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What to watch in men’s rugby: Young stars ready to shine at U20 Championship

By Martyn Thomas
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 14: France celebrate their victory during the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023 final match between Ireland and France during the Ireland v France World Rugby Under 20 Championship Final on July 14, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The race to become World Rugby U20 Championship 2024 winners will get underway in Cape Town this Saturday, and you can watch all the drama unfold on RugbyPass TV.

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Featuring the best age-grade talent from around the world, the tournament has proved fertile ground in the past with hundreds of players using it as a springboard to the Test arena.

Over the next three weeks, the top 12 U20 nations will compete in South Africa’s Western Cape to be crowned champions at the final at DHL Stadium on July 19th.

France start the tournament as three-time defending champions and with an opportunity to end it as only the second team, after New Zealand, to win four consecutive titles.

WATCH WORLD RUGBY U20 CHAMPIONSHIP 2024 LIVE HERE

Les Bleuets will face the Junior All Blacks in a blockbuster Pool A encounter next Thursday but before then they will open their campaign against U20 Championship debutants Spain at DHL Stadium on Saturday.

Although his team have dominated the tournament in the last three editions, played between 2018-23 due to the impact of the pandemic, France coach Sébastien Calvet is taking nothing for granted.

Calvet is without several eligible players, for the start of the tournament at least, due to a mixture of their involvement in the Top 14 play-offs and the senior squad, and he has been impressed with what he has seen from video analyses of Spain.

“They’re a nation that plays,” he said this week.

“We need to excel in the fundamentals, dominate in set-pieces, and be robust in the contact phases to gain the upper hand against this team.

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“Any lapse in fundamental skills could play into their dynamic style, potentially causing disruptions. We must show them utmost respect and maintain our strength in the basics.”

In the other Pool A match on day one, New Zealand – fresh from their U20 Rugby Championship success – meet Wales at Athlone Sports Stadium.

The clash is a repeat of their pool-stage meeting in Paarl 12 months ago, which the Junior All Blacks won 37-26. That was New Zealand’s eighth victory in 10 U20 Championship matches against the Welsh.

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England beat France 45-31 in Pau en route to the 2024 U20 Six Nations Grand Slam and Mark Mapletoft’s side get their Pool C campaign underway against Argentina on day one.

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The Six Nations champions will head into the match full of confidence, especially given they have won all three of their U20 Championship meetings with Los Pumitas to date. Argentina finished the tournament a disappointing ninth 12 months ago.

Hosts South Africa and Fiji complete the Pool C line-up and they will enter the tournament in the final match of day one at DHL Stadium.

The Junior Springboks finished second in the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship in Australia last month and will be determined to start their home tournament in style.

South Africa have won both their previous tournament meetings with Fiji by an aggregate score of 140-27, although they have not played each other at the U20 Championship since 2011.

In Pool B, meanwhile, 2023 runners-up Ireland will start their quest for a first world championship against Italy, in the second match at DHL Stadium.

Ireland were grateful to a late Sean Edogbo try as they snuck home against the Azzurrini 23-22 in Cork in February, but they have a good record against Italy in the U20 Championship having won three of the teams’ four tournament meetings.

Australia finished fifth in the 2023 U20 Championship, and like Ireland have never won the tournament despite reaching the final in 2010 and 2019.

Their 2024 campaign begins at Athlone Sports Stadium on Saturday when they take on Georgia, who will head into the tournament with confidence following their warm-up victory against England.

Saturday’s match will be the first U20 Championship meeting between the sides.

You can watch all the action over the next three weeks live and for free via RugbyPass TV, except in Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

Saturday, June 29th

Pool A

13:00 BST (GMT+1) – France U20 v Spain U20, DHL Stadium – WATCH LIVE HERE
18:00 BST – Wales U20 v New Zealand U20, Athlone Sports Stadium – WATCH LIVE HERE

Pool B

15:30 BST – Ireland U20 v Italy U20, DHL Stadium – WATCH LIVE HERE
15:30 BST – Australia U20 v Georgia U20, Athlone Sports Stadium – WATCH LIVE HERE

Pool C

13:00 BST – England U20 v Argentina U20, Athlone Sports Stadium – WATCH LIVE HERE
18:00 BST – South Africa U20 v Fiji U20, DHL Stadium – WATCH LIVE HERE

Watch the World Rugby U20s Championship live and for free on RugbyPass TV. Register here now
*Unavailable in Africa, NZ, Fiji, Samoa, Papua NG and Tonga

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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