Ireland will head to Wales next weekend on the verge of a Grand Slam after they recorded their fourth consecutive victory at home to World Rugby U20 Championship 2018 winners France.
Ireland's 31-29 victory, coupled with Wales' surprise defeat to Scotland, handed the Irish their first U20 Six Nations title since 2010, and now coach Noel McNamara wants them to finish the job in style with a first clean sweep since 2007.
"This group is motivated by a challenge. It's a rare opportunity," he said. "There are very people in the history of Irish rugby who have managed a Grand Slam. We now have the chance to achieve something special as a group."
#U20SixNations— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 8, 2019
We spoke to Ireland U20 Out-Half Ben Healy on the final whistle in Irish Independent Park, where Ireland held on to win 31-29 over France, and in doing so claimed the U20 Six Nations Championship title.#FutureIsGreen #ShoulderToShoulder #IREvFRA pic.twitter.com/Uc8SC5rjwk
Ireland go four from four
Ireland raced into a 10-0 lead thanks to the first of two tries from man of the match Josh Wycherley and a conversion and penalty from Ben Healy. France hit back, though, with two quickfire tries of their own, fly-half Louis Carbonel slotting the extras to Jean-Baptiste Gros' effort before converting his own try.
Healy pulled three points back with his second penalty as Ireland trailed by a point at the break. He then kicked two more either side of Carbonel's first three-pointer to give the home side a slender 19-17 lead with 55 minutes gone.
Ireland stretched further in front when Wycherley grabbed his second approaching the hour mark and Healy added the conversion. Shortly after, Carbonel crossed again to make it 26-22 to the Irish who then responded with a try from Callum Reid.
When Kevin Villiard scored France's fourth and Carbonel converted, it set up a grandstand finish but Ireland held on to wrestle the U20 Six Nations title off France.
With two bonus points gained, France stay above England and Wales by one and two points respectively.
Bedford bonus for England
England have endured a mixed campaign, a 35-10 victory over Italy at Goldington Road in Bedford making their overall record two wins and two losses.
On a wet and windy night, England scored two tries in each half. Tom Seabrook and Kieran Wilkinson, with a fine solo effort, touched down before the break as England held a slender 12-10 lead. Italy's points came from two Frederico Mori tries.
After a Josh Hodge penalty at the start of the second half, scrum-half Oli Fox darted over for England's third try. Ollie Sleightholme clinched the bonus point when he scored in the 52nd minute but England were unable to kick on from there and had to be content with just three more points from the boot of Manu Vunipola.
Meanwhile, Scotland registered their first win of the campaign after beating Wales 27-20 at Meggetland in the Borders.
The home side raced into a 19-6 half-time lead thanks to tries from Connor Boyle, Robbie McCallum and Rory McMichael with Cai Evans' two penalties accounting for Wales' points. Winger Jack Blain extended Scotland's lead before a late fightback led by tries from Will Griffiths and Sam Costelow saw Wales head home with the consolation of a losing bonus point.