Scotland and Spain top pools after day one of U20 Trophy
The opening day of the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 in Nairobi saw wins for Samoa, Scotland, Spain and Uruguay, the latter only after a late try against USA.
The race for a place in the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 final may take a decisive turn on Thursday as all eight teams return to action at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.
Day two kicks off at 10:00 local time (GMT+3) when Samoa attempt to consolidate their winning start to the tournament against Pool B rivals Hong Kong China.
Uruguay, currently second in Pool A, then take on Zimbabwe at 12:00 local time, before pool leaders Scotland play the USA two hours later.
Thursday draws to a close at 16:00 local time as hosts Kenya search for their first win of the 2023 U20 Trophy against Pool B rivals Spain, who beat Hong Kong China on Saturday.
The third round of the pool stage takes place on 25 July, with the teams that finish top of each pool at the end of it contesting the final five days later. Whoever wins that match will be promoted to the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2024.
Samoa have reached the final in each of their previous three appearances in the U20 Trophy and they took a step towards a fourth on the opening day as they passed 500 tournament points in beating the hosts 34-25.
They will want to continue on that trajectory as they take on Hong Kong China on Thursday, the Asian team beginning their campaign with a 53-0 defeat to Pool B leaders Spain.
Discipline was an issue on Saturday for Samoa, who were shown four yellow cards collectively for only the second time at the tournament, but they know that history is on their side.
Samoa and Hong Kong China have met once previously at the U20 Trophy, the former winning a pool-stage encounter 41-20 in Bucharest in 2018.
Another victory for the Pacific Island nation would end Hong Kong China’s hopes of qualifying for the U20 Championship for the first time.
In Thursday’s final match, Kenya will hope to give the home fans at Nyayo National Stadium something to cheer and kickstart their own title aspirations.
A late salvo in which the hosts scored three tries in the final 20 minutes was not enough to carry them to a memorable victory against Samoa, but it will give them confidence heading into their second match.
Spain, though, have their own ambitions in Nairobi and those will only have been heightened by their comprehensive nine-try defeat of Hong Kong China on day one.
The teams have never met in the U20 Trophy before, Spain’s only tournament appearance coming in 2016 when they made the final before losing agonisingly to Samoa.
Regardless of the result on Thursday, Spain will know they need to beat the Pacific Island nation to reach the showpiece match for a second time.
Uruguay will climb to the top of Pool A, momentarily at least, if they beat Zimbabwe in Thursday’s second match at Nyayo Stadium.
Los Teritos edged a 64-point thriller against the USA on Saturday, as Juan Carlos Canessa converted Dante Soto’s late try to give his side victory.
Canessa kicked 18 of his side’s 33 points but makes way for Juan Bautista Crisci on Thursday. His team-mates will hope victory against USA can act as a springboard as they attempt to win the U20 Trophy for the first time since the inaugural edition 15 years ago.
Uruguay won the only previous meeting between the sides in the tournament, running out 50-22 winners in a pool-stage match at Harare Sports Club in 2016.
Should they emulate that result on Thursday then they will head into the final round of pool fixtures with their hopes of promotion to the U20 Championship very much intact.
Zimbabwe will certainly be aiming to start against Los Teritos where they left off in their opening match against Scotland.
The Junior Sables ran in five tries in the final 26 minutes against the Scots to secure a try bonus-point and make the scoreline a great deal more respectable in what ended as a 64-33 defeat.
In the penultimate match of the day, kick-off 14:00 local time, the USA will aim to kickstart their campaign against Scotland, who made an ominous start to life in the U20 Trophy.
Geordie Gwynn marked his and Scotland’s tournament debut with a hat-trick as the U20 Six Nations side ran in 10 tries and scored a record number of points at this level.
It sets them up perfectly on their quest for a place in the 30 July final, and ultimately an immediate return to the U20 Championship next year.
Scotland also lead the head-to-head with their opponents, having beaten them twice in the U20 Championship, 41-14 in Wales in 2008 and 39-3 five years later in France.
But their opponents will have plenty of motivation to record a famous win having come so close to victory on day one.
Ill-discipline cost the Junior All-Americans dear against Uruguay as they played for half an hour with only 14 players due to three yellow cards, and they will hope to rectify that on Thursday.