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Six Nations Under-20s Round Four Preview

Six Nations Under-20s Round Four Preview

Six Nations Under-20s Round Four Preview

After a week off, the Under-20s Six Nations returns for Round 4 with all six teams in action on Friday night and a crunch match at the top of the table.

Ireland remain the only team in the Championship to have won all three of their opening games and will be facing off against defending champions France in the first encounter of the evening.

That game will be followed by Wales’ trip to rock-bottom Scotland while England are in action against Italy as both teams look to revitalise their Championships.

Ireland v France

Reigning champions France will have the chance to overhaul current leaders Ireland when they travel to the Irish Independent Park for the opening match of the evening.

Ireland will start Round 4 with 14 points, an unbeaten record and a four-point lead over their matchday opponents, who sit second in the table.

Noel McNamara’s side have been the form team so far in this year’s Championship averaging more than 30 points a game although they were run close by England in Round 1 before a last-gasp Cormac Foley try sealed a bonus-point victory.

Meanwhile France faltered against England in Round 2, ill-discipline saw them beaten with three men sent to the sin-bin for separate infringements.

Victory for France would see them draw level with Ireland with one game remaining while a bonus point win would see them replace them as current leaders.

Head coach Noel McNamara will be without his captain David Henshaw and top points scorer in Harry Byrne for the clash.

“We were pleased to come home from Italy with a bonus point win, but there are still elements that we feel can be improved on, so it’s about continuing to progress as we move through the tournament,” said McNamara.

“The French are still in the hunt for the title and they are a big side, so for us it’s about sticking to our game-plan and looking to match their physicality. 

“The players took so much from the atmosphere at Irish Independent Park on the opening night against England and are itching to get back out there this week.

Wales v Scotland

Wales recorded their second victory of the Championship by the slenderest of margins in the last round as they ground out an 11-10 win over England.

That victory gave them their second win and a nine-point tally with their only defeat coming against France in the opening round of games.

And Jason Strange’s side will travel to Meggetland in Friday’s second game to face a Scotland team who are yet to record a win in this year’s Championship.

Their opening round defeat to Italy was compounded by Ireland in Round 2 before a fantastic fightback against France in the last round fell just short.

A win for Wales would see them through to the final game against Ireland with a chance of taking home the crown while Scotland could leapfrog Italy and get themselves off the bottom depending on results elsewhere.

Scotland head coach Carl Hogg is convinced that his side has got better throughout the Championship.

“I think there are aspects of our game that are really pleasing. When we get ball in hand, we are creating opportunities. We look very sharp and very clinical, which is really pleasing,” said Hogg.

“There have been huge improvements made over the first three games, but international rugby is about performing under pressure, so we’re looking forward to continuing our development this Friday night against Wales.”

England v Italy

Friday’s finale will be in hands of England and Italy as the Red Roses host the affair at Goldington Road.

Italy will arrive just a point behind their matchday opponents in the table but with an identical record in this year’s Championship recording one win and two losses.

England will be hoping to avoid any last-minute drama having been on the receiving end of a stoppage-time defeat against Wales in the last round.

Italy recorded two late tries in their last game but Ireland had already tallied up enough points to make them inconsequential.

A win for England could see them overtake Wales if they suffer defeat to Scotland while victory for Italy would automatically see them leapfrog England.

Head coach Steve Bates has made three changes to the side that was defeated by Wales and remains upbeat ahead of Friday’s game.

“On reflection we had a disappointing result against Wales but we played a lot of rugby in the manner we had prepared to, we just didn’t execute it as clinically as we’d liked,” said Bates.

“The message to the squad is to continue to believe in what we are doing, be a bit more accurate in the final third and make sure the pressure we are putting on our opponents is turned into some scoreboard advantage.

“We saw against France in Exeter how much of a part home support can have and the players are all looking forward to taking on Italy in Bedford and we are hopeful it can give us that extra edge over Italy.”