The Ireland Under-20s finished their season with a third World Rugby U-20 Championship win, beating Six Nations rivals Scotland 17-9 in a well-contested 7th-8th place play-off in Viadana. The result saw Nigel Carolan’s side follow up on their 24-20 pool triumph over the Scots.
In hot conditions, Ireland completed the double over Scotland thanks to the resistance of the forwards who stood up to a strong Scottish pack. But it was two tries from right winger Stephen Fitzgerald that ultimately provided the winning points.
“We’ve played Scotland already twice this season and they were two extremely close games, so there was going to be nothing different in this one,” commented Ireland Under-20 head coach Nigel Carolan.
“I think we showed a little maturity towards the end of the game with the timing of our second try. There was only one point in it at that stage, the try gave us that two-score gap and just took the pressure off, so we were able to close the game out.
“I don’t think we saw the best out of our backs today. Scotland kicked a lot of ball and I think we dealt with that very well. What was more important was that our pack fronted up against Scotland today. And it was a very physical Scottish pack of forwards.”
Carolan, who will have five of his squad eligible for next year, added: “It was important for us to finish this tournament on a high note. It’s a tough tournament and it was a tough group.
“And to end up with Scotland in the last game was always going to be tight. But we showed some really good character today and it was great for us to finish off so positively.”
As a result of finishing seventh, Ireland will be grouped with New Zealand, Wales and newly-promoted Georgia for the 2016 World Rugby U-20 Championship in Manchester.
New Zealand reclaimed the title they last won in 2011 – when the Championship was last staged in Italy – with a 21-16 final win over England last night. South Africa took third spot after outplaying France, while Wales succumbed to Australia to finish sixth.
In the bottom group, Argentina were too strong for Japan and in an exciting relegation battle Italy held onto their Championship status by defeating Samoa 20-19, meaning that the Pacific Islanders are relegated to the second tier World Trophy competition.