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Under-20 Championship, Round One - Teams and Predictions

ROUND ONE PREVIEW: It is that time of the year again when the spotlight will fall on some of the world’s best young players.

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The opening round of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship will get underway on Saturday with six matches split between two venues in Cape Town – Athlone Stadium and Cape Town Stadium.

The action kicks off with 2023 winners France taking on tournament debutants Spain in Pool A at Cape Town Stadium.

The other Pool A match will see Wales play six-time champions New Zealand at Athlone Stadium later in the day.

In an all-European encounter, 2023 runners-up Ireland will face Pool B opponents Italy, while Australia take on Georgia, who impressed in last year’s competition when they placed eighth – their highest finish in U20 Championship history.

In Pool C, the opening match of the day at Athlone Stadium will see Los Pumitas take on an England side that will be full of confidence after being crowned U20 Six Nations champions in March.

The Junior Springboks bring the curtain down on the opening day at Cape Town Stadium when they play in front of their home fans against Fiji.

“We have looked at our faults and things we struggled with at the U20 Rugby Championship in Australia, and we have been working hard to fix them,” said South Africa captain Zachery Porthen.

“We have done quite a bit of training at camp the last three weeks.

“We look forward to having our home support cheering us on. That really helps us when things are not going your way. I’m a Cape Town boy, so it’s very special for me that I get to lead my team in my hometown.”

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The Junior Springboks have included three uncapped players, namely hooker Luca Bakkes, flyhalf Liam Koen and outside back Likhona Finca, in their matchday squad for their opening match.

Bakkes will make his run-on debut and packs down in the front row between props Ruan Swart and Porthen, while Finca is set to make his debut off the bench should he be sent on as an outside back replacement. Koen will wear the No.10 jersey.

Otherwise, the rest of the Junior Boks have a settled look with the rest of the starting line-up and replacement bench consisting of players who participated in the recent SANZAAR U20 Rugby Championship in Queensland, Australia.

The starting line-up has five changes and a positional switch from the run-on side that beat Argentina in the last Rugby Championship match at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Queensland, while there are several tweaks among the reserves.

Apart from Bakkes’ inclusion in the front row in place of Juan Smal, there is also a change at No.4 lock, with Thomas Dyer sitting out because of a niggle and the versatile Bathobele Hlekani moves from the side of the scrum to form the lock partnership with JF van Heerden.

Thabang Mphafi, who played off the bench against Argentina U20s, fills Hlekani’s position at No.7 flank, with Siba Mahashe (No.6) and Tiaan Jacobs (No.8) the rest of the loose forwards.

Liam Koen also debuts as the playmaker and he partners scrumhalf Asad Moos in a new-look halfback pairing.

The only other backline change sees Michail Damon in the fullback position, in place of Bruce Sherwood who donned the No.15 jersey in their previous match.

Junior Bok coach Bafana Nhleko said the team has worked hard over the past week and worked on the lessons from the Rugby Championship in Australia, and they are ready to meet the challenge of Fiji on Saturday.

“We had a good holding camp in Stellenbosch last week and, since our move to our tournament base in Green Point on Tuesday, the focus has been on fine-tuning preparations,” Nhleko said.

Fiji come into the tournament as a well-oiled combination because of their recent success in the Oceania tournament over fellow Pacific neighbours Tonga, Moana Pasifika and Samoa.

“Fiji are a team with threats all round the park, big strong boys with excellent ball skills and dangerous with ball in hand. You need to be on it for 80 minutes, concentration-wise, to deal with their threats.

“For us, it’s about excelling in our fundamentals, maintaining our strengths around playing from set-piece and being in a position to make the right decisions when there are opportunities. The contact area behaviours will be key on both sides of the ball.” Nhleko said.

Each side will play three pool matches, with the winners and best runner-up across the pools progressing to the semifinals to battle it out for a chance to play for the coveted trophy.

The tournament will also be the first global competition to feature World Rugby Council-approved three global law amendments. In addition, six law trials will be implemented, which include the simplified red card sanction process and a revised TMO protocol trial.

For the first time, both competitions will operate the full Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process and all players will have access to smart mouthguards, under the World Rugby-funded player welfare initiative.

See below for Saturday’s teams and predictions!

Saturday, June 29:

France v Spain
(Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 CEST; 12.00 GMT) 

Prediction

@rugby365com: France by 40 points.

Teams:

France: 15 Axel Desperes, 14 Mathis Ferte, 13 Fabien Brau-Boirie, 12 Mathys Belaubre, 11 Hoani Bosmorin, 10 Hugo Reaus, 9 Leo Carbonneau, 8 Brent Liufau, 7 Geoffrey Malaterre, 6 Joe Quere Karaba, 5 Charles Kante Samba, 4 Antonin Corso, 3 Zinedine Aouad, 2 Barnabe Massa, 1 Lino Julien.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Lacombre, 17 Lorencio Boyer Gallardo, 18 Thomas Duchene, 19 Sialevailea Tolofua, 20 Alexis Caumel, 21 Thomas Souverbie, 22 Nathan Bollengier, 23 Xan Mousques.

