The World Rugby U20 Championship returned with a bang on Saturday with the six matches averaging over nine tries and nearly 70 points per match on a day of high entertainment. 

Back-to-back defending champions France got their campaign off to an impressive start, while Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were made to dig a little deeper to secure the ‘W’ and England and Ireland could not be separated.

Argentina also ended Saturday with a victory and as the teams begin to prepare for Thursday’s second round, we pick out some of the main talking points from match-day one.



France will come up against better defences than Japan’s throughout the remainder of the tournament but the way they ruthlessly piled on the points was mightily impressive and suggests the two-time defending champions will be there or thereabouts in the race for this year’s title.

Les Bleuets ran in 11 tries in a 75-12 win that saw them fall just short of their record score and biggest-ever win in the U20 Championship (78-12 v Italy in 2018). One of the more remarkable statistics to come from the game was their ‘red-zone efficiency’, with Les Bleuets averaging 5.3 points for each of their 14 visits to the Japan 22.

In terms of metres made, line breaks and defenders beaten, they were without peers on Saturday but none of this would have been possible without a solid base upfront, and the coaching team will have taken just as much pleasure from the fact that they were also the only side to boast a 100 per cent scrum and lineout success rate as they will have done form their free-running backs.  


Any worries around the depth of the Flying Fijians in the pivotal half-back positions will have eased significantly following the performance of U20 fly-half, Isaiah Ravula, on the opening weekend. Ravula, the nephew of All Blacks playmaker, Richie Mo’unga, looked totally at ease on the ball during Fiji’s 46-37 defeat to Australia and, what’s more, he was imperious off the kicking tee, too, slotting all seven of his kicks at goal – four conversions and three penalties.

With Ravula pulling the strings, Fiji pushed the 2019 finalists all the way, and they were not the only ones to give one of the more fancied teams a scare. Georgia, who came into the competition on the back of an historic win against England, almost added hosts South Africa to that growing list of achievements, having troubled the Junior Springboks at scrum time, before slipping to a 33-23 defeat.


Some sports baulk at the idea of a draw and find any means possible to avoid such an outcome. However, they are still rare events in rugby and are to be cherished, especially if they all follow the same pattern as the 34-34 deadlock between England and Ireland.

While neither side knew exactly what to make of picking up three points – both teams bagged a try-bonus point – none of the spectators at Paarl Gymnasium or those watching from afar would have been disappointed by the game itself because it had everything: power, pace, big tackles and momentum swings throughout.

In normal circumstances, you’d have expected Ireland to have closed the game out when they led for the second time in the match in the 65th minute. But back came England and some cool-headed leadership from Lewis Chessum and the superb goal-kicking of debutant Connor Slevin, who eclipsed his opposite number, Sam Prendergast, ensured it ended all-square.


It wasn’t perfect, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from young players still at the early stages of their career, but Los Pumitas fly-half Juan Baronio produced arguably the standout performance of the opening round.

Baronio’s cultured left boot toyed with the short-handed Italy defence time and time again, his kicking from hand and off the tee being almost exemplary in a 43-15 win. Baronio converted his own try, Argentina’s first, and kicked three out of the next four as well as landing a monster drop goal from halfway. But it was his tactical kicking, which included two 50:22s, which really caught the eye.


Wales came into the U2O Championship against a backdrop of negativity and on the back of their first-ever whitewash in the U20 Six Nations.

Even though Wales had beaten New Zealand 8-7 the last time the teams had met at this level in 2019 very few people expected them to run the Junior All Blacks close let alone nearly snatch a win. But a blistering first half saw Wales take command courtesy of tries from Lewis Lloyd, Dan Edwards and Morgan Morse after Caleb Tangitau had struck first for the most decorated U20 Championship team in history.

Six-time champions New Zealand then staged a surging second-half fightback, with Macca Springer, Sam Hainsworth and Che Clark all scoring before Sam Scarfe’s try left Wales dreaming of what might have been as they went down to the narrowest of defeats, 27-26.

Two bonus points will be some cause for comfort to Wales as it just about keeps them in semi-final contention while also doing much to prevent them from being dragged into a potential relegation battle.