U20 Six Nations - Final Round Preview

U20 Six Nations - Final Round Preview

After wrapping up their first Under-20s Six Nations title since 2010 last weekend, Ireland’s attentions turn to capping things off with a Grand Slam as the Championship enters Round Five.


Having edged past France last time out, attention turns to Wales, who will be keen to end their own Championship on a high after two wins and losses in their four matches.

Ireland’s Friday night trip to Colwyn Bay is the second of a trio of offerings, with Italy’s match against France in Piedmont and Scotland’s trip to England sandwiching the Grand Slam decider.

Wales v Ireland

Why change a winning formula? That’s the mantra that has informed Noel McNamara’s team selection for Ireland’s crunch fixture against Wales as he makes just one alteration to the XV that downed France.

Harry Byrne returns at fly-half after recovering from a hip flexor injury that ruled him out in Round Four.

But it is up front that Ireland will pose the danger, having built their Championship-winning form on a pack that has been unchanged throughout.

And for McNamara, the spectre of the Grand Slam is certainly not something to be baulked at.

“The thing for us was we weren’t afraid of it. It (Grand Slam) was never a banned word. It was never something that wasn’t spoken about,” he said.

“For us, the approach this week is very much ‘one more time’. We’ve had the solutions (against England) in Cork, we’ve had the solutions (against Scotland) in Galashiels, we’ve had the solutions (against Italy) in Rieti.”

In the home dressing room, however, Wales will be smarting after their defeat to Scotland in Round Four handed the title to the Irish, and with no shortage of incentive, Gareth Williams and his side are set to go for the jugular.

Williams makes seven changes to that side who fell to Scotland, with Tom Lewis, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and Sam Costelow all among those given the nod.

Italy v France

The early kick-off on Friday sees France make the trip to the Stadio Pozzi La Marmora in the picturesque town of Biella, with the visitors looking to wrap up a second-place finish as England wait to pounce on any slip.

The Championship’s leading scorers, French head coach Sebastien Piqueronies has opted to ring the changes as he seeks to maximise on-pitch opportunities for his young charges, with nine fresh faces set to start.

Arthur Vincent will skipper the side from inside centre, with Les Bleuets looking to add to the 17 scores they’ve notched so far.

Piqueronies’ opposite number Fabio Roselli changes just three of the side that were beaten by England in Round Four as Jacopo Trulla, Matteo Moscardi and Davide Goldin all step into the mix.

England v Scotland

Waiting in the wings in case of a French flail, Steve Bates’ England side will be keen to end their Under-20s Championship with a winning record by beating their old rivals.

Kai Owen, Samson Ma’asi and Joe Heyes make up a new-look front row, while Manu Vunipola starts at fly-half among eight changes to the side that beat Italy in Round Four.

After a pair of wins and losses so far, Bates has set his players the task of producing a performance characterised by maturity.

“We are still developing our game and have very clear goals in terms of what we want to achieve on the field in terms of performance,” he said.

“What we’re looking for on Friday is a bit more continuity in our play and more consistency in our performance in terms of looking after the ball and managing the game.”

It’s just the one change for Scotland, however, as they stick with the formula that saw them topple Wales 27-20 in Round Four.

Jack Mann comes in for the injured Kwagga van Niekerk at the back of the pack as Scotland attempt to beat England in the Championship for the second year running.

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