of tries in the closing seven minutes, which suggests that the connectivity of the Kiwi finishers needs some work on the training ground in the coming days if they are to match up to France.

17-year-old teenage kicks
The make-up of the England team versus Argentina highlighted how U20s is very much an opportunity-quickly-knocks landscape and the message is to be ready for when the unexpected call does come. Mark Mapletoft’s squad were impressive winners of the Six Nations, playing their part in a classic draw with Ireland in Bath before going to Pau and turning over France seven days later to clinch the title.

You would have imagined that this would be their team to have a go at winning the World Rugby U20 Championship, but they instead ran out in Athlone with two uncapped rookies in their XV and three more on their bench… and boy could they play.

Of course, 18-year-old Jack Bracken does have good rugby genes in having the Rugby World Cup-winning Kyran Bracken as his dad, but it takes great talent, guts and confidence to walk away from your debut having scored a classy try hat-trick containing the variety of beat-the-last-defender, catch a crosskick, and win your own kick-and-chase scores.

He was impressive and there some kudos as well for rookie 20-year-old scrum-half Ollie Allan, who provided the wristy assist pass for the opener. As eye-catching as they were, though, coach Mapletoft was most chuffed by how 17-year-old sub scrum-half Lucas Friday came on in the 63rd minute and helped transform a precarious 26-21 lead into a comfortable 40-21 success.

“Lucas doesn’t turn 18 until later in July and to come on in that pressured environment with 20 minutes to go, to manage and organise, it says a lot about him as an individual, the group and how they have rallied around him and integrated him into the squad because Archie (McParland) was a big loss for us,” he explained to RugbyPass. Teenage kicks, eh!

  • Click here to sign up to RugbyPass TV for free live coverage of matches from the 2024 World Rugby U20 Championship in countries that don’t have an exclusive local host broadcaster deal


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


As of today you will need to reset your password to log into RugbyPass to continue commenting on articles.

Please click the ‘Login’ button below to be redirected and start the account validation and password reset process.

Thank you,


Jon 23 days ago

Haha what garbage is this..

The 20-minute red card was brought in so that matches wouldn’t be ruined by having 15-on-14 for too long in a game, but its first use at U20s essentially prevented an upset result from materialising as it empowered the team that should have been a player down to 54 minutes to flourish and win in a canter.
So you’re suggesting that that to stop matches being ruined by an imbalance in ability, one the higher ranked team should have a permanent red, and the lower a 20min red? Next thing this author will be doing is suggesting that a higher ranked team have a random player red carded as to avoid the contest being ruined.
What an idiot. Actually enjoyed the rest of the article though (though I suppose you have to question some of his opinion now).

Load More Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING Scott Robertson's verdict on the Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett combination Robertson's verdict on Damian McKenzie