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Ireland U-20s To Kick Off World U-20 Championship Against Italy

Alan Spicer comes up against Marcos F.Gallorini 9/2/2024

Second row Alan Spicer is pictured in action for the Ireland Under-20s at home to Italy during the 2024 Under-20 Six Nations Championship in Cork ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Six Nations rivals Italy will be the first pool opponents for the Ireland Under-20 Men’s team (sponsored by PwC) at the upcoming World Rugby U-20 Championship in South Africa.

The tournament will be played over five match days where the world’s 12 best teams will compete across three world-class venues. Click here for the pools and match schedule. Tickets will be on sale from Ticketmaster.co.za from this Friday.

Danie Craven Stadium and Athlone Sports Stadium will stage pool games, while the iconic DHL Stadium in Cape Town will play host to key fixtures, including the opener, semi-finals, and the final.

Three-time champions France will begin their title defence against Pool A opponents and last year’s World Rugby U-20 Trophy winners Spain at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, June 29.

Now with Willie Faloon as head coach, the Ireland U-20s kick off their Pool B campaign at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town against Italy on the same day. Next up is Georgia on Thursday, July 4, followed by Australia on Tuesday, July 9.

Ireland finished as runners-up to France at last summer’s World Rugby U-20 Championship, having beaten Australia 30-10 in Paarl on the way to topping their pool. They also overcame hosts South Africa at the semi-final stage.

Current captain Evan O’Connell, Brian Gleeson, Danny Sheahan, Hugh Gavin, and Joe Hopes are the five returning players from 2023. Before Richie Murphy moved on to coach Ulster, O’Connell led Ireland to a second place finish in this year’s U-20 Six Nations.

Number 8 Gleeson was a try-scoring player-of-the-match when Murphy’s charges got the better of the Junior Wallabies last June. Georgia, who finished eighth overall, claimed victories over Argentina (20-0) and Italy (30-17) at the 2023 event.

Ireland have had three previous U-20 Championship clashes with the Georgians, with two wins and a defeat. They beat the Junior Lelos 35-7 on the way to a runners-up finish in 2016, when James Ryan was captain. A sluggish start saw the 2018 team lose 24-20 in the pool stages.

Meanwhile, Ireland have not played Italy in the U-20 Championship since 2019 when current senior international Ryan Baird was one of the try scorers during a 38-17 pool triumph in Santa Fe.

The Azzurrini are one of the Ireland U-20s’ most frequent opponents, as the sides also have an annual warm-up fixture in December. Their most recent meeting in Cork in February produced plenty of drama, with Sean Edogbo’s 70th-minute try guiding Ireland to a tense 23-22 win.

The World Rugby U-20 Championship will be available to watch everywhere on the planet, either through local broadcast partners in South Africa (Supersport), France (L’Équipe TV), New Zealand (Sky NZ), and Fiji (Fiji Broadcasting Corporation), or via RugbyPass TV which will broadcast all of the matches for free in markets without exclusive deals.

Meanwhile, the World Rugby U-20 Championship will be the first international competition to feature the three new law amendments implemented to promote ball in flow and diversity of attacking options, while supporting player welfare.

A package of six law trials will also operate, including the simplified red card sanction process, approved by the World Rugby Executive Board.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby U-20 Championship is the pinnacle of age-grade rugby, and it continues to be a key part of World Rugby’s investment in increasing the competitiveness of global rugby by providing a meaningful pathway to the elite level for talented young players.

“The South African Rugby Union were incredible hosts in 2023 and we are confident that they will deliver an outstanding experience for players and fans alike.

“We are also very excited to see the new law amendments which will improve the on-field spectacle for anyone watching, promoting an exciting attacking brand of rugby.”

SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer commented: “Last year’s tournament was an unforgettable experience and we’re expecting more of the same this year. With the recent U-20 Rugby Championship, we saw how closely matched the four SANZAAR teams were, and it was the same in the U-20 Six Nations where England emerged victorious.

“To host the next generation of superstars next month is a great privilege and we can’t wait to welcome their families, friends, and fans to South Africa.

“The World Rugby U-20 Championship plays an important role in the global rugby picture and is key in promoting and growing the game, while we are also excited to unearth the next generation of Springboks.”


POOL A: France (1), Wales (6), New Zealand (7), Spain (12)

POOL B: Ireland (2), Australia (5), Georgia (8), Italy (11)

POOL C: South Africa (3), England (4), Argentina (9), Fiji (10)

* Rankings based on last year’s placings (Spain won the 2023 U-20 Trophy)

Match Day 1: Saturday, June 29 – Pool B: Ireland v Italy, DHL Stadium, Cape Town, 4.30pm local time/3.30pm Irish time

Match Day 2: Thursday, July 4 – Pool B: Ireland v Georgia, Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time

Match Day 3: Tuesday, July 9 – Pool B: Ireland v Australia, Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time

Match Day 4: Sunday, July 14 (Semi-finals and play-off matches)

Match Day 5: Friday, July 19 (Final and ranking matches)

For more information on the World Rugby U-20 Championship, click here.