Preview: U20s Final

Date published: June 20 2015

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The two most successful teams at U20s level will face off in Cremona in the final of the World Rugby U20s Championship in Italy.

England will be looking to make it three in a row after claiming the last two titles, while New Zealand are seeking to end a three-year barren run, having previously won the first four editions of the tournament.

The Baby Blacks' last win at this level also came in Italy, back in 2011, and on that occasion they also faced England in the final.

Arguably the two strongest U20s teams in the tournament's history faced off that day, with New Zealand, featuring the likes of Brodie Retallick, Beauden Barrett and Sam Cane saw off an England team spearheaded by George Ford and Owen Farrell.

This year should see a major contrast in styles, with England's best chance coming up front, against a New Zealand front five that has been under pressure at times in both the scrum and facing the rolling maul.

Having only sneaked through the pool stages, England dismantled South Africa and their much-vaunted scrum in the semi-finals, and will expect to do the same again to the Baby Blacks.

The problem will be if New Zealand get their hands on the ball, with Super Rugby duo Tevita Li and Akira Ioane particularly dominant so far in the tournament.

Add in the likes of TJ Faiane in the centres and the Kiwis have the fire power to strike from anywhere.

Defensively they have also been formidable in this tournament, with the rolling maul almost the only area they have been found wanting.

In the semi-final they blew France away, 45-7, and for much of the game never looked like conceding a try. England will have to dominate the tight exchanges if they are to change that.

Ones to watch: England's chances rest firmly on winning the battle in the trenches, and tighthead prop Paul Hill looks to be comfortably the best tighthead in the tournament. France caused New Zealand problems at scrum-time, and England should do even more damage, with Hill leading the charge.

For New Zealand, how can you pick out anyone other than Akira Ioane? The Blues back-row looks like a man playing against kids, which is hardly surprising given that he was already looking dominant at Super Rugby level. The senior World Cup might come a season too soon, but he'll be an All Black in the not too distant future. England's back-row will have to be at their best to stop him.

Prediction: The game plan for England shouldn't be complicated, they need to try to scrum and maul the Baby Blacks out of the game. If they can get in front early, they have a good chance, but against France, New Zealand showed they can score out of nowhere. It should be close, but we think New Zealand's extra quality should just tip the balance. New Zealand by 5!

The teams:

England: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 George Perkins, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Max Clark, 11 Howard Packman, 10 Rory Jennings, 9 James Mitchell, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Will Owen, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Will Witty, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Sebastian Adeniran-Olule, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sam Skinner, 21 Will Homer, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Piers O’Conor.

New Zealand: 15 Mitchell Hunt, 14 Jack Goodhue, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Otere Black, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Mitchell Dunshea, 5 Hamish Dalzell, 4 Joshua Goodhue, 3 Atunaisa Moli (c), 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Ricky Riccitelli
Replacements: 16 Steven Misa, 17 Isileli Tu'ungafasi, 18 Tau Koloamatangi, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Henry Stowers, 21 Harrison Levien, 22 Vincent Tavae-Aso, 23 George Bridge

Date: Saturday, 20 June
Venue: Stadio Giovanni Zini, Cremona
Kick-off: 20:30 local (18:30 GMT)
Referee: Will Houston (Australia)

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