IRB Under 20 Championship Semi-Final: Ireland v Argentina Preview

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Our rugby scribe takes a look at tonight's IRB Under 20 Championship semi-final between Ireland and Argentina.

If you had told me these two sides would be meeting in the semi-finals of the tournament I would have told you you’re a shocking prophet and you should find a new line of work.

While Argentine head coach Fernadez Lobbe proclaimed, prior to the tournament kicking off, that this is the best crop of under 20’s that Argentina has produced, no one really expected them to beat South Africa and top Pool C.
Like the Argentines, no one really expected much from the Irish. They had a poor Under 20 Six Nations campaign and were 17 points down within the first 20 minutes of their U20 Championship opening match against Wales. They fought back to win that game by a point and never looked back.

Ireland v Argentina | Monday 20 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 18:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 9/10 | Draw 18/1 | Argentina 9/10

That shocking first quarter against Wales seems like an age ago now.  Not only did the Irish come back and win that game, but they followed that up with a highly unexpected eight-point victory over defending champions, New Zealand. They closed their group stage campaign off with a 35-7 victory over Georgia which saw them finish the group stage at the summit of Pool A.

Key to Ireland’s great showing at the tournament has been the form of Leinster youngster James Ryan. The second rower put in a dominant showing against the Junior All Blacks at line-out time, offering a secure two ball option and causing all sorts of problems on the opposition throw.

He and his fellow tight five colleagues will look to dominate the set piece against the Argentines and lay a platform for the impressive centre pairing of Shane Daly and Conor O’Brien to work off.

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The Argentines can be proud of their showing at the tournament regardless of what transpires from here on in. Their historic victory over the Baby Boks will go down in the annals of Argentine rugby history while their comeback victory over France would have had the whole of Argentina partying into the wee hours of the morning.

Despite enjoying a great showing at the tournament, there will still be a few concerns for the Argentine coaching staff. The biggest of which will be the packs performance at scrum time.

While Argentine rugby has produced some of the best scrummaging tight fives to ever take to a rugby field, these youngsters aren’t as dominate as their senior counterparts. The main reason for this is the size of their tight five. While they are extremely mobile, they aren’t the heaviest of blokes which leads one to believe that they will struggle against an Irish pack that looks to have been raised on a diet of steak and Guinness pie.

If their pack is unable to contend with their Irish counterparts it will be up to the Argentine backs to keep them in the game. Their backs could well be able to achieve this as they are masters of playing counter-attacking rugby as was evident in their opening game against France.

The Argentine loosies will also have to come to the party this evening. They are lightweight and extremely mobile which should hopefully allow them to get to the breakdown slightly earlier than their counterparts.

Verdict: Argentina 9/10It’s going to be a near run thing but I reckon this Argentine side will edge a victory here.
Written by Darry Worthington for!

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