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What France U20 think of the Baby Blacks

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 29: Tom Allen of New Zealand during the match between Wales and New Zealand on 29 June 2024 during the U20 Championship held at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

The second match of the U20 World Championship is set to be a do-or-die encounter for both France and New Zealand. On Thursday, July 4, these two teams will clash in a game that will decide who finishes top of Pool A and qualifies directly for the semi-finals, and who finishes second with a slim chance of advancing.

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Both teams have a win each under their belts, with France leading the pool on points difference after a dominant 49-12 victory over Spain, while New Zealand narrowly defeated Wales 41-34 in their opener.

At the same stage last year, France triumphed over New Zealand 35-14, setting themselves on course for their third consecutive world title. Hugo Reus, the current captain of Les Bleuets, recalls that victory well.

Head-to-Head

Last 3 Meetings

Wins
2
Draws
0
Wins
1
Average Points scored
39
24
First try wins
67%
Home team wins
33%

“It can give us confidence for the rest of the competition, and that’s what we need to focus on. Aside from qualifying, this game can really help us perform well, gain confidence, and improve our efficiency,” said Reus.

“It’s like a round of 16 because a defeat on Thursday would make it very difficult for us to qualify for the semi-finals. Our first objective is to win. If the content isn’t as good but we win, it won’t matter.”

They have thoroughly observed and analysed everything

The entire French coaching staff, along with the players, have meticulously reviewed all of the Baby Blacks’ performances since last year—from their victories in the Rugby Championship matches to a warm-up match against South Africa just before the tournament, not to mention their opening match on Saturday, 29 June.

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
France U20
26 - 27
Full-time
New Zealand U20
All Stats and Data

“They’ve confirmed what we’ve observed,” remarked France U20 coach Sébastien Calvet. “They’re an incredibly athletic team with a polished game. Some of their players have excellent ball-handling skills. Therefore, our focus needs to be on limiting their possession and maintaining our attacking sequences. They excel at creating obstacles and setting screens to break through our defence. We must navigate through these challenges with strategic positioning and defensive pressure.”

“They are highly mobile and agile as a team. We share similar characteristics to them,” he added.

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In his opinion, “the team that moves better, handles the ball more efficiently, and controls possession will likely emerge victorious. It’s going to be a fascinating clash of skills between both teams.”

Hugo Reus brings a unique perspective, having been part of last year’s team, and he observes significant changes in their playing style from one year to the next.

“They play a bit more out wide with the second unit, the forwards, trying to get through. It’s a frontal game that has evolved a little bit and is a little different to the All Blacks. We’ve analysed it and looked at it because we can’t afford to be fooled. They did very well in the Rugby Championship and against Wales. Defence will be a key factor in Thursday’s game.”

Weather conditions are also poised to influence proceedings in Stellenbosch, potentially being overcast or even wet. Sébastien Calvet has selected his 23-man squad with these variables in mind.

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“When you face the All Blacks, physicality is crucial. South Africa wouldn’t be world champions without their strength—intelligent, cohesive, and explosive power,” he emphasises. “If the weather is dry, we want to play them on dry ground. We’re prepared to test ourselves in any environment. Last year, with players like Posolo Tuilagi and Brent Liufau in our pack, mud wasn’t a major hindrance. This year, we’ve added more dynamism to our game. A muddy pitch would likely inconvenience them more than us, but we’re confident in our readiness to face them on a dry surface.”

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