World Rugby U20s Championship Round 3 Pool A Preview

Ireland v Georgia, 17:30 (BST) Academy Stadium, Manchester

New Zealand v Wales, 17:30 (BST) AJ Bell Stadium, Manchester

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NZ v Ireland world rugby U20Ireland v Georgia

Following wins against Wales (25-26) in Round 1; upsetting the 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam Champions, and New Zealand (24-33) in Round 2; upsetting the reigning World Rugby U20’s Champions, Ireland are all but guaranteed a place in the semi-finals on the 20th June.
Georgia held firm against Wales in a dreary game at the Academy Stadium in Round 2, holding the pre-Championship home nations favourites to 10-9 score line – an impressive turnaround in fortunes after a 55-0 pounding from the Junior All Blacks in Round 1.

Like their senior counterparts, the Georgians are big up front (they aren’t exactly “Davids” in the backline either) and this is where they’ll put up a contest against the Irish.

The Irish backline has fired well, however, the side see’s 13 changes to the triumphant starters from their last outing – Georgia have only made 3 changes. Captain James Ryan is on the bench and hands down the armband to Paul Kiernan in the centre, who previously captained the U19’s.

One’s to watch:

Johnny McPhillips had an impressive outing against the Junior All Blacks, replacing Johnston in the no. 10 jersey and racking up 8 points in the process. Together with Kiernan at 12, expect the 10-12-axis to fire well

Prediction:

Ireland to win, by 20.

This is Georgia’s first U20 Championship, after winning the Trophy Tournament in 2015. They have given a respectable account of themselves with their performance against the Welsh, but the Irish have a fresher side with 13 new starters looking to putting their hands-up for a semi-final start (hopefully they won’t do a Wales v Chiefs… I’m not a bitter Welshman).

New Zealand v Wales

 Pool A could have rightly been tipped as the ‘Pool-of-death’ coming into the Championships and it hasn’t failed to live up to the billing. It’s comparable to the 2015 Rugby World Cup with England, Australia and Wales justifiably fighting for 2 spots in the next round.

New Zealand will always be favourites in rugby circles, at any age-grade, format (Sevens) and throughout both the Women’s and Men’s game – it’s a reputation well deserved, with World Champions throughout the years at every level.

Wales are the perennial underachievers, a rugby nation with talent aplomb who you can never write off. After the Six Nations, it would have been hard to argue against a Wales v New Zealand Final – Rounds 1 and 2 quickly put this to bed, with only one of these nations able to push for a place in the semi-finals.

NZ v Ireland world rugby U20One’s to watch:

Jordie Barrett, brother of World Cup winning Beauden, will pull the strings from 12 with Jonah Lowe at 10 for the Baby Blacks. Both players will offer space and opportunities for the dangerous backline – you can expect Stevenson to cross the try line at some point. The back row of Mikaele-Tu’u, Jacobsen and Hoeata will also cause headaches in defense for the Welsh.

Without Keelan Giles – called up to the Senior Wales squad for the remainder of their tour in New Zealand – Jarred Rosser has some nimble boots to fill on the wing but has great potential. Dan Jones has had a wayward tournament with the boot but he has created opportunities; Tom and Rhun Williams at 14 and 15 have also given Wales some encouragement so far Rhun especially. In the pack, Harri Keddie will need to front up with his enormous talent and potential from 8, and Leon Brown (an absolute unit of a front row) will be exciting prospect off the bench.

Prediction:

Heart wants Wales, head says New Zealand.

It will need to be nothing short of a try fest for either side. With 6 points from 2 games for Wales, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa (who all sit second or third in their pools), there is only 1 spot alongside Ireland, Argentina and England (the current Pool leaders) in the semi-finals. It will come down to the wire, with points scored/tries key to deciding who progresses at the end of Round 3.