Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


World Rugby U20 Championship 2019: Tournament preview

Scotland's Marshall Sykes puts in another tackle on day two of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2018 at the Stade Aime Giral in Perpignan on 3 June. Photo: Pascal Rodriguez / World Rugby.

The 12th edition of the World Rugby U20 Championship kicks off on Tuesday 4th June with this year’s tournament being hosted in Argentina. Last season in France was a little bit of a step back for Scotland U20s after a record-breaking effort in 2017 in Georgia. This summer will be a tough one for the dark blues’ future stars – but there are reasons to be positive about the future at age grade level.

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 triple headers taking place in Rosario and Santa Fe.

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 2020.

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

In the UK the final is the only game that will be broadcast by ITV. Outwith that matches will be live streamed on the World Rugby website at (the WR Facebook page is also handy to have bookmarked when seeking out coverage). Sometimes in the past there have been issues with geo-blocking even if the game is not televised by ITV, so keep your eyes on the usual social media channels for the latest updates.

S4C will carry live action from Wales’ matches in the tournament. Eirsport are licenced for coverage in Ireland. There’s a full list of broadcasters and which games will be geoblocked in which territories here.


If you happen to be in Argentina over the next few weeks (lucky you if you are!), matchday tickets are available for all three games on each date at each stadium. In the pool stages prices tickets start from $300 (around £5.25) and can be purchased here.

High tackle guidelines

The Championship will be one of the first to play with World Rugby’s new ‘decision-making framework for high tackles’ in operation. Conceived with the intention of increasing consistency from the referees around high tackles – and particularly in relation to contact with the head – there’s a new checklist for referees to go through when deciding how to sanction one of these illegal hits. The key questions in the process are:

Is it a shoulder charge or high tackle?

Shoulder charge:

  • Was there head/neck contact?
  • Degree of danger – high/low?
  • Any mitigating factors?

High tackle:

  • Was the high contact by tacklers with their shoulder, head or arm/elbow?
  • Was head/neck contact direct or indirect?
  • Degree of danger – high/low?
  • Any mitigating factors?

Higher degree of danger:

  • Tackler draws arm back prior to contact
  • Tackler leaves the ground
  • Arm swings forward prior to contact
  • Attempting dominant rather than passive tackle
  • Tackler follows through in tackle (as opposed to release/withdrawal)

Mitigating factors:

  • (must be clear and obvious and only drop sanction 1 level eg RC –> YC)
  • Tackler makes definite attempt to change height to avoid head contact
  • Ball carrier suddenly drops in height
  • Tackler is unsighted
  • “Reactionary” tackle, immediate release

Full details including decision trees (if you like that sort of thing) are on World Rugby’s site.

Scotland’s pool

South Africa (3rd in 2018 tournament)
New Zealand (4th)
Georgia (9th)
Scotland (10th)

Without wanting to make this sound like a pool of death – it’s a pool of death. Scotland have no wins against these three countries in previous tournaments (admittedly there has only been one encounter with Georgia). The average margin of victory for South Africa and New Zealand in U20 Championship games against Scotland is 51 points…

Tomorrow the Scottish Rugby Blog will look at the Scotland squad in detail. The headlines are that this is a fairly inexperienced group in terms of top level game time and past appearances in WR Championships. They are so young though that a large core of them could return for next season’s U20s. The job for Carl Hogg’s selection is to keep Scotland out of that relegation spot so when these young fellas do come back in 2020 they will be playing in the top tier tournament and not fighting to get out of the second division.

Scotland’s fixtures

Scotland will play all three of their pool matches in Rosario with each game forming part of a triple-header:

Tueday 4th June 2019
Racecourse Stadium, Rosario

Scotland v South Africa 2.30pm (10.30am local time)
Argentina v Wales 5.00pm
France v Fiji 7.30pm

Saturday 8th June 2019
Racecourse Stadium, Rosario

South Africa v Georgia 2.30pm
France v Wales 5.00pm
Scotland v New Zealand, 7.30pm (3.30pm local time)

Wednesday 12th June 2019
Racecourse Stadium, Rosario

Scotland v Georgia 2.30pm (10.30am local time)
France v Argentina 5.00pm
South Africa v New Zealand 7.30pm

The playoffs and the semi-finals take place on Monday 17th June across two grounds in Rosario.

