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World Rugby U20 Championship: Pool B team by team guide

By Liam Heagney
Italy captain Jacopo Botturi with Ireland skipper Evan O'Connell at DHL Stadium (Photo by World Rugby)

Pool B at the 2024 World Rugby U20 Championship heralds the renewal of two fiery rivalries that ignited at last year’s tournament. Australia felt hard done by in their round two loss to Ireland in Paarl because in the aftermath of their 10-30 defeat, Irish back-rower James McNabney was cited and banned for foul play that happened in the 35th minute that was missed by the officials in real time.

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It meant that rather than Ireland going a man down with 45 minutes remaining, they instead retained the full complement and impressively built on their 11-10 interval lead which was crucial to them topping the pool and leaving the Aussies finishing third behind England.

They meet in round three in 2024, the same day that Italy and Georgia renew their rivalry which was stoked in Stellenbosch 11 months ago in a feisty round three meeting where potential semi-final qualification was up for grabs for both teams. The Georgians got the win that sunny morning but they were ultimately denied progress by South Africa on the head-to-head rule.

These tasty round three rivalries on July 9 look a long way off at the moment, though, as the four games that will take place before then are set to be just as keenly fought. Here is the RugbyPass team by team guide to the World Rugby U20 Championship Pool B:

IRELAND (Seeded 2)
COACH
: Willie Faloon;
CAPTAIN: Evan O’Connell;
LAST YEAR: Runners-up to France;
THIS YEAR: Six Nations runners-up to England following four wins and a draw;
FIXTURES: June 29 vs Italy (Cape Town, 4:30pm local), July 4 vs Georgia (Stellenbosch, 2pm), July 9 vs Australia Athlone, 2pm);
ONE TO WATCH: Brian Gleeson.

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
Ireland U20
55 - 15
Full-time
Italy U20
All Stats and Data

THEY SAY: “I won’t make a prediction but we have always just been really focused on the first game (against Italy). It was similar in the Six Nations when we went to France, we just focused on one game at a time. We have this thing called ‘next job mentality’ and we are always just trying to focus on the next game, which is now Italy” – Out-half Jack Murphy.

WE SAY: Ireland continue not to the biggest or the most physically strong team, but their best ability is to problem solve and find a way around issues such as an inconsistent scrum. Their defiance was encapsulated by the manner of their last-gasp draw with England in March at The Rec, hitting back with the clock in the red to level within minutes of England seemingly having delivered the game-winning sucker punch.

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TRIVIA: It was 15 years ago when Evan O’Connell’s uncle Paul captained the British and Irish Lions on their 2009 tour of South Africa under Ian McGeechan.

ROUND ONE TEAM: 1. Jacob Boyd, 2. Danny Sheahan, 3. Patreece Bell, 4. Alan Spicer, 5. Evan O’Connell (capt), 6. Sean Edogbo, 7. Max Flynn, 8. Luke Murphy; 9. Oliver Coffey, 10. Jack Murphy; 11. Hugo McLaughlin, 12. Sam Berman, 13. Finn Treacy, Davy Colbert, 15. Ben O’Connor. Reps: 16. Stephen Smyth, 17. Emmet Calvey, 18. Andrew Sparrow, 19. James McKillop, 20. Bryn Ward, 21. Jake O’Riordan, 22. Sean Naughton, 23. Hugh Gavin.

AUSTRALIA (5)
COACH: Nathan Gray;
CAPTAIN: Toby Macpherson;
LAST YEAR: A commendable fifth place finish after finishing third in their pool behind Ireland and England;
THIS YEAR: Fourth and last place in the Rugby Championship following one win and two losses;
FIXTURES: June 29 vs Georgia (Athlone, 4:30pm), July 4 vs Italy (Athlone, 7pm), July 9 vs Ireland (Athlone, 2pm);
ONE TO WATCH: Harry McLaughlin-Phillips.

THEY SAY: “We have selected an exciting group of players who have been delivering impressive performances for their club sides over the last few weeks. What awaits is a formidable challenge. However, we are prepared and ready to embrace that” – Coach Gray.

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WE SAY: Undoubtedly have the talent but have issues putting it all together at once as seen in their recent Rugby Championship campaign where they were ambushed at home first up by Argentina. Game three versus Ireland should be the pool decider but they can’t take anything for granted in game one versus a dangerous-looking Georgia.

TRIVIA
: Pacy winger Archie Saunders can turn heads having clocked 10.3 seconds for the 100 metres.

