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World Rugby U20 Championship 2017: Tournament preview

U20 captains
L-R Italy vice-captain Marco Zanon, New Zealand captain Luke Jacobson, Scotland captain Callum Hunter-Hill and Ireland captain Paul Boyle at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 launch for Pool B teams in Kutaisi, Georgia, on 27 May. Photo credit: Gogita Bukhaidze / World Rugby.

It is time for some of the best young rugby players on the planet to take centre stage at this year’s edition of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia. After 2 years of the most experienced squads Scotland have fielded at this level, the 2017 tournament sees something of a changing of the guard for the dark blues as the older players move on. A relatively inexperienced group of players will face a tough test in a pool containing New Zealand and two fellow Six Nations’ sides in Ireland and Italy.

How it works

There are three pools of four teams, each of whom plays the other sides in their own pool once. The three pool rounds will all feature six matches played on the same day – two at the AIA Stadium in Kutaisi and four at the Avchala Stadium, Tbilisi.

At the end of the pool stage all 12 sides are aggregated together for seedings for the playoffs, with the top 4 contesting the semi-finals of the tournament trophy; the next 4 competing for a best finish of 5th place; and the bottom 4 contesting the 9th to 12th place playoffs – with the side finishing last being relegated to the WR U20 Trophy in 2018.

It’s entirely possible there may be three sides each finishing with 3, 2, 1 and 0 wins. This means for teams picking up 1 win, Bonus Points and Points Difference (first tie-breaker if sides are level on points won) will likely decide who goes into the middle tier. For those with 2 wins the side with most BPs / best PD would play in the top quartet alongside the pool winners.

TV coverage

UK – ITV will broadcast the semi-finals and final. Outwith that the games will be live streamed on the World Rugby website at www.worldrugby.org/u20.
Ireland – eirsport
Wales – S4C
Australia – Fox Sports
New Zealand – Sky
South Africa – SuperSport
USA – NBC Sports

Tickets

If you happen to be in Georgia over the next few weeks, tickets are for all games on each matchday at each stadium. In the pool stages prices start from 5 Lari (about £1.60) for 2 matches at the AIA Arena or 20 Lari (around £6.50) for 4 matches at the Avchala Stadium.

If you happen to be going or in Georgia, buy tickets here!

Scotland’s pool

Ireland (2nd in 2016 tournament)
New Zealand (5th)
Scotland (8th)
Italy (11th)

Scotland beat Italy in the U20 Six Nations a few months ago – and lost to Ireland in agonising fashion by just a single point. Like their counterparts in the full Test arena the 20s have never beaten New Zealand. Can the recent heroics by Scotland 7s inspire a result as improbable as the win from 21-0 down at Twickenham in the abbreviated form of the game?

Scotland’s fixtures

Scotland’s pool will be based at the AIA Arena in Kutaisi, 137 miles west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi where all other games will take place.

Wednesday 31st May 2017
AIA Arena, Kutaisi

Scotland v New Zealand 10.00am (1.00pm local time)
Ireland v Italy 12.30pm

Sunday 4th June 2017
AIA Arena, Kutaisi

Scotland v Ireland, 10.00am
New Zealand v Italy 12.30pm

Thursday 8th June 2017
AIA Arena, Kutaisi

Scotland v Italy 10.00am
Ireland v New Zealand 12.30pm

Playoffs and the semi-finals will all be played on Tuesday 13th June at the Avachala Stadium and Mikheil Meshki Stadium (both in Tbilisi).

Placing matches and the final will all be played on Sunday 18th June at the Avachala Stadium and Mikheil Meshki Stadium.

Scotland’s history

During the 2016 edition of the tournament, played in Manchester, Scotland made it into the middle tier of the playoffs for only the second time since the competition’s inception. They also posted 2 wins in the pool stages for the first time ever, before a chronic injury list contributed to them running out of steam at the playoff stages.

Pool matches
Scotland 15 – 10 Australia
Scotland 0 – 44 England
Scotland 27 – 19 Italy

5th place playoff semi-final
Scotland 19 – 35 Australia

7th/8th place playoff
Scotland 19 – 42 Wales

The side’s 8th place equalled the best achieved by a Scotland U20 squad since the tournament began in 2008:

2016 – 8th
2015 – 8th
2014 – 10th
2013 – 10th
2012 – 9th
2011 – 10th
2010 – 10th
2009 – 9th
2008 – 10th

The realistic goal for this group has to be to match the last 2 years and make it into the middle tier if the tournament. It may be possible with 1 win but it’s likely that the young Scots will need to beat both Italy and Ireland if they want to be certain of avoiding the bottom group and any possible threat of relegation.

So that’s how it all works. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the Scotland squad in depth.

3 Responses

  1. If memory serves the score against Italy in the 6N looked comfortable but in fact in the second half it was anything but. So they will have to go some to avoid the bottom group – good luck to them.

    The game schedule is of course a farce. Player welfare anyone ?

  2. I thought Scotland did ok against the ab’s. Both sides handling was poor. Some of our forwards like Nicol and fagerson need to take the ball close to the line at full pace, not a standing start, which seems ever full Scottish internationalists do. That’s simple coaching.
    They must drop Kinghorn, he is so out of form.

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