Placing matches and the final will be held on Saturday 22nd June and again all fixtures will be in Rosario.

Scotland’s history

After making it to the middle tier (5th to 8th) of the tournament for 3 years running from 2015 to 2017, Scotland dropped back in 2018. Having lost all 3 of their pool games there was a real danger of slipping into a one-off playoff for relegation in the 11th/12th place match. A mighty performance against Ireland put paid to that and secured the young Scots’ future for another season.

Pool matches
R1: Scotland 26 – 27 Italy
R2: Scotland 13 – 29 Argentina
R3: Scotland 10 – 35 England

9th place playoff semi-final
Scotland 45 – 29 Ireland

9th/10th place playoff
Scotland 31 – 39 Georgia

Goal number one for this year’s group has to be ensuring there is no risk of relegation. The best way to be safe would be to make it into the middle tier of the playoffs – which requires least 1 or maybe 2 wins in the pool stages. Given their group this would be a massive achievement. 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 would 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.

7 Responses

  1. Really worried about relegation for this group of players.

    Fingers crossed they pull out a couple of good wins.

  2. The graph at the bottom is really interesting…how many of the 15-17 group are now regulars at pro-level, even international.

    Interesting too how it mirrors the fate of the national squad since 15. Chance maybe, but also maybe the beginnings of a winning culture throughout the elite-level game.

    Lets hope too a new standard is established, and recent declines at both levels are temporary, not regression to the long-term mean.

    Hope the lads have a good tournament.

  3. If they get relegated, they’ll deserve it, as will their coaches, the “development” staff and the SRU, just as much as they’ll deserve to stay up if they do. Hopefully, we can scrape mid-table and carry on without a hope in hell of actually winning it for yet another year. That will make me proud. #asone.

    1. I’ve said it before but U20’s tests a nation depth more than anything. If we had to pick a scotland side based of players born in 1993/1994 we would probably struggle but fortunately we can select form players who are as old as Laidlaw (1985) and Young as Fagerson jnr (1998). This means we can afford bad years (2018) as long as we have good years sprinkled inbetween (2017).

      For this reason I doubt we will ever be a major force in u20’s…our player base is too small and our players are generally smaller (i.e no players with African or Polynesian heritage that NZ, ENG, SA have in abundance). That advantage dissipates to varying degrees as our guys get bigger in their 20’s and our choice of players increases.

      If we can churn out 5/6 pro’s a year without being in relegation battles then its purpose is being served.

      1. To get a better outlook of our future (or at least the next 6-7 years) we should be looking at what an u24’s side would look like rather than the odd u20’s result.

        1. McCallum
        2. Stewart/Kerr
        3. Fagerson
        4. Cummings
        5. Skinner
        6. Bradbury
        7. Ritchie
        8. Fagerson
        9. Horne
        10. Hastings
        11. Graham
        12. McDowell
        13. Hutchinson
        14. Nairn
        15. Kinghorn

        I’d wager that this side would perform pretty well if there ever was an u24’s world cup.

      2. The bench is where our depth would be tested most but still reckon we’d do ok.

        Here’s my pick

        16. Kerr
        17. Thornton
        18. Nicol
        19. Hunter-Hill/Carmichael
        20. Crosbie
        21. Shiel
        22. Taylor
        23. Blain

You might also like these:

The Scotland team to face Chile this weekend has been announced and features 10 changes from the side that beat the USA last weekend.
Rory watches as Scotland reach the half way point in their tour with victory over the USA in Washington.
Craig is joined by Rory and Iain to look at the latest news including Scotland's win over Canada and the upcoming test against the USA.
Gregor Townsend has picked the strongest XV possible from his touring squad for the visit to Washington DC to play the USA, writes Rory.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion