The World Rugby U20 Championship kicked off in Cape Town on Saturday with six matches on the opening day, as France opened the defence of their title with a laboured victory over tournament debutants Spain and South Africa outmuscled Fiji in a physical encounter at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town.

England came from behind to beat Argentina in the opening match at Athlone Stadium before Australia outmuscled Georgia, despite having a player sent off which led to the first usage of the 20-minute red card trial in operation at the tournament.

2023 runners-up Ireland also opened their account with victory, easing away from an Italy side that had pushed them all the way in the Men's U20 Six Nations earlier this year, and New Zealand survived a late scare to beat Wales.



Hooker Barnabé Massa and back row Geoffrey Malaterre scored two tries of France’s seven tries as they kicked off the defence of their World Rugby U20 Championship title with a 49-12 win over tournament debutants Spain at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium.

Despite the bonus-point victory, there’s plenty for head coach Sebastien Calvet and his staff and players to work on before France meet New Zealand on Thursday at Danie Craven Stadium. Captain Hugo Reus admitted afterwards that their performance was not up to standard. 

“It’s enough,” he said. “If we want to win this competition, we need to play better. If we play like today, we won’t win.”

Les Bleuets’ full-back Axel Desperes-Rigou got the scoreboard moving in the third minute, walking over in the corner after an outstanding 15m out-of-the-back pass from captain and fly-half Reus.

But, in the first-ever meeting between the two European neighbours, three-time champions France didn’t have it all their own way against Spain, promoted to the World Rugby U20 Championship for the first time after winning the U20 Trophy in Kenya last July.

Spain pressured Massa’s lineouts – he missed two of his first three throws – and held their own in the early scrums, until France’s power and experience began to tell as the first half went on. 

Spain had their chances in the opening exchanges. A knock-on from Luciano Richardis ended what would be their best attack, as they spread the ball wide after disrupting a French lineout. And a hack ahead from a strong counter-ruck had France scrambling to dot down in their own in-goal area.

But Massa’s first try after 21 minutes, bursting round the corner from a maul, settled remaining French nerves. His second, six minutes later, was a repeat of the first trick.

By now, Les Bleuets’ pack had the upper hand. Their loose forwards were chewing up the metres with ball in hand, taking Spanish players with them. More than once, heroic defence stopped France in their tracks.

It was, however, only a matter of time. Winger Hoani Bosmorin had the ball stripped as he dived for the line. An isolated forward had the ball stripped two metres out. And France were kicking penalties to touch as they sought a fourth score.

It came on the stroke of half-time, as Spain’s pack wheeled illegally under French pressure. The referee went under the posts. 

France coach Calvet, with one eye on Thursday’s pool match against New Zealand, changed the entire front row, scrum-half Leo Carboneau and winger Matthis Ferte at half-time. 

It made no difference up front. France were well on top at the scrum. But Spain weren’t about to give up, and hooker Diego Gonzalez Blanco blasted over from short range for their first-ever points at U20 Championship level. Their industry, their effort, their defensive bravery deserved reward – Spain were far from overawed by their opening day opponents in South Africa.

France looked dangerous going forwards, but looked a little disjointed and repeated errors – some of them unforced – stopped them in their tracks. They had to wait until the beginning of the fourth quarter to score their first points after the restart. Outside centre Fabien Brau-Boirie cut back through the defensive line to extend their lead again in the 61st minute. 

Spain, however, showed that they, too, could be threatening when they got some time with ball in hand. They kept probing and challenging, looking for more points – and, more than once, caused problems for France.

But the gaps kept opening as they chased the game. Hard-working back row Malaterre – back on after an HIA – scored twice in the last five minutes as France stretched away. 

There was time, however, for Spain winger Julien Burguillos to score a deserved second for the U20 Championship debutants.


New Zealand survived a late Welsh fightback to win a thriller 41-34 and pick up a try-scoring bonus thanks to a brace of tries from centre Xavi Taele.

