IRB Under 20 Championship: Round 3 Preview

IRB Under 20 Championship header image with link to Hollywoodbets' round three betting preview

Our rugby scribe takes a look at the third round of the IRB Under 20 Championship.

Has there ever been such an unpredictable Under 20 Championship? While there were some surprise results around the rugby world last weekend, the biggest upsets definitely came out in Manchester where the Junior All Blacks were handed their first defeat in two years by a plucky Irish outfit, and the Baby Boks were downed by Fernadez Lobbe’s Argentine charges.
There were also wins for England, Australia and France, while Georgia almost claimed an upset of their own going down to the Welsh by just a solitary point.

Argentina v Japan | AJ Bell Stadium | Wednesday 15 June | 16:15 (CAT)

To Win (80 Mins)
Argentina 1/50 | Draw 33/1 | Japan 12/1
Handicap
Argentina (-25.5) 9/10 | Japan (+25.5) 9/10
The first game of the day pits title dark horses Argentina up against a decent Japanese squad. While the Argentines have impressed with their calculated and disciplined approach to their games, Japan could still provide a potential banana peel for the young Pumas.

I have to be honest and admit I didn’t actually catch any of Japan versus France game – I’m actually not sure if it was even televised. Other commitments, namely watching the Springboks put in an abysmal display against Ireland, stole my attention. 

Having gone through the match reports, it seems like the young Blossoms put in a solid first half showing but wilted in the second stanza. This seems to be a bit of a trend with this Japanese side as their opening game against South Africa followed an almost identical script.

Speaking of the Baby Boks, Dawie Theron’s side had their chances of claiming only a second ever title severely dented by the Argentines last Saturday. Fernadez Lobbe’s youngster’s capitalised on the Baby Boks' indiscipline to claim a hard fought 19-13 victory out at the AJ Bell Stadium. The result has left the Argentines at the summit of Pool B; two points clear of South Africa.

The Argentines now hold all the cards heading into the final round of the group fixtures. A victory here would secure their place in the semi-finals which would be a massive coup. 

Verdict: Argentina 1/50
I reckon the Argentines will win this one by around 15 to 20 points.

Scotland v Italy | Manchester City Academy Stadium | Wednesday 15 June | 16:15 (CAT)

To Win (80 Mins)
Scotland 1/12 | Draw 28/1 | Italy 6/1
Handicap
Scotland (-17.5) 9/10 | Italy (+17.5) 9/10
This has been a thoroughly enjoyable pool to watch but it’s also been the hardest to predict. These two sides are all but out of the running for a semi-final berth which will hopefully mean that they approach this one with an attacking mentality. 

After the euphoria of beating Australia in the opening round, the Scot’s were abruptly brought back down to earth by the English. Scotland found themselves on the wrong side of a 44-0 score line when all was said and done at the Manchester City Academy Stadium.

Italy were also soundly beaten in round 2, going down 38-10 to Australia. The junior Azzurri put in a competent first half display and were actually three points up when the half-time whistle was blown. However, a much more clinical second half performance from the Australians added a lot of gloss to what could have been a much tighter scoreline.

Verdict: Scotland 1/12
I fully expect the Scots to claim their second victory of the tournament here. Whether they will be able to clear the – 17.5 handicap is a different story, however. My advice here is to back the Scots on the straight win. 

Ireland v Georgia | Manchester City Academy Stadium | Wednesday 15 June | 18:30 (CAT)

To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Georgia 14/1
Handicap
Ireland (-28.5) 9/10 | Georgia (+28.50 9/10
Two teams who enjoyed fantastic weekends will do battle in the third game of the day. The Irish come into this one off the back of a historic 33-24 victory over New Zealand while Georgia will take to the Manchester City Academy Stadium off the back of a heartening display against the Welsh.

Ireland will know that a victory here will secure their place in the semi-finals of the tournament which would be a massive achievement considering how poor they were at this year’s Under 20 Six Nations. They will have to box smart however, as while their forwards were able to dominate the Junior All Blacks via the driving maul, they face a foe whose forward pack is one of the most physical at the tournament. 

