Under 20 Championships: Final and Play-Offs Preview

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Our in-house rugby scribe runs the rule over the final day of Under 20 Championship action. 

So, we reach the conclusion to what has been yet another enthralling Under 20 Championship and while it’s been another disappointing tournament for South African supporters, we can’t complain about the quality of rugby on show.

The biggest fixture of the day sees England take on New Zealand in the final. The English haven’t been as dominant as they were in 2016 but that’s to be expected with a plethora of their players being called up to the senior squad. The Junior All Blacks, on the other hand, have been in sensational touch racking up some huge wins on route to the final.

Samoa v Argentina | Sunday 18 June | Avchala Stadium | 10:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Samoa 6/1 | Draw 33/1 | Argentina 1/14
Handicap
Samoa (+17.5) 9/10 | Argentina (-17.5) 9/10

The relegation play-off sees a Samoan team that’s yet to win a game take on an Argentine side who have struggled to replicate the feats of their 2016 squad. The Samoans come into this one off the back of a heavy defeat to the Irish while the Argentines were upset by hosts Georgia in their last fixture.

Verdict: Argentina (-17.5) 9/10
I expect a massive response for the Argentines here. Get on the -17.5 handicap!

Ireland v Georgia | Sunday 18 June | Mikheil Meshki Stadium | 11:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 1/3 | Draw 22/1 | Georgia 22/10
Handicap
Ireland (-7.5) 9/10 | Georgia (+7.5) 9/10

Like Argentina, Ireland have failed to come anywhere near last year’s crop. Defeaten finalists in 2016, Ireland will now be hoping to secure 12th place when they take on a Georgian side who will be on a massive high after defeating the Argentines last week. The tournament hosts have proved stiff opposition throughout with their massive forward pack causing all sorts of problems for any opponent.

Verdict: Georgia (+7.5) 9/10
The Georgians really have impressed this year with the only time they’ve failed to stay within the handicap coming against a fired-up Springbok squad. My money is on the hosts ending their tournament on a high by giving Ireland a real run for their money. 

Scotland v Australia | Sunday 19 June | Avchala Stadium | 12:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Scotland 26/10 | Draw 22/1 | Australia 2/7
Handicap
Scotland (+8.5) 9/10 | Australia (-8.5) 9/10

The Scots will be looking to make it a great weekend for rugby lovers in the north of Britain by making it two wins over the Australian rugby sides in just over 24 hours, while the Junior Wallabies will be looking to atone for their senior's poor showing yesterday.

Both of these sides have been a lot better than expected. The Scots come into this one off the back of a historical victory against the Welsh Juniors while the Wallabies run the Italians rampant in the first round of play-off games.

Verdict: Scotland (+8.5) 9/10
I quite fancy a Scottish win here but the sensible play is to take them on the +8.5 handicap.

South Africa v France | Sunday 18 June | Mikheil Meshki Stadium | 13:30

To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 7/20 | Draw 20/1 | France 21/10
Handicap
South Africa (-6.5) 9/10 | France (+6.5) 9/10

What must be an extremely hurt Baby Bok side take on the French for the second time in the tournament. The South African Juniors threw away a magnificent opportunity to make the final when they blew a five-point lead in the dying minutes of their semi-final against England. The French also struggled in their semi-final against New Zealand but their late attempted comeback would have given them a lot of confidence heading into this one.

Verdict: France 21/10
This is not going to sit well with South African fans but I sense a French victory here. The Baby Boks generally struggle in these third/fourth play-off games and it must be remembered that the French were unlucky to have to settle for a draw during the group phase meeting as they led for the majority of the fixture. 

Wales v Italy | Sunday 19 June | Avchala Stadium | 15:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 1/10 | Draw 28/1 | Italy 5/1
Handicap
Wales (-15.5) 9/10 | Italy (+15.5) 9/10

We have an all Northern Hemisphere affair up next with Six Nations rivals Italy and Wales going head-to-head at the Avchala Stadium. The Welsh come into this one off a heartbreaking defeat to the Scots while the Italians were trounced by the Australians in Thursday’s play-off action.

Verdict: Italy (+15.5) 9/10
Both of these sides have blown hot and cold throughout the tournament. It’s honestly the toughest handicap to call and one I’d be inclined to avoid. If you’re looking to add this to a multiple my advice would be to get on the Welsh straight win. If you’re looking to have a straight bet on the game, however, I’d advise backing the Italians on the +15.5 ‘cap.

England v New Zealand | Sunday 18 June | Avchala Stadium | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins)
England 51/20 | Draw 22/1 | New Zealand 2/7
Handicap
England (+8.5) 9/10 | New Zealand (-8.5) 9/10

This should be an absolute epic with both of these sides playing magnificent rugby throughout the tournament. The Kiwis have been more impressive than the English racking up some mammoth wins during the group phase but you can’t discount the English who have displayed a hell of a lot of heart over the past fortnight.

I generally don’t like to focus on players in a final as the team effort is a lot more important than individual brilliance but I’m going to make an exception in this case as both sides have player’s who can turn a game.

The New Zealanders will be looking for a big showing from Blues young gun Stephen Profeta who has been rushed into the squad as a replacement for the highly-rated Tiaan Falcon. Profeta put in a brilliant display for the Blues during their recent victory over the British and Irish Lions and could prove to be the key man for the New Zealanders here.

Englands’s hopes may rest upon the giant shoulders of eighthman Zach Mercer, who scored the winning try against South Africa. The Bath youngster has carried this English side at times and another mighty performance from him may see England claim yet another Under 20 title.

Verdict: England (+8.5) 9/10
I think this going to be an extremely tight game which means I’m all over the England +8.5 – you should be as well! 

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Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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