England and Ireland maintained their perfect records while holders Wales kept their faint hopes alive in week three of the Under-20s Six Nations, but which teams will succeed in round four?
The English sit top of the table on 15 points with Ireland second on 12. Wales are third on nine, France fourth on six, Scotland fifth on two and Italy last on one point.
This weekend sees Italy looking to inflicit more woe on France, a relentless England aiming to continue their march against Scotland with Wales and Ireland battling it out for the right to contest the title.
After a weeks’ break, the 2017 Under-20s Six Nations Championship is set to resume and here are the matches to come in round four…
Italy v France
Italy failed to register a single point in round three after being thumped 46-0 by England in Darlington a fortnight ago.
The Azzurrini paid a heavy price for their indiscipline as the Red Rose took advantage of sin-binnings to prop Giosue Zilocchi and out-half Antonio Rizzi in scoring eight tries to win comfortably.
The Italians will look to draw on home comforts in Sardinia as they welcome France knowing that a result or losing bonus would give them hope of avoiding the Wooden Spoon.
France, meanwhile, will be aiming to finish their campaign on a high after losing two of their three Championship games so far.
Les Bleuets trailed 21-3 in Ireland at one stage before two Faraj Fartass tries and seven kicked points from Romain N’tamack brought them back into it.
However, the Irish held out for a 27-22 victory which consigned the French to a losing bonus and ended their faint title hopes.
“We were poor with the ball in hand and lacked pace,” said France U20s head coach Thomas Lievremont of his team’s loss in Dublin.
He added: “We showed mental strength to come back and we could have won, but there were too many little errors.”
Prediction: France by 15
Italy: 15 Massimo Cioffi, 14 Andrea Bronzini, 13 Ludovico Vaccari, 12 Marco Zanon (c), 11 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 10 Antonio Rizzi Vincenzo, 9 Charly Ernst Trussardi, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Nardo Casolari, 6 Jacopo White, 5 Gabriele Venditti, 4 Lorenzo Blocks, 3 Joshua Zilocchi, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Daniel Rimpelli
Replacements: 16 Alberto Rollero, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Nicholas Cannon, 20 Michele Lamaro, 21 MatteoMaria Panunzi, 22 Michelangelo Biondelli, 23 Roberto Dal Zilio
France: 15 Romain Buros, 14 Faraj Fartass, 13 Théo Millet, 12 Alexandre Arrate, 11 William Iraguha, 10 Romain N’Tamack, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Dylan Crétin, 6 Killian Geraci, 5 Mickaël Capelli, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Thomas Laclayat, 2 Florian Dufour, 1 Ugo Boniface
Replacements: 16 Léo Aouf, 17 Etienne Fourcade, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Alban Requet, 20 Cameron Woki, 21 Jérémy Valençot, 22 Pierre-Louis, 23 Geoffrey Cros
Date: Friday, March 10
Kick-Off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Venue: Stadio Santa Rosa, Cagliari
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Finlay Brown (Scotland), Ross Mabon (Scotland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
England v Scotland
England continued their romp towards the U20 Six Nations’ title with another bonus point victory in a 46-0 demolition of Italy last time out.
Tries from back rows Josh Bayliss (2), Ben Curry, Zach Mercer, prop Jamie Blamire, full-back Tom Parton (2) and wing Sam Aspland-Robinson gave the hosts a comprehensive win.
The Red Rose go into this weekend’s clash with Scotland knowing if they win, and Wales beat Ireland after, they will be crowned champions with a one round left to play.
Scotland on the other hand, will be looking to front up after conceding a record 65 points at home to Wales in round three.
The Scots found themselves 27-0 down after 35 minutes and although they fought back with six tries, Wales grabbed eight of the 14 touchdowns to finish on top in an exciting contest.
For Scotland, however, their defence will be of major concern as they try to contain a rampaging England team which has scored 142 points and 21 tries in three successes.
The Scottish though have conceded 121 points and 15 tries in their three defeats – the most of any Six Nations side – and go into this fixture as massive underdogs.
Prediction: England by 25
England: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Dominic Morris, 12 Will Butler, 11 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 10 Max Malins, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Zach Mercer(c), 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jack Nay, 5 Max Davies, 4 Josh Caulfield, 3 Ciaran Knight, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Ollie Dawe
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Ted Hill, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Max Wright
Scotland: 15 Stafford McDowall, 14 Robbie Nairn, 13 Ali Grieg, 12 Cameron Hutchison, 11 Darcy Graham, 10 Josh Henderson, 9 Andrew Simmers, 8 Tom Dodd, 7 Matt Fagerson, 6 Bruce Flockhart, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill(c), 4 Alex Craig, 3 Adam Nicol, 2 Fraser Renwick, 1 George Thornton
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Daniel Winning, 18 Fergus Bradbury, 19 Hamish Bain, 20 Jamie Ure, 21 Luke Crosbie, 22 Charlie Shiel, 23 Craig Pringle
Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton
Kick-Off: 18:15 GMT
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Stuart Kibble (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Wales v Ireland
Wales secured an impressive 65-34 bonus point win in Scotland in round three, which keeps their slim title hopes alive and significantly improves their points scoring differential.
Tries from Kieran Williams (2), Cameron Lewis, Corey Baldwin, Rhun Williams, Rhys Carre, James Botham, replacement Morgan Morris and 25 points from the boot of Ben Jones gave the Welsh victory.
However, whilst their attacking play was richly rewarded, Wales U20s defence coach Richard Hodges was unhappy with his side’s ragged defending which Scotland breached six times.
“Over the last four years we’ve conceded 18 points a game on average,” said Hodges. “But we’ve gone away from that and it’s something we need to prioritise.”
Indeed the Welsh defence will need to be tight when they host an unbeaten Ireland in a must win game for both teams.
The Irish scrapped victories in Scotland (20-19) and Italy (27-26) then had to dig deep to survive a French fightback before holding out for a 27-22 win.
Tries from Tommy O’Brien, Tadhg McElroy and Oisin Dowling gave Ireland a commanding 21-3 lead, but they also needed the reliable boot of Bill Johnston with 12 points to keep France at bay.
Prediction: Wales by 6
Wales: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Cameron Lewis, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Ben Jones, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Aled Ward, 7 Will Jones(c), 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Sean Moore, 4 Alex Dombrandt, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Corrie Tarrant, 1 Rhys Carre
Replacements: 16 Owen Hughes, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Jack Pope, 20 James Botham, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Phil Jones, 23 Ioan Nicholas
Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Jack Kelly, 12 Ciaran Frawley, 11 Calvin Nash(c), 10 Bill Johnston, 9 Jonny Stewart, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Paul Boyle, 6 Gavin Coombes, 5 Oisin Dowling, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Charlie Connolly, 2 Tadgh McElroy, 1 Joey Conway
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Greg McGrath, 18 Matthew Burke, 19 Jack Regan, 20 Marcus Rea, 21 Jack Stafford, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Colm Hogan
Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay
Kick-Off: 18:30 GMT
Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe (England), Paul Burton (England)
TMO: David Sainsbury (England)
By Aron Hegarty