Verdict: Ireland (- 28.5)
While Ireland’s strength is definitely their forward pack, they are capable of implementing a much more expansive game plan when necessary. I reckon this Irish side will clear the – 28.8 handicap despite poor weather conditions being predicted for the day. 

New Zealand v Wales | AJ Bell Stadium | Wednesday 15 June | 18:30 (CAT)

To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 1/16 | Draw 33/1 | Wales 15/2
Handicap
New Zealand (-18.5) 9/10 | Wales (+18.5) 9/10
This is a make or break game for the Junior All Blacks. Their defeat to Ireland has left them with little chance of advancing to the semi-finals as one of the pool winners. They will now be looking for a bonus point win over the Welsh so as to advance to the semi-final stage as the best-placed pool runner-up.

Wales face an identical scenario to that of their opponents. A bonus point win here could see the Under 20 Six Nations Champions advance to the semi-finals. It will be a hard ask however, as this Welsh side haven’t really been at the races. Their backline has performed in fits and starts while their forward pack has struggled to front up to their opponents.

Verdict: New Zealand (- 18.5) 9/10
The Junior All Blacks need four tries here, so I reckon the best bet for this one is to take them to clear the – 18.5 handicap. 

England v Australia | AJ Bell Stadium | Wednesday 15 June | 20:45 (CAT)

To Win (80 Mins)
England 1/5 | Draw 25/1 | Australia 33/10
England (-9.5) 9/10 | Australia (+9.5) 9/10 
The English will renew their age-old rivalry with the Australians this Wednesday. It could actually turn out to be a brilliant seven days for English rugby as the seniors managed to pip their Australian counterparts at Suncorp Stadium in the first of their three Match June Test series.

If the juniors get one over the young Wallabies, you can expect a multitude of English sports papers to run headlines such as “Australian rugby is dead” or “We’ve got the 2019 World Cup in the bag”.

Anyway enough about the cocky English press, let’s move onto the matter at hand. The Australians have been absolutely dire at this year’s championship. To quote a mate of mine “It looks like the only training they’ve done has been watching videos of Quade Cooper in his heydey”.

The junior Wallabies attempts at emulating the Queensland Reds legend have not come off at all. Innovative switches have been put down by the receiver, skip passes have found the deck more than they’ve found a teammate’s hands, and don’t even get me started on their non-existant defensive structure. 

England, on the other hand, have implemented a solid defensive system and have kept things as simple as possible. This more conservative approach has reaped dividends for the Junior Roses as they’ve managed to win both of their fixtures by handsome margins and garner two try-scoring bonus points in the process. 

Verdict: England (-9.5) 9/10
I feel like a right mug having tipped the Australians to win the tournament. Despite possessing a plethora of players who have been exposed to Super Rugby, the Junior Wallabies look more out of their depth than a pre-schooler in the deep end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Back the English to clear a rather modest handicap of - 9.5. 

South Africa v France | Manchester City Academy Stadium | Wednesday 15 June | 20:45 (CAT)

To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 4/10 | Draw 22/1 | France 19/10
Handicap
South Africa (-5.5) 9/10 | France (+5.5) 8/10
The final game of the round pits Dawie Theron’s faltering Springboks up against an unpredictable French squad. 

As I alluded to earlier, the Junior ‘Boks chances of advancing to the semi-finals of the tournament were dealt a hammer blow last week as they were outsmarted and beaten by a highly impressive Argentine outfit. 

A penchant for indiscipline and a lack of a leadership core have severely hampered the Baby ‘Boks. And while the French should hardly strike fear into their opponents, the issue the Junior ‘Boks face is that they need to score four tries if they are to have a chance of making it to the semi-finals as the best-placed runners ups. 

Dawie Theron’s charges quest to score four tries which means we're likely to see a rather high-scoring affair.

Verdict: South Africa 7/20
I expect the ‘Boks to win this one quite comfortably. I recommend getting on the -5.5 handicap immediately
Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.

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