Preview Six Nations U20 – France U20 vs Ireland U20

 

France takes on Ireland in Round 1 of the U20 Six Nations in a meeting of the world champions and last year’s Grand Slam winners at the Stade Maurice David at 22:10 (SA Time).

Les Bleuets were pipped in 2023 in their only loss of the Championship, as Ireland made it back-to-back Slams.

However, they got a measure of revenge on the global stage, winning a third straight World Championship title, beating Ireland in the final.

Some of the players involved return for Saturday’s fixture in Aix-en-Provence, although one of France’s world champions, lock Posolo Tuilagi, is absent from this game because he will be involved with the senior side on Friday night in Marseille.

So while France have won each of the last three global titles, you have to go back to 2018 for their last U20 Six Nations crown.

France will be led by Toulouse No.8 Mathis Castro-Ferreira, with Brive duo Léo Carbonneau, at scrum-half, and Mathis Ferté, at full-back, among those who were part of the victorious team in 2023. Hoani Bosmorin was a standout in the Six Nations U18 Festival previously, while Patrick Tuifua starts in the back row while playing his trade over in New Zealand for Hawkes Bay.

France coach Sébastien Calvet: “After a good preparation with the senior France team, our U20s are really motivated ahead of this first match of the tournament. As with their senior team, this Ireland U20s side is one of the best in the northern hemisphere and will be coming to defend their title at Aix-en-Provence. The artificial surface at Stade Maurice David and the nice weather forecast for Saturday should give us the ideal conditions to play a complete, ambitious brand of rugby.”

Ireland welcome back five of their Grand Slam winners including skipper Evan O’Connell in the second row.

He is joined in the pack by experienced trio Danny Sheahan, at hooker, and Joe Hopes and Brian Gleeson in the back row, while Hugh Gavin is the last of the returning players at inside centre.

Ireland No.8 Brian Gleeson said: “If we can stick together as a team, that is what we were talking about all week, sticking together as a team.

“With the French crowd, 10,000 of them, it gets noisy. If something does go wrong, if they score an early try, it’s about us getting back in the game.

“Playing away from home in an environment like that it is easy for the game to get away (from you). It is up to us that we settle well and bring the game to them.”

Teams:

France U20: 15. Mathis Ferté, 14. Grégoire Arfeuil, 13. Robin Taccola, 12. Axel Desperes, 11. Hoani Bosmorin, 10. Tom Raffy, 9. Léo Carbonneau; 1. Lino Julien, 2. Barnabé Massa, 3. Zinedine Aouad, 4. Charly Gambini, 5. Corentin Mézou, 6. Noa Zinzen, 7. Patrick Tuifua, 8. Mathis Castro-Ferreira (c). Replacements: 16. Robin Couly, 17. Léo Ametlla, 18. Thomas Duchêne, 19. Antonin Corso, 20. Maël Perrin, 21. Joé Quere Karaba, 22. Noah Nene, 23. Maxence Biasotto.

Ireland U20: 15. Ben O’Connor, 14. Finn Treacy, 13. Wilhelm de Klerk, 12. Hugh Gavin, 11. Hugo McLaughlin, 10. Jack Murphy, 9. Oliver Coffey; 1. Alex Usanov, 2. Danny Sheahan, 3. Andrew Spicer, 4. Alan Spicer, 5. Evan O’Connell (c), 6. Joe Hopes, 7. Bryn Ward, 8. Brian Gleeson. Replacements: 16. Henry Walker, 17. Ben Howard, 18. Jacob Boyd, 19. Billy Corrigan, 20. Luke Murphy, 21. Tadhg Brophy, 22. Sean Naughton, 23. Ethan Graham.