England have already been crowned 2017 U20s Six Nations champions, but there is still a Grand Slam to be won or lost in Round Five.
A 33-5 victory against Scotland coupled with Wales’ 41-27 defeat of Ireland in round four means the English cannot be caught at the top on 20 points.
However, like their senior counterparts, the Red Rose must pass a challenging test in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day if they are to achieve a clean sweep of Championship wins.
In the other games, there is a battle at the bottom to avoid the Wooden Spoon between Scotland and Italy. While France and Wales compete for a top three finish – and may even end up in second depending on Ireland’s result.
The title may be won, but there is a lot still to play for ahead of the final round of what has been a capitivating Under-20s Six Nations tournament.
Ireland U20s v England U20s
Ireland suffered a double whammy last weekend as Wales ended their hopes of a Grand Slam and England’s bonus point win over Scotland also killed off their title challenge.
To make matters worse, the defeated Irish slipped to third and could finish as low as fourth if France beat the Welsh and they take nothing from their clash with the newly-crowned champions.
That outcome would be a major disappointment for Nigel Carolan’s team from what has been a decent campaign up to this stage. However, only victory against the English on Friday will guarantee a top three placement.
Indeed it will be a tough assignment against a rampaging England side which has scored 175 points, 26 tries and collected a four-try bonus in each of their previous four matches.
A hungry Red Rose are aiming to whitewash the tournament for the first time since 2011 after reclaiming the title they lost to Wales last year.
The champions are also looking to continue their relentless march towards the defence of their U20s crown at the World Championships in Georgia this summer.
But first they must contest Ireland – in a repeat of last year’s U20s Championship final – who are determined to spoil their Grand Slam party on St. Patrick’s Day.
Prediction: England by 14
Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Gavin Mullin 12 Ciaran Frawley, 11 Calvin Nash(c), 10 Bill Johnston, 9 Jonny Stewart, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Paul Boyle, 6 John Foley, 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 Gavin Coombes, 21 Jack Stafford, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Colm Hogan
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 Tom Curry, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Jack Nay, 3 Ciaran Knight, 2 Henry