PREVIEW: WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP, SEMIFINALS

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 11:09

UNDER-20 SPOTLIGHT: Who will blink first? The semifinals of the Junior World Championship are set to provide some enthralling and entertaining play.

The race for the semifinals was one of the most absorbing in the competition's history, keeping fans in Georgia and around the world on the edge of their seats - as it swung one way and then the other - before New Zealand, England, South Africa and France were locked in as the final four.

While this quartet march on to the semifinals after contrasting victories on day three, for Italy there was cause for celebration with a best-ever finish guaranteed.

However, for Argentina it was utter dismay, after they slumped from semifinal contenders to being threatened with relegation to the U20 Trophy in 2018.

But our focus is on the two main semifinals - where just eight teams have contested an U20 Championship semifinal: New Zealand, England, South Africa, France, Australia, Wales, Argentina and Ireland.
 
Of these only Argentina and France have never reached the Final.
 
This is the first time that all four semifinalists are unbeaten.

New Zealand and England won all three of their pool matches, while South Africa and France played out the first draw in U20 Championship history and won their next two matches.
 
New Zealand failed to reach the semifinals for the first time in 2016.
 
England and South Africa have also only missed out on the semifinals on one occasion, in 2012 and 2011 respectively.
 
By contrast this is only the third semifinal for France in 10 years of the U20 Championship.

South Africa would be the first to admit they stuttered through their opening match against France, needing Curwin Bosch to convert their last-gasp try to salvage the first draw in U20 Championship history.

The signs were better against Georgia, but South African fans would have been smiling from ear to ear as the Junior Springboks finally engaged sixth gear and cut loose against a shell-shocked Argentina team - scoring 11 tries in one of the best displays of attacking rugby seen in the 10-year history of this competition.

Defending champions England await in the semifinals and as coach Chean Roux said post-match, the performance against Argentina "means nothing if we do not win the next match".

Roux said he is expecting a physical onslaught from England, but added his team's focus was on delivering a quality performance to advance to the Final.

"This is a big game for us," said Roux.

"England are a physical side and they are full of confidence. They are the defending champions as well. But that said, our plans are in place as a team and we just need to go out there and execute it."

England coach Tom Williams said he wants to see his players go out, enjoy themselves and to play with a lot of energy.

"This group has got huge character, they have shown it against Ireland to win the Grand Slam and they showed it against Australia to get us into this semi-final," Williams said.

England face South Africa in a repeat of last year's semifinal and Williams is relishing the fixture.

"South Africa are an interesting team, because they provide two separate type of challenges - they have a big forward pack and some quick and exciting backs." he added.

New Zealand Under-20 coach Craig Philpott said they have selected their strongest team to take on France in the other semifinal.

"From what we have seen of France they are big and powerful, plus they have a very good No.9 and No.10 combination which we will have to shut down.

"It's our first game in Tbilisi and we hope to replicate the exciting brand of footy we played in Kutaisi during the pool stages, in the play-off matches.

"We look forward to seeing Dalton Papalii return from injury to take his place on the side of the scrum. He played well in the first match and we expect him to do so again in this match."

SEMIFINAL FIXTURES
(Tuesday, June 13 - all games in Tbilisi. Kick-off is local time: GMT plus four hours)

Ireland v Samoa (13.00)
Argentina v Georgia (15.30)
Australia v Italy (15.30)
Scotland v Wales (18.00)
England v South Africa (18.00)
New Zealand v France (20.30)

Confirmed teams:

Ireland v Samoa

Ireland: 15 Alan Tynan, 14 Michael Silvester, 13 Gavin Mullin, 12 Ciaran Frawley, 11 Calvin Nash, 10 Conor Dean, 9 Jack Stafford, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Paul Boyle, 6 Gavin Coombes, 5 Oisin Dowling, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Peter Cooper, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Jordan Duggan.
Replacements: 16 Adam Moloney, 17 Joey Conway, 18 Charlie Connolly, 19 Jack Regan, 20 John Foley, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 David McCarthy, 23 Mark Keane.

Samoa: TBC

Argentina v Georgia

Argentina: TBC

Georgia: TBC

Australia v Italy

Australia: 15 Liam McNamara, 14 Henry Hutchison, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Simon Kennewell, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Harrison Goddard, 8 Reece Hewat (captain), 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Ryan McCauley, 3 Shambeckler Vui, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cody Walker.
Replacements: 16 Efi Maafu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Gavin Luka, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Harry Nucifora, 22 Nick Jooste, 23 Semisi Tupou.

Italy: TBC

Scotland v Wales

Scotland: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14Robbie Nairn, 13 Ross McCann, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Darcy Graham, 10 Connor Eastgate, 9 Andrew Simmers, 8 Tom Dodd, 7 Matt Fagerson, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill (captain), 4 Alex Craig, 3 Adam Nicol, 2 Fraser Renwick, 1 George Thornton.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Fergus Bradbury, 18 Daniel Winning, 19 Hamish Bain, 20 Archie Erskine, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Josh Henderson, 23 Lewis Berg .

Wales: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Ioan Nicholas, 12 Owen Lane, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Arwel Robson, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Aled Ward, 7 Will Jones, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Sean Moore, 4 Will Griffiths, 3 Kieron Assiratti, 2 Ellis Shipp, 1 Rhys Carre.
Replacements: 16 Owen Hughes, 17 Tom Mably, 18 Steff Thomas, 19 Callum Bradbury, 20 Syd Blackmore, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Connor Edwards, 23 Phil Jones.

England v South Africa

England: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Darren Atkins, 13 Will Butler, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Max Malins, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Dino Lamb, 5 Justin Clegg, 4 Josh Caulfield, 3 Marcus Street, 2 Joe Mullis, 1 Ralph Adams-Hale.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Ollie Dawe, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Max Davies, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Paolo Odogwu.

South Africa: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Gianni Lombard, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 6 Len Massyn, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Kwenzo Blose.
Replacements: 16 Gerhard Steenekamp, 17 Daniel Jooste, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Francois de Villiers, 22 Stedman Gans, 23 Jean-Luc Cilliers.

New Zealand v France

New Zealand: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Tima Fainga'anuku, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Orbyn Leger, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Tiaan Falcon, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tuu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Luke Jacobson (captain), 5 Sam Slade, 4 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 3 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Replacements: 16 JP Sauni, 17 Harrison Allan, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Sam Caird, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, 22 Tamati Tua, 23 Josh McKay.

France: 15 Geoffrey Cros, 14 Lucas Tauzin, 13 Pablo Uberti, 12 Alex Arrate, 11 Arthur Joel Retiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Baptiste Pesenti-Compagnoni, 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Mickaël Capelli, 4 Florian Verhaeghe (captain), 3 Zakaria El Fakir, 2 Florian Dufour, 1 Hassane Kolingar.
Replacements: 16 Ugo Boniface, 17 Peato Mauvaka, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe Reazel, 19 Killian Geraci, 20 Selevasio Tolofua, 21 Arthur Coville, 22 Theo Millet, 23 Romain Buros.

Source: @WorldRugby

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Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
England U20 3 3 0 0 14
Australia U20 3 2 0 1 10
Wales U20 3 1 0 2 6
Samoa U20 3 1 0 3 1
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
New Zealand U20 3 3 0 0 15
Scotland U20 3 2 0 1 9
Italy U20 3 1 0 2 6
Ireland U20 3 0 0 3 2
Pool C
Team P W D L Pts
South Africa U20 3 2 1 0 12
France U20 3 2 1 0 11
Argentina U20 3 1 0 2 6
Georgia U20 3 0 0 3 0