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IRB U20 Championship: Tuesday 7 June Preview
We have got another premier rugby tournament heading your way this week with the IRB Under 20 Championship kicking off in Manchester today. The tournament runs from the 7th of June up until the 25th which means will have plenty of rugby action to occupy us while Super Rugby is on its annual month-long sabbatical.
The first round of games opens up with two games kicking off simultaneously. One of the first two fixtures will see the Baby Boks take on Japan while the other sees France take on a dark horse in the form of Argentina.
Those fixtures are followed by an all northern hemisphere affair with Wales taking on Ireland as well as a contest between a plucky Scottish outfit and a Junior Wallaby side laden with Super Rugby experience.
The day closes out with the host nation England taking on junior Six Nations rivals Italy and defending champions New Zealand playing an ever improving Georgian side.
There’s plenty of value floating about and I reckon I’ve done enough homework to find us some winners.
Tuesday 7 March
France v Argentina | Tuesday 7 March | AJ Bell Stadium | 16:15 (CAT)
To Win (80 Mins)
France 1/7 | Draw 26/1 | Argentina 4/1
France (-12.5) 9/10 | Argentina (+12.5) 9/10
Okay, so we’ve got two sides here who have a bit of hype attached to their names. The French Under-20’s have enjoyed a solid first six months of the year finishing second in the Under-20 Six Nations; only two points off winners Wales. Their playing style is a lot like the senior national side of the late nineties with a 'give it some air and don’t worry too much about the consciences' attitude instilled into these French youngsters.
The Argentines also implement an attacking brand of rugby but are slightly more conservative than Tuesday’s opponents. And with the size of their pack you can see why they aren’t as shy of keeping it with their big men.
One of these Argentine forwards who’s being tipped to make the jump up to the senior national squad in the next few years is Marcos Kremer. He’s not as tall as your traditional Argentine lock – he measures in a 1.95 meters – but he’s just as fierce as senior Argentine locks such as Tomas Lavanini. Kremer is definitely one to keep an eye on this Tuesday
Verdict: Argentina (+12.5) 9/10
France may be seeded five spots above the Argentines on the IRB rankings but I think this will be a rather close fought affair. +12.5 offers a nice buffer for the Argentines and I reckon they’ll do enough to ensure they stay within that losing margin.
South Africa v Japan | Tuesday 7 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 16:15 (CAT)
South Africa (-46.5) 9/10 | Japan (+46.5) 9/10
The other early kick-off will see Dawie Theron’s Baby Boks take on the Japenese at the Manchester City Academy Stadium. The Junior Boks will be looking to avoid the ignominious defeat that befell their senior counterparts at last year’s World Cup while the Japenese will be looking to ensure history repeats itself.
I must brutally honest here and admit I know next to nothing about this Japenese side other than that they are ranked 10th on the IRB standings and that they have one of the biggest wingers in the competition in the form of 110-kilogram powerhouse Ataata Moeaki.
I’ve exhausted my limited knowledge of Japanese junior rugby above, so let’s swiftly move onto something I’m a bit more clued up about, the Baby Boks.
Coach Dawie Theron has hinted at his young South African side playing a much more attacking brand of rugby than they have in the past. His reasoning behind this has to do with his squad being a bit more “lightweight’ than previous teams he’s coached. While South Africa’s most successful junior sides have been able to physically dominate opposition teams, this isn’t likely to be the case this year.
South African rugby fans shouldn’t worry though, as while Theron’s charges aren’t the biggest they do possess some amazing skill sets. The likes of junior Shark Curwin Bosch, Kings nine James Hall, and skipper Jeremy Ward are all fleet of foot and have slick sets of hands.
There is a lot of hype around Bosch – the kid has a massive contract with the Sharks that makes him the highest paid Under 20 player in the country – but I think the man to watch is James Hall. The diminutive nine really impressed me when playing for the Kings during this year’s Super Rugby tournament. While he hasn’t got the best of box kicks on him, he is able to marshall his pack well and keep fringe defenders honest with nuggety little breaks.