Spain: 15 Lucien Richardis, 14 Julien Burguillos, 13 Hugo Pichardie, 12, Alberto Carmona, 11 Javier Guillermo, 10 Gonzalo Otamendi, 9 Nicolas Infer, 8 Jokin Zolezzi, 7 Pablo Guirao, 6 Nicolas Moleti, 5 Manex Ariceta (captain), 4 Martin Serrano, 3 Guido Reyes, 2 Diego Gonzalez, 1 Hugo Gonzalez.
Replacements: 16 David Gallego, 17 Alberto Gomez, 18 Aniol Franch, 19 Adam LLinares, 20 Valentino Rizzo, 21 Javi Lopez de Haro, 22 Unax Zuriarrain, 23 Gabriel Rocaries.

Referee: Federico Vedovelli
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Paul Mente
TMO: Matteo Liperini

England v Argentina
(Athlone Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 14.00 (13.00 BST; 12.00 GMT’ 09.00 ART)

Prediction

@rugby365com: England by five points.

Teams:

England: 15 Ben Redshaw, 14 Jack Bracken, 13 Oli Spencer, 12 Sean Kerr, 11 Alex Wills, 10 Josh Bellamy, 9 Ollie Allan, 8 Nathan Michelow, 7 Henry Pollock, 6 Finn Carnduff (captain), 5 Junior Kpoku, 4 Joe Bailey, 3 Billy Sela, 2 Craig Wright, 1 Asher Opoku-Fordjour
Replacements: 16 James Isaacs, 17 Cameron Miell, 18 Afolabi Fasogbon, 19 Olamide Sodeke, 20 Kane James, 21 Lucas Friday, 22 Benjamin Coen, 23 Ioan Jones.

Argentina: 15 Benjamin Elizalde, 14 Timotea Silva, 13 Tomas Bocco, 12 Faustino Sanchez Valarolo, 11 Franco Rossetto, 10 Santino Di Lucca, 9 Genaro Podesta, 8 Juan Pedro Bernasconi, 7 Santos Fernansez de Oliveira, 6 Juan Penoucos, 5 Alvaro Garcia Iandolino, 4 Efrain Elias (captain), 3 Tomas Rapetti, 2 Juan Manuel Vivas, 1 Diego Correa.
Replacements: 16 Juan Greising Revol, 17 Joaquin Yakiche, 18 Gael Galvan, 19 Ignacio Torrado, 20 Agustin Sareelli, 21 Tomas Di Biase, 22 Facundo Rodriguez, 23 Gregorio Perez Pardo.

Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Ben Whitehouse

Ireland v Italy
(Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 16.30 (15.30 BST; 14.30 GMT; 16.30 CEST)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Ireland by 17 points.

Teams:

Ireland: 15 Ben O’Connor, 14 Davy Colbert, 13 Finn Treacy, 12 Sam Berman, 11 Hugo McLaughlin, 10 Jack Murphy, 9 Oliver Coffey, 8 Luke Murphy, 7 Max Flynn, 6 Sean Edogbo, 5 Evan O’Connell (captain), 4 Alan Spicer, 3 Patreece Bell, 2 Danny Sheahan, 1 Jacob Boyd.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Smyth, 17 Emmet Calvey, 18 Andrew Sparrow, 19 James McKillop, 20 Bryn Ward, 21 Jake O’Riordan, 22 Sean Naughton, 23 Hugh Gavin.

Italy: 15 Mirko Belloni, 14 Marco Scalabrin, 13 Federico Zanandrea, 12 Nicola Bozzo, 11 Lorenzo Elettri, 10 Martino Pucciariello, 9 Mattia Jimenez, 8 Jacopo Botturi (captain), 7 Luca Bellucci, 6 Cesare Zucconi, 5 Giacomo Milano, 4 Mattia Midena, 3 Davide Ascari, 2 Nicholas Gasperini, 1 Sergio Pelliccioli.
Replacements: 16 Valerio Siciliano, 17 Francesco Gentile, 18 Federico Pisani, 19 Tommaso Redondi, 20 Nelson Casartelli, 21 Lorenzo Casilio, 22 Simone Brisighella, 23 Patrick de Villiers.

Referee: Saba Abulashvili
Assistant referees: Reuben Keane, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Mike Adamson

Australia v Georgia
(Athlone Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 16.30 (14.30 GMT; 18.30 GET; 00.30 AEST Sunday, June 30)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Australia by four points.