The six-time World Rugby U20 Championship winners started brightest, running in three first-half tries, but Wales stayed in touch at the break thanks to a late score from Louis Hennessey.

The Kiwis raced away in the second period to claim the bonus point, but two tries in the final 10 minutes earned Wales two well-deserved bonus points, which could prove crucial in the final reckoning.

After New Zealand laid down their challenge with a spine-tingling Haka, they showed their power but could not take points, as Rico Simpson missed his first penalty of the match.

Wales replied with some phases of their own, but it wasn’t long before New Zealand were on the board as scrum-half Dylan Pledger picked off his counterpart Ieuan Davies’ pass to run away for the opening try, with Simpson adding the extras.

Wales hit back, and after a break from Davies, the ball found its way to fullback Huw Anderson, who claimed his side’s first try with a neat pirouette past the Kiwi defence.

New Zealand continued to dominate territory before an offside penalty against Louis Hennessey allowed Simpson to make amends with his first penalty of the match.

Wales again hit back. This time, Josh Morse claimed the kick-off to charge into the opposition territory before forcing an infringement, and fly-half Harri Wilde closed the gap.

New Zealand's forwards responded with a pair of mauls, the second of which was illegally pulled down by Osian Thomas. His yellow card and a penalty try were the inevitable results.

New Zealand then breached the 14-man defence with a great line from Taele as he cut open the Welsh side before reaching out to score his side’s third of the evening at Athlone Stadium.

But Wales had the final word in the opening 40. After some close-range carries just metres from the Kiwi line, Wilde delivered a brilliant looping pass to send Hennessey into the corner on the stroke of halftime.

New Zealand clinched their bonus point early in the second period, as they pounced on a turnover ball. After powering over a Welsh ruck just shy of the 22, they went wide. Aki Tuivailala fired a pass over the top to Taele, who crossed for his brace on 45 minutes.

New Zealand’s breakdown work helped them into the Welsh 22 once more, and they crossed thanks to a neat five-metre lineout, with Tai Cribb taking the ball at the front to charge over for try number five.

Wales were not going to go down without a fight, and their fightback started with a brilliant solo try from centre Hennessey, who cut open the Kiwi defence, but the hopes of a comeback were dented just moments later as Morgan Morse was sent to the bin for a tip tackle on Simpson.

The killer blow came on 67 minutes as a brilliant break from Xavier Tito-Harris allowed A-One Lolofie to race down the touchline before replacement winger Tito-Harris received the ball back to score a decisive try.

Wales earned two late bonus points with tries from Steffan Emanuel on debut and Page, who crashed over in the last minute of the game.


Clinical Ireland ran in five first-half tries to get their World Rugby U20 Championship challenge off to the perfect start with a 55-15 bonus-point win over Pool B and Six Nations rivals Italy at DHL Stadium. 

Centre Sam Berman scored a hat-trick, including two in the opening period, as Ireland made the most of every entry into their opponents’ 22. 

And the scoring started early. Hooker Danny Sheahan powered over in the corner on Ireland’s first visit into Italy’s 22, almost immediately from the kick-off. 

Italy, however, responded quickly. Jack Murphy, son of former Ireland U20 coach Richie, was forced to kick to touch five metres from his own line. Italy fired the ball wide quickly and accurately from the resulting lineout, giving winger Lorenzo Elettri acres of space to score. Martino Pucciariello converted to give the Italians an early lead. 

They extended their advantage moments later, as a sweeping attack straight from the restart had Ireland’s defence scrambling. Pucciariello made no mistake as the Irish were caught offside. 

But then Ireland clicked. Luke Murphy bulldozed over, picking up a short pop ball off the back of a ruck to take Ireland back into the lead. Evan O’Connell picked up a loose ball from an defensive Italian lineout to add a third.

