Ireland U20 rugby

The heavy rain in Manchester couldn’t dampen Irish spirits after they defeated New Zealand for the first time at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2016

  Nigel Carolan’s side, who also beat Wales on day one, ran out 33-24 winners in front of a record crowd at Manchester City Academy Stadium on Saturday.  Newcomers Georgia also impressed in the pouring rain in the north-west of England, losing to Wales by just one point, while Australia defeated Italy, France beat Japan and Argentina are top of Pool C after an impressive win over South Africa. 

Despite conceding early tries to New Zealand, Ireland fought back to beat the reigning champions with an impressive second-half performance in torrential conditions. At the AJ Bell Stadium, Italy led Australia in the early part of their Pool B encounter, but five tries from the Australians saw them run out 38-10 winners. Wales looked sluggish in their match against a spirited Georgian side and breathed a sigh of relief at the final whistle after beating next year’s U20 Championship hosts by a single point, 10-9. France scored seven tries as they beat Japan 46-14.  Despite losing to their rivals earlier in the year, England were not in the mood to let Scotland spoil the party at Manchester City Academy Stadium, and scored five tries to shut out their northern neighbours, 44-0. Argentina continued their impressive run of form at the tournament with a win over South Africa, 19-13.

The action resumes on Wednesday, 15 June in Manchester when the semi-finalists will be decided, with the top three pool leaders progressing to the semis along with the best runner-up. The clash of New Zealand against Wales will be a crucial tie in Pool A while South Africa face an important match against France in Pool C.

More than 400 players have made the jump from the ranks of the U20 Championship (formerly JWC) since 2008, with many graduates such as South Africa’s Handré Pollard and Jesse Kriel, New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea and Aaron Smith, Ireland’s Conor Murray, England’s George Ford and Owen Farrell and Wales captain Sam Warburton now stars on the world stage.  New Zealand clinched the title in Italy last year and also won the event from 2008-11 with South Africa winning the competition on home soil in 2012. Hosts England lifted the coveted trophy in 2013 and 2014, just missing out on a hat-trick of wins when they were beaten in a thrilling final by New Zealand in 2015.