Verdict: Japan (+46.5) 9/10
While I think this is a quality Junior Springbok side, I just feel the handicap is a bit too big. Back this Japanese side to stay within the +46.5 handicap.
Wales v Ireland | Tuesday 7 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 18:30 (CAT)
To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 7/20 | Draw 22/1 | Ireland 22/10
Wales (-7.5) | Ireland (+7.5) 9/10
This is arguably the pick of the round's action. Six Nations rivals Wales and Ireland square off in a game that could decide the two sides' fates in this year’s tournament. A win here would go a long way to securing a place in the semi-finals.
These two sides have already met this year in the Under 20 Six Nations with Wales running out 35-24 victors in Ireland. Wales went on to win the tournament while Ireland finished third.
On paper, this Welsh side looks a lot more threatening than their Irish counterparts. The Junior Dragons have a host of players with Pro 12 experience including Llanelli Scarlets ten Dan Jones. The young gun impressed during the Six Nations racking up 20 points in Wales’ game against Ireland.
Verdict: Wales (-7.5) 9/10
I’m expecting big things from this Welsh squad. They’ve got the talent and the winning mentality and I reckon they’ll have way too much for the Irish today. Back the Junior Dragons to clear the -7.5 handicap with confidence.
Australia v Scotland | Tuesday 7 June | AJ Bell Stadium | 18:30 (CAT)
To Win (80 Mins)
Australia 2/11 | Draw 25/1 | Scotland 33/10
Australia (-12.5) 9/10 | Scotland (+12.5) 9/10
Australia are another side who I am expecting to produce the goods at this year’s Championship. The Baby Wallabies have a handy looking squad which features quite a few players with super Rugby experience. Their first assignment will be to see off what should be a brave but naïve Scottish outfit at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Junior Scots’ were as dogged as their senior counterparts during this year’s Junior Six nations but still only managed a fourth place finish in the tournament. While they have a decent halfback pairing, the rest of their backline lacks imagination as well as cutting edge. They will be heavily reliant on their pack to win them penalties but I doubt that will be enough to see off the threat of this exciting Wallaby outfit.
Verdict: Australia (-12.5) 9/10
This is my bet of the day. This Australian side will be looking to garner a bonus point which means we should see free-flowing affair. Back the Junior Wallabies to clear the -12.5 margin with the utmost confidence.
England v Italy | Tuesday 7 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 20:45 (CAT)
England (-40.5) 9/10 | Italy (+40.5) 9/10
The host nation open their campaign with a game against Six Nations rivals Italy. The last encounter between the two sides was a rather heated affair which saw the English run out 42-7 victors in Italy.
This game is likely to see a few handbags thrown as both sides have some really temperamental players among their ranks. This could hinder England slightly as a couple yellow cards could servery kill their moment. The reverse can also be said however, as If a couple Italians get sent to the naughty chair then the English may just be able to put a big score on the board.
Verdict: Italy (+40.5) 9/10
My advice here is to avoid this game like the plague but if you must have a bet I recommend backing Italy on the plus.
New Zealand v Georgia | Tuesday 7 June | AJ Bell Stadium | 20:45 (CAT)
New Zealand (-58.5) 9/10 | Georgia (+58.5) 9/10
Defending champions New Zealand will get their 2016 campaign underway with a game against the lowest ranked side in the tournament Georgia. The Baby Blacks are always a huge threat at these tournaments. They implement a brand of rugby akin to the senior squad; run the ball, draw and pass, and only kick when you have to or there’s space in behind.
The Georgians are likely to implement a much more conservative approach than their opponents. Like their senior side, these young Georgian forwards are absolute monsters who love nothing more than to take or make contact. Their downfall however is their limited skill sets and penchant for committing a handling error at the most inopportune of times.
Verdict: New Zealand (-58.5) 9/10
It may be a huge handicap but this Baby Black side has the wherewithal to clear it.