World Rugby U20 Championship 2018: Tournament preview

Time once again for the World Rugby U20 Championship and the chance for some of the finest young talents the game has to offer to strut their stuff. Last season’s tournament in Georgia saw Scotland achieve their best ever finish at this level – but things could be a bit more challenging this summer in France.

Scotland U20s’ Championship record:

2017 – 5th
2016 – 8th
2015 – 8th
2014 – 10th
2013 – 10th
2012 – 9th
2011 – 10th
2010 – 10th
2009 – 9th
2008 – 10th

How it works

There are three pools of four teams, each of whom plays the other sides in their own group once. The three pool rounds will all feature six matches played on the same day with double headers taking place in Beziers, Narbonne and Perpignan.

All 12 sides are aggregated together at the end of the pool stage for playoff seedings. The top 4 will contest the semi-finals of the tournament trophy; the next 4 compete for a best finish of 5th place; and the bottom 4 contest the 9th to 12th place playoffs. Finishing last will mean relegation to the WR U20 Trophy in 2019.

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

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 (the WR Facebook page is also handy to have bookmarked when seeking out coverage). Sometimes in the past there have been geo-blocks in restriction even if the game is not televised because of ITV having coverage rights, so have your wits about you. S4C will carry live action from Wales’ matches in the tournament.

Tickets

If you happen to be in France over the next few weeks, tickets are for both games on each matchday at each stadium. In the pool stages prices are between €5 and €25 with the finals priced at €15 to €35. Tickets can be purchased here!

Law trials

The Championship will operate one element of World Rugby’s latest law trials, which are intended to influence player behaviour towards tackling lower and thereby reducing the risk of head injuries. On field sanctions will remain unchanged but a new citing process will be in place to issue “High Tackle Warnings” in the following circumstances:

  • Where the tackler is upright / not bent at the waist; and
  • There is clear and obvious head contact for either player.

If both of the above factors are present then these types of incidents will receive High Tackle Warnings:

  • High-contact penalties, no matter the sanction, during matches;
  • Tackles that result in an HIA (for the tackler or ball-carrier);
  • High tackles that are missed during the match;
  • Accidental clear and obvious head to head and shoulder to head contact.

Two High Tackle Warnings for a player in the tournament will lead to an automatic one-match suspension. Bearing in mind the above it’s theoretically possible that over the next few weeks someone could be suspended for injuring themselves…

It’s worth noting that the more attention-grabbing law trial – the ‘nipple adjustment’, which will see any tackle above the line of a ball-carrier’s nipples deemed to be high – is only operating in the WR U20 Trophy, the next level below the Championship.

Scotland’s pool

England (2nd in 2017 tournament)
Scotland (5th)
Italy (8th)
Argentina (11th)

On the face of it Pool B might appear a more friendly group than Scotland have had in recent years – avoiding any of the Southern Hemisphere big 3 is a rarity. Dig deeper though and the challenge is obvious. The young Scots won their most recent encounter with England – but that’s the only victory over the Auld Enemy since this age grade was introduced in 2008 and our lads had home advantage.

Italy showed in the recent 6 Nations that they are on the rise and defeated both Wales and Scotland. Argentina had a poor tournament in Georgia 12 months ago, narrowly avoiding relegation to the second-tier Trophy, but are bringing back 10 players with previous experience at this level – often a significant contributing factor to a team’s success or failure in the Championship.

Scotland’s fixtures

Scotland will play their pool matches in Beziers and Perpignan with each game forming part of a double-header:

Wednesday 3oth May 2018
Stade de la Mediterranee, Béziers

Scotland v Italy 5.30pm (6.30pm local time)
Australia v Wales 8.00pm

Sunday 3rd June 2018
Stade Aime-Giral, Perpignan

Scotland v Argentina, 1.00pm
England v Italy 3.30pm

Thursday 7th June 2017
Stade de la Mediterranee, Béziers

Italy v Argentina 5.30pm
Scotland v England 8.00pm

The playoffs and the semi-finals take place on Tuesday 12th June in Narbonne and Perpignan.

Placing matches and the final take place on Sunday 17th June across two pitches at Stade de la Mediterranee in Béziers.

Scotland’s history

During the 2017 edition of the tournament, Scotland made it into the middle tier of the playoffs for only the third time since the competition’s inception. They won 4 out of 5 matches (all by a single score or less) and only lost to eventual runaway winners New Zealand.

Pool matches
Scotland 20 – 42 New Zealand
Scotland 32 – 28 Ireland
Scotland 17 – 16 Italy

5th place playoff semi-final
Scotland 29 – 25 Wales

5th/6th place playoff
Scotland 24 – 17 Australia

Goal number one for this year’s group has to be ensuring there is no risk of relegation. The best way to be safe is to make it into the middle tier of the playoffs – which means winning at least 1 or maybe 2 of the pool matches. If Scotland do end up in the bottom tier it’s likely to be a real dogfight to avoid the drop – but one win at this stage will be enough to keep them up.

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

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When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

5 comments on “World Rugby U20 Championship 2018: Tournament preview

  1. Martin on

    I’ll hope for something similar to last year and the general progression of the past couple of years but to highlight some of the names NOT there, shows how difficult it is for Scotland to have real depth in the age grade teams year in year out.

    Available in 2017 and not available (for whatever reason) in 2018.

    Matt Fagerson
    Calum Hunter-Hill
    Scott Cummings
    Lewis Wynne
    Cam Redpath :-)
    Luke Crosbie
    Conor Eastgate
    Blair Kinghorn
    Robbie Nairn
    Darcy Graham
    Bruce Flockart
    Adam Nicol
    Fraser Renwick
    Charlie Shiel
    Matt Smith
    Jamie Ritchie

    Even going back 2 years you add the likes of McCallum, Fenton, Kerr, Carmichael, Bradbury & Vellacott :-)

    Point is that even if we don’t have a stellar tournament this time round, the last 2-3 years have seen a decent number of young and talented players blooded at Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond (some even for Ingerlund as fate would have it !) – the future is definitely bright irrespective of what happens.

    Which leads me to finish on a little potential peculiarity that Guy Graham (brother of Gary) is in the squad. More common in the Southern Hemisphere with Islanders, but when was the last time a six nations team had 2 brothers playing for different countries??? Could happen in a few years

    Reply
  2. David on

    @Martin I can’t think of any. There have been quite a few cousins (i.e. Vunipolas and Faletau), but no brothers that I am aware of. If not for some regulatory peculiarities, the Shingler brothers might have achieved this.

    There are, of course, loads of examples outside of the 6N I think always involving a Southern Hemisphere team. The Tuilagi brothers (England and Samoa) and the Strauss brothers (Ireland and South Africa) immediately spring to mind.

    Lock that one away for a future trivia question!

    Reply

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