Italy, who had pushed Ireland all the way in their U20 Six Nations meeting earlier this year, losing by just a point in Cork, needed a quick response. But it was Willie Faloon’s side who scored next, through Berman. He ran an against-the-grain line trademarked by Welsh centre Jamie Roberts for his first, in the 27th minute, and needed just enough space granted by some lovely passes to score his second 10 minutes later.

Luca Bellucci reduced the arrears after half-time, while Sean Edogbu was in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle. But Berman’s hat-trick score after 47 minutes extended Ireland’s lead again. His midfield partner Finn Treacy got their seventh less than 10 minutes later, and Sean Naughton added an eighth in the 65th minute as Ireland stretched away.


Australia muscled their way past a spirited Georgia to start their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign in style with a 35-11 victory at Athlone Stadium, despite one of the Junior Wallabies seeing red.

The inaugural meeting between the two sides at this level was a hard-fought encounter, with Georgia taking an 8-6 half-time lead after Australia’s Harvey Cordukes was sent off following a review – a first for the 20-minute red trial at the tournament.

The fitness of the Junior Wallabies proved crucial as they dominated possession to score five second-half tries and earn a comeback victory.

After applying early pressure in defence, Australia looked to have the first try of the match through Cordukes, but TMO Ian Tempest intervened for an earlier infringement in which Kadin Pritchard caught full-back Otari Metreveli in the air.

This gave momentum to the Georgian side, who, using their well-known scrum power, marched up the field before a driving maul try from Luka Suluashvili opened the scoring.

Australia’s response was immediate. The Junior Lelos try scorer, Suluashvili was caught off his feet, and fly-half Harry McLaughlin-Phillips slotted the easiest of penalties for the Junior Wallabies’ first points of the match.

The game then took a lengthy pause on 20 minutes, as Australian prop Jack Barrett suffered an injury with Lington Ieli taking his place. 

Some Junior Wallabies' ill-discipline followed with second-row Cordukes sent to the bin for a high tackle on prop Luka Ungiadze. Georgia’s fly-half Tsirekidze kicked his first points of the match, to further punish the Australians and extend the lead to 8-3.

News from the bunker meant that Cordukes card was upgraded to red, but Australia could replace him after 20 minutes under the red card trial being run in the tournament. 

Despite being a man down, the Junior Wallabies played most of the rugby and crept their way into the Junior Lelos’ 22 before McLaughlin-Phillips slotted his second penalty.

Australia then crossed the line once again, this time with a powerful maul, but TMO Tempest ruled out the score for obstruction, giving Georgia an 8-6 lead at half-time, which fly-half Tsirekidze extended after the break, to punish Australia’s ongoing ill-discipline.

Despite another robust defensive set from Georgia, the Junior Wallabies finally powered over for their first try. After some patient build-up, they found space in the wide channels for Ronan Leahy to cross.

The momentum was now with Australia. McLaughlin-Phillips and winger Archie Saunders linked up for the first major line break of the second half after a strong scrum. 

With the Junior Wallabies recycling possession quickly, replacement prop Ieli crashed over for their second try of the match.

Nathan Grey’s side were enjoying the majority of possession and territory, and tries three and four soon came with replacement winger Angus Staniforth crossing for the first of his two tries of the match, before a strong kick chase from Shane Wilcox gave Jarrah McLeod the bonus point score.

Staniforth collected his brace to complete the scoring as he finished off a lovely team try with the clock in the red.


England began their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign with a comeback 40-21 win over Argentina at Athlone Stadium thanks to a hat-trick from debutant Jack Bracken.

Argentina started the brightest, scoring a brace of tries, but England levelled before the break with two quick scores of their own. The Men’s U20 Six Nations champions took the lead after the break and raced away with four second-half tries. 

After a cagey start, Los Pumitas got the first try on 20 minutes, as Genaro Podesta finished off a lovely move. Quick hands just outside the English 22 allowed winger Franco Rossetto to break into the 22 before finding scrum-half Podesta on a great support line to give Argentina a 7-0 lead once Santino Di Lucca kicked the extras. 