Teams:

Australia: 15 Shane Wilcox, 14 Ronan Leahy, 13 Kadin Pritchard, 12 Jarrah McLeod, 11 Archie Saunders, 10 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, 9 Dan Nelson, 8 Jack Harley, 7 Dane Sawers, 6 Aden Ekanayake, 5 Harvey Cordukes, 4 Toby Macpherson (captain), 3 Nick Bloomfield, 2 Bryn Edwards, 1 Jack Barrett.
Replacements: 16 Ottavio Tuipulotu, 17 Lington Ieli, 18 Tevita Alatini, 19 Eamon Doyle, 20 Ben Di Staso, 21 Hwi Sharples, 22 Joe Dillon, 23 Angus Staniforth.

Georgia: O Metreveli, 14 L Khorbaladze, 13 L Kobauri, 12 G Khaindrava, 11 T Burtikashvili, 10 L Tsirekidze, 9 G Spanderashvili, 8 N Lomidze (captain), 7 A Dvali, 6 L Suluashvili, 5 M Tskhadadze, 4 D Lagvilava, 3 D Mchedlidze, T Tchamiashvili, 1 L Ungiadze.
Replacements: 16 M Khakubia, 17 L Kotorashvili, 18 D Mchedlishvili, 19 T Tsulukidze, 20 T Ghaniashvili, 21 M Kachlavashvili, 22 L Takaishvili, 23 N Kevkhishvili.

Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White, Takehito Namekwa
TMO: Ian Tempest

South Africa v Fiji
(Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT; 05.00 FJT Sunday, June 30)

Prediction

@rugby365com: South Africa by 20 points.

Teams:

South Africa: 15 Michail Damon, 14 Joel Leotlela, 13 Jurenzo Julius, 12 Joshua Boulle, 11 Litelihle Bester, 10 Liam Koen, 9 Asad Moos, 8 Tiaan Jacobs, 7 Thabang Mphafi, 6 Sibabalwe Mahashe, 5 JF van Heerden, 4 Bathobele Hlekani, 3 Zachary Porthen (captain), 2 Luca Bakkes, 1 Ruan Swart.
Replacements: 16 Juan Smal, 17 Liyema Ntshanga, 18 Casper Badenhorst, 19 Keanu Coetsee, 20 Divan Fuller, 21 Ezekiel Ngobeni, 22 Tylor Sefoor, 23 Likhona Finca.

Fiji: 15 Isikeli Basiyalo, 14 Waisake Salabiau, 13 Sivaniolo Kalaveti, 12 Ratu Isikeli Rabitu, 11 Avakuki Niusalelekitoga, 10 Bogidrau Kikau, 9 Aisea Nawai, 8 Simon Koroiyadi, 7 Ronald Sharma, 6 Ebernezer Tuidraki, 5 Nalani May (captain), 4 Iliesa Erenavula, 3 Breyton Legge, 2 Moses Armstrong-Ravula, 1 Anare Caginavanua.
Replacements: 16 Joshua Uluibau, 17 Mataiasi Tuisireli, 18 Luke Nasau, 19 Malakai Masi, 20 Ratu Nemani Kurucake, 21 Pauliasi Korobiau, 22 Ponipate Tuberi, 23 Joseva Ubitau.

Referee: Neheun Jauri Rivero
Assistant referees: Reuben Keane, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Damon Murphy

Wales v New Zealand
(Athlone Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 19.00 (18.00 BST; 17.00 GMT; 05.00 NZST Sunday, June 30)

Prediction

@rugby365com: New Zealand by 14 points.

Teams:

Wales: 15 Huw Anderson, 14 Harry Rees-Weldon, 13 Louie Hennessey, 12 Macs Page, 11 Aidan Boshoff, 10 Harri Wilde, 9 Ieuan Davies, 8 Morgan Morse, 7 Lucas de la Rua, 6 Ryan Woodman (captain), 5 Osian Thomas, 4 Jonny Green, 3 Sam Scott, 2 Isaac Young, 1 Josh Morse.
Replacement: 16 Harry Thomas, 17 Jordan Morris, 18 Kian Hire, 19 Nick Thomas, 20 Harry Beddall, 21 Lucca Setaro, 22 Harri Ford, 23 Steffan Emanuel.

New Zealand: 15 Sam Coles, 14 Frank Vaenuku, 13 Aki Tuivailala, 12 Xavi Taele, 11 Stanley Solomon, 10 Rico Simpson, 9 Dylan Pledger, 8 Johnny Lee, 7 Matt Lowe, 6 Tai Cribb, 5 Liam Jack, Tom Allen, 3 Josh Smith, 2 Vernon Bason, 1 Will Martin.
Replacements: 16 A-One Lolofie, 17 Sika Pole, 18 Logan Wallace, 19 Cameron Christie, 20 Jeremiah Avei-Collins, 21 Copper Grant, 22 Cooper Grant, 23 Xavier Tito-Harris.

Referee: Morne Ferreira
Assistant referees: Takehito Namekwa, Grffin Colby
TNO: Mark Patton

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