ROUND ONE TEAM: Jack Barrett, 2. Bryn Edwards, 3. Nick Bloomfield, 4. Toby Macpherson (capt), 5. Harvey Cordukes, 6. Aden Ekanayake, 7. Dane Sawers, 8. Jack Harley; 9 Dan Nelson, 10 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips; 11. Archer Saunders, 12. Jarrah McLeod, 13. Kadin Pritchard, 14. Ronan Leahy, 15. Shane Wilcox. Reps: 16. Ottavio Tuipulotu, 17. Lington Leli, 18. Tevita Alatini, 19. Eamon Doyle, 20. Ben Di Staso, 21. Hwi Sharples, 22. Joseph Dillon, 23. Angus Staniforth.

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GEORGIA (8)
COACH:
Lado Kilasonia;
CAPTAIN: Nika Lomidze;
LAST YEAR: A disappointing eighth place finish after coming within a whisker of qualifying for the semi-finals as they had the same amount of points as table toppers South Africa;
THIS YEAR: Recently shared a warm-up series with England 1-1 which sets them up very nicely;
FIXTURES: June 29 vs Australia (Athlone, 4:30pm), July 4 vs Ireland (Stellenbosch, 2pm), July 9 vs Italy (Stellenbosch, 4:30pm);
ONE TO WATCH: Tarieli Ballikashvili.

THEY SAY: “We have a few injured players, but we have depth in those positions and we are filling in the gaps. We have pretty good, high-intensity training and I’m sure we’ll be a dangerous team for any opponent. The advantage of our team is that we have a very good balance between defence and attack” – Back row Andre Dvali.

WE SAY: An intriguing team to keep both eyes on. Cruelly denied semi-final qualification in 2023 on the head-to-head rule, they have now added a heap of speed to their armour as England recently learned to their cost in Tbilisi.

TRIVIA: Luka Tsirekidze is already a fully-capped Lelos player having made his senior debut against Germany in February.

ROUND ONE TEAM: 1. Luka Ungiadze, 2. Tamaz Tchamiashvili, 3. Davit Mtchedlidze, 4. Davit Lagvilava, 5. Murtazi Tskhadadze, 6. Luka Suluashvili, 7. Andro Dvali, 8. Nika Lomidze (capt); 9. Giorgi Spanderashvili, 10. Luka Tsirekidze; 11. Tarieli Burtikashvili, 12. Giorgi Khaindrava, 13. Luka Kobauri, 14. Luka Khorbaladze, 15. Otari Metreveli. Reps: 16. Mikheil Khakhubia, 17. Luka Kotorashvili, 18. Davit Mtchedlishvili, 19. Temur Tsulukidze, 20. Tornike Ganiashvili, 21. Mikheil Kachlavashvili, 22. Luka Takaishvili, 23. Nugzari Kevkhishv.

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
Australia U20
35 - 11
Full-time
Georgia U20
All Stats and Data

ITALY (11)
COACH
: Roberto Santamaria;
CAPTAIN: Jacopo Botturi;
LAST YEAR: Shock pool win over South Africa wasn’t followed up as they finished needing to beat Japan in relegation play-off to place 11th and retain their status.
THIS YEAR: Fourth place finish in the Six Nations after two wins and three losses;
FIXTURES: June 29 vs Ireland (Cape Town, 4:30pm), July 4 vs Australia (Athlone, 7pm), July 9 vs Georgia (Stellenbosch, 4:30pm);
ONE TO WATCH: Martino Pucciariello.

THEY SAY: “Compared to the Six Nations there are many more variables from a physical and tactical point of view having a match every five days. The World Cup is truly a fundamental growth step for kids of this age” – Coach Santamaria.

WE SAY: A bit like the Georgians, they promise much but can be let down by their inconsistency. They won’t fear Ireland in the opening round having so very nearly won in Cork when the teams met in February, and they play a lovely, skilful brand of rugby that should please the neutrals.

TRIVIA: A third of the group Italy have with them at the 2024 tournament were born in 2005 and will be eligible next year.

ROUND ONE TEAM: 1. Sergio Pelliccioli, 2. Nicholas Gasperini, 3. Davide Ascari, 4. Mattia Midena, 5. Giacomo Milano, 6. Cesare Zucconi, 7. Luca Bellucci, 8. Jacopo Botturi (capt); 9. Mattia Jimenez, 10. Martino Pucciariello; 11. Lorenzo Elettri, 12. Nicola Bozzo, 13. Federico Zanandrea, 14. Marco Scalabrin; 15. Mirko Belloni. Reps: 16. Valerio Siciliano, 17. Francesco Gentile, 18. Federico Pisani, 19. Tommaso Redondi, 20. Nelson Casartelli, 21. Lorenzo Casilio, 22. Simone Brisighella, 23. Patrick de Villiers.

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