Argentina then pounced on English indiscipline to launch another charge inside the 22 and soon found their way to the line for their second try as a powerful carry from flanker Juan Penoucos from five metres out extended the lead at 14-0, with fly-half Di Lucca again kicking the conversion.

England finally found their rhythm on 35 minutes as magical offloading interplay between Ben Redshaw, Henry Pollock, and Ollie Allen saw the three-time former champions race into the 22 before scrum-half Allen found debutant Jack Bracken for a memorable and key try.

A 50:22 moments later from Allen, and England had all the momentum. After several powerful carries close to the Argentina line, space opened up for full-back Redshaw to dive over and tie the game up once Kerr added his second conversion to make it 14-14 at half-time. 

Mark Mapletoft's men continued where they left off after the break, as their power game forced Los Pumitas back, with prop Billy Sela getting the score from close range to give England the lead for the first time.

England's turnaround continued with more forward dominance. A scrum penalty followed by a driving maul helped them score the bonus-point try, with U20 Six Nations Player of the Tournament Pollock dotting down.

Los Pumitas, however, weren't going to go down without a fight and soon responded with a third try of their own as they capitalised on a break from full-back Benjamin Elizalde, captain Efrain Elias crashing over from close range for a crucial score closing the gap to 26-21.

A yellow card for England second-row Junior K’Poku followed, and Argentina, looking for their first victory over England at the U20 Championship, had all the momentum. But, despite being a man down, England found the next score, with Benjamin Cohen finding a crucial intercept inside his own 22 to race away to allow Bracken to score his second try on debut to all but seal victory for the three-time champions.

Bracken then got his hat-trick with a brilliant solo chip and chase as England raced away with try number six to give them a 40-21 bonus-point victory.


Centre Jurenzo Julius scored two of South Africa’s eight tries as the tournament hosts outmuscled Fiji in a physical match to close out the opening day’s Pool C action in the World Rugby U20 Championship at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium.

South Africa won both previous encounters against Fiji by an average winning margin of 56 points – but the two sides have not met in 13 years, when Arno Botha scored a hat-trick and Johan Goosen kicked a tournament record 12 conversions.

More than a decade later, big-booted fly-half Liam Koen landed five conversions and a penalty on an impressive 52-minute debut, coach Bafana Nhleko thinking of future matches as he rejigged his team in the second period.

Julius’s first, 10 minutes into a fast and furious match that was full of big tackles, saw him power over from a simple one-pass training ground close-range tap penalty move. 

His second – South Africa’s fourth – saw him finish a thoroughly delightful unstructured backs move four minutes before the interval. Passes inside and outside and perfect support lines ended when he eased away under the posts. 

In between Julius’s first and second, and with South Africa’s pack dominating the scrum and the lineout, Michail Damon’s found the gap between transfixed defenders with a scything run that tipped more than a wink to Cheslin Kolbe, and Joel Leotlela danced inside two despairing Fijians, finishing the work Julius had started.

But the outside centre turned temporary villain, when he was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Fiji hooker Moses Armstrong-Ravula on the stroke of halftime.

Not that the numerical disadvantage troubled South Africa much. Another debutant, the hard-working hooker Luka Bakkes, crashed over four minutes into the second half to extend their lead.

Minutes later, however, Fiji loosehead Anare Caginavanua broke Fiji’s duck, barrelling over with a pick-and-go to give them some reward on the board for their efforts. 

Until replacement Ratu Nemani Kurucake saw yellow for a high tackle in the 64th minute, Fiji had stemmed the flood of points. Moments after he had left the pitch, backrow Sibabalwe Mahashe forced his way under the posts.

Three minutes later, Mahashe drove forward, brushed off defenders and offloaded to Likhona Finca for their seventh. And six minutes before the final whistle, Asad Moos finished off a super blindside strike for their eighth and last score of the game.