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U20: Les Bleuets face double challenge to retain title

STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 04: Nathan Bollengier of France U20 during the World Rugby U20 Championship 2024 match between France and New Zealand at Danie Craven Stadium on July 04, 2024 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Confronted with a strong Wales side and potentially disastrous weather conditions, France U20 face a double challenge in their third and final Pool A match on Tuesday, July 9, as they aim to defend their title in South Africa.

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The format of the competition makes the stakes clear: three pool matches to qualify for the semi-finals. However, with New Zealand and Wales in the same pool, France could play just one pool match, which they won 49-12 against Spain in their opener on June 29. Their next game was a round of 16 affair, where they narrowly lost to New Zealand by one point (26-27). As a result, the match against Wales will serve as a quarter-final, with hopes of finishing as runners-up.

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
France U20
29 - 11
Full-time
Wales U20
All Stats and Data

“Our target is a quarter-final,” says captain Hugo Reus, who has taken out his calculator to analyze his team’s chances. “If we’re going to qualify, we need to get a bonus point and a lead of more than ten points. The stage is set.

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Boks boss Rassie Erasmus looks ahead to Durban Test

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Boks boss Rassie Erasmus looks ahead to Durban Test

“First, we need to build on the win and then get the bonus point to be sure of a place in the semi-finals. There’s no need to motivate the boys.”

Six contenders for a place

Argentina, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Wales and France will all be battling it out for second place. In other words, the competition is fierce. France and Australia are in with a chance on six points, just behind Wales on seven. The others are still in the hunt.

“For us, the five points from a bonus win, given that we already have six points, would put us in a very good position,” says coach Sébastien Calvet. “We have to go out and get that bonus win.”

World Rugby U20 Championship

Pool A
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
New Zealand U20
2
2
0
0
10
2
Wales U20
2
1
1
0
7
3
France U20
2
1
1
0
6
4
Spain U20
2
0
2
0
0
Pool B
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Ireland U20
2
2
0
0
9
2
Australia U20
2
1
1
0
6
3
Italy U20
2
1
1
0
4
4
Georgia U20
2
0
2
0
1
Pool C
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
England U20
2
2
0
0
10
2
Argentina U20
2
1
1
0
5
3
South Africa U20
2
1
1
0
5
4
Fiji U20
2
0
2
0
0

To do so, he will be relying on a 6-2 bench, which underwent some changes on Monday July 8. Winger Nathan Bollengier has been replaced by Maxence Biasotto, who can play as a centre, winger or fullback, while Axel Desperes takes his place on the bench. The utility back – he can play at 10, centre or fullback – Desperes will provide the power to finish off moves.

Wales’ big performance

After a comprehensive 45-12 win over Wales on the penultimate day of the U20 Six Nations Tournament, France are expecting a completely different side, with the devastating Morgan Morse at No.8 and the dangerous Louie Hennessy in the centres.

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“They have all their strengths in place. They must have prepared really well and gained confidence against the Blacks; that changes a team,” says Calvet.

After a remarkable start to the competition with a 34-41 defeat in front of the Junior All Blacks, followed by a 31-10 win over Spain, the Welsh are on the verge of a major upset in a championship where they have finished between seventh and sixth for the past decade.

“They are now within touching distance of qualifying. They’re in the best position in our group to do it, because they’re the best runners-up. If they get a bonus win, they will qualify as best runners-up,” the coach continued.

Head-to-Head

Last 4 Meetings

Wins
4
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
46
15
First try wins
100%
Home team wins
75%

Advantage for France, but…

In last year’s U20 championship, France overcame the loss of hooker Barnabé Massa, who was red carded for dangerous play, to win comfortably. Including the U20 Six Nations, France have won their last five matches by an average of 48 points. It is 10 years since France lost to Wales in the U20 Championship: 13-3 in North Harbour, New Zealand, in 2014.

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“But it’s a different team we’ll be facing, something we keep telling our players,” warns Calvet. “They will have an extra soul. They’re fit, they’re confident and they play quality rugby. What lies ahead is far from easy.

“We can’t rest on our Six Nations laurels. Something has happened to their momentum. They’re efficient in what they produce, and they’ve got key players like 8 and 12. We’ve got a big, big challenge ahead of us. We’ll have to put in a solid performance to win this quarter-final.”

Another factor to consider is the weather, which is expected to be disastrous. “The challenge is exciting because the weather is going to be tough. The weather is very bad and it’s going to be very bad. It’s going to be windy and it’s going to be raining for sure. That takes away the possibility of scoring four tries.”

And yet that’s what was at stake. The Bleuets, three-time world champions, have no desire to die in the rain.

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Comments

1 Comment
F
Forward pass 14 days ago

Its time WR worked out a better system. This “4th qualifier” from 3 groups is silly. Just have 4 groups of 3 with top side thru from each group or invite more teams and have 4 groups of 4.

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Nick 3 hours ago
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