World Rugby Under 20 Championship: Round 3 Preview


We preview the final round of Pool phase action from the 2017 World Rugby Under 20 Championship, which takes place this Thursday. 

This is the round that matters for these young men with the play-off places set to be decided this Thursday. While England and New Zealand have all but secured pole position in their respective groups, there’s still an almighty battle to secure top spot in Group C with only a solitary point separating the Baby Boks from the chasing pack. If Chean Roux’s men can get one over the Argentines this Thursday, then they will have assured themselves of a place in the semi-finals.

Scotland v Italy | Thursday 8 June | Kutaisi Stadium | 11:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Scotland 1/8 | Draw 28/1 | Italy 52/10
Scotland (-15.5) 9/10 | Italy (+15.5) 9/10

First up we’ve got a clash between the Scots and Italy. While both of these sides claimed upset victories over Ireland, neither is likely to take the best group place runners-up spots as the second place in Group A and C are much better positioned to claim that accolade. There’s still a fifth to eighth place play-off position up for grabs here, so this isn’t just an exhibition match before the knock-out stage gets underway.

Scotland had the better of Italy when the two sides met in the 2017 Under 20 Six Nations, with the Junior Thistles running out 38-17 victors. Both teams have been a lot more willing to run the ball compared to previous tournaments and they will hopefully carry this attitude into Thursday’s game.

An area where Italy could have some success is through their driving maul which was outstanding during last Sunday’s clash with the All Blacks.

Verdict: Italy (+15.5) 9/10
It’s been a tournament for the plus punters thus far and I don’t expect that to change. Italy should be able to keep it within the +15.5 margin without giving us punters too many heart palpitations. 

Wales v Samoa | Thursday 8 June | Avchala Stadium | 11:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 1/12 | Draw 35/1 | Samoa 6/1
Wales (-18.5) 9/10 | Samoa (+18.5) 9/10

Wales saw their hopes of a semi-final berth put to bed last Sunday as they went down 34-22 to a strong English outfit. The young Dragons will still be determined to claim victory this Thursday so as to ensure they are involved in the fifth to eight spot play-off games rather than the ninth to –twelth fixtures.

Samoa also come into this one off the back of a loss, although, the youngsters from the South Pacific will have taken a lot more out of their 33-26 loss to Australia than their counterparts would have from their defeat.

Verdict: Wales (-18.5) 9/10
Yes, Samoa were great against Australia but I think that hard fought loss will have taken a lot out of them. I will be having a large strike on the Welsh minus.

Argentina v South Africa | Thursday 8 June | Avchala Stadium | 13:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Argentina 9/4 | Draw 20/1 | South Africa 7/20
Argentina (+7.5) 9/10 | South Africa (-7.5) 9/10

The headline clash of Round 3 sees the Baby Boks take on Argentina at the Avchala Stadium. Both of these sides are still well in with a shout of qualifying for the semi-finals but a loss here - and a French victory over Georgia - would see the loser relegated to the fifth to eighth place play-off segment.

If it weren’t for a moment of madness from one of the Argentina loosies, Les Pumetes would hold all the cards heading into this one. Up by five points with only a minute to play, Argentina conceded a penalty which the French put into the corner. The ensuing lineout saw Les Bleulets set a solid maul and after five seconds of edging their way to the line, French replacement prop Peato Mauvaka crashed over for the match-winning try.

The South Africans fared a lot better in their Sunday encounter against Georgia, although the 38-14 scoreline slightly flattered Chean Roux’s men, who were forced to fight for every inch against a fired-up home side.

Verdict: Argentina (+7.5) 9/10
The Baby Boks have lacked accuracy with ball-in-hand but things started to click against Georgia. If their backs can be slightly more clinical and the forwards sort out the lineout, then the Junior Boks should take the honours here. Even if they are at their clinical best, they're unlikely to clear what is a rather substantial handicap. 

Ireland v New Zealand | Thursday 8 June | Kutaisi Stadium | 13:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 10/1 | Draw 105/1 | New Zealand 1/100
Ireland (+26.5) 9/10 | New Zealand (-26.5) 9/10

The unbeaten Kiwis are next up and they could pile the misery on an Irish outfit who have been rather underwhelming at the tournament. Yes the young men from the ‘Emerald Isle’ are missing a plethora of their stalwarts but you’d still expect more from last year’s defeated finalists.

New Zealand, on the other hand, after a horrid 2016 campaign are back to their best, running the Scottish and Italians ragged in successive matches. And while the Baby Blacks do have issues to address – their rolling maul defence was pretty poor and their scrum has looked susceptible at times – they should have no problems putting a large score over what will be an extremely demoralised Irish contingent.

Verdict: New Zealand (-26.5) 9/10
The handicap is high but I’m still confident the Baby Blacks will clear it. 

France v Georgia | Thursday 8 June | Avchala Stadium | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins)
France 1/20 | Draw 45/1 | Georgia 7/1
France (-21.5) 9/10 | Georgia (+21.5) 9/10

The hosts will take on the French in a game that will see club mates square off as three of the Georgian contingent have already been snapped up by French Top 14 outfits. This could be a much tighter affair than the handicap would have you believe. In fact, when these two sides met in Manchester last year, the Georgians only went down by three points.

Le Baby Bleu have impressed thus far but they may struggle without key man Ntamack with the young pivot limping off against Argentina this past Sunday. And while inside centre Arrate did look secure when taking over the kicking duties, the French backline seemed to lose their way somewhat with the departure of their talisman.

Verdict: Georgia (+21.5) 9/10
I sense an upset for the ages here but I’m not ballsy enough to have a real go on the Georgian win. Instead, I’m going to have a large strike on the plus and then stick R10 on the home win. 

England v Australia | Thursday 8 June | Avchala Stadium | 18:30

To Win (80 Mins)
England 2/11 | Draw 24/1 | Australia 4/1
England (-12.5) 9/10 | Australia (+12.5) 9/10

The English will be looking to complete a clean Pool phase sweep when they take on the Junior Wallabies in Thursday’s final fixture. The English have been in sensational touch dismantling Samoa and following that up with a 12 point win over a dogged Welsh side. Their opponents, while winning both of their games, haven’t been as convincing, edging Wales in their opener and then scraping past Samoa.

England really shouldn’t have too many issues seeing of this Wallabies side. While the junior Australians have been much better than they were in 2016, there’s still a significant gulf in quality between the two sides.

Verdict: England (-12.5) 9/10 
England should canter to victory here.

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Written by Darry Worthington for!

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