Under-20s Six Nations: Round Five preview

The 2018 Under-20 Six Nations is heading for a thrilling conclusion, with three teams still in with a shout of claiming the Championship on Friday.

The 2018 Under-20 Six Nations is heading for a thrilling conclusion, with three teams still in with a shout of claiming the Championship on Friday.

France lead the way – despite their defeat to England in round four – and head to Colwyn Bay in Wales knowing that a bonus-point victory should secure them the Championship.

Click here for the Under-20s Six Nations table heading into round five

England welcome Ireland hoping to pick up the scraps should France stumble, while the Irish also have an outside shot of the crown if they can claim victory at the Ricoh Arena.

The first game of the round sees Italy – fresh from their historic win over Wales – welcome Scotland in a clash that will see the winner avoid finishing bottom of the pile.

Italy Under-20s v Scotland Under-20s Stadio della Vittoria, 14:00   After their first win in 20 attempts against Wales, Italy are unsurprisingly unchanged for the visit of Scotland to Bari.

And coaches Fabio Roselli and Andrea Moretti are excited about finishing the Championship on a high.

“There is confidence but also the awareness that it will be a challenging match for us,” said Moretti.

“Scotland will certainly arrive in Italy to put us into difficulty and we will have to be ready.”

Scotland head coach Stevie Scott makes two changes, Logan Trotter comes onto the win and Paul Cairncross comes in at hooker for injured captain Robbie Smith. Centre Stafford McDowall takes over the armband.

The Scots ran in three tries last weekend in their narrow loss to Ireland, and Scott is hoping to see even more of a cutting edge in attack.

“Our attack against Ireland was the best it has been in the tournament so far. We created a lot of opportunities and thoroughly deserved the bonus point, but we are disappointed that we didn’t win the game, because we had a chance to do that,” he said.

“It would be a really good championship for us if we can win this game in Italy.”

England Under-20s v Ireland Under-20s Ricoh Arena, 20:00   In Coventry, England prepare for the visit of Ireland knowing they must win and hope they better France’s result.

Steve Bates has made two changes from the side that downed Les Bleuets last time out, Ben Loader comes onto the wing in a backline reshuffle that sees Tom Hardwick slide to inside centre and James Grayson at fly-half.

In the forwards James Scott comes into the second row and Bates is feeling confident.

“We came into this tournament with a very clear objective to improve every game with the aim that we could win the Six Nations and we’ve now got to that point,” he said.

“However, we’re just focused now on Ireland and putting in a really strong performance that allows us to win the game and we’ll see where that leaves us at the end of the tournament.”

Ireland have made four changes, three of them in the front row, for their trip to the Ricoh Arena as they too retain an outside hope of claiming the title.

“England are always a stiff challenge at this level and it’s set to be a great opportunity for the players but one I know they are excited for.”   Wales Under-20s v France Under-20s Parc Eirias, 20:15   France have their destiny in their own hands on Friday and have made nine changes from the side that slipped to defeat to England – ending their hopes of a Grand Slam.

The half-back pairing of Romain Ntamack and Jules Gimbert remains in place but elsewhere Les Bleuets are heavily altered – including an all-new front row with captain Daniel Brennan at prop.

Wales have also made nine changes for the clash at Parc Eirias including the return of skipper Tommy Reffell for the clash as they look to bounce back from that defeat to Italy.

Reffell returns to the back row while Ioan Nicholas and Ryan Conbeer, fresh from Scarlets duty, are also included in a strong Welsh side that sees Cai Evans promoted from full-back to fly-half.

“We’re under no illusions about the challenge France will bring on Friday night,” said Wales head coach Jason Strange.

“They’re one of the most complete teams in the competition, with no real weaknesses. We would have liked to be going into this match on the back of a win against Italy because it would have come down to a Championship decider, but not doing so will give us even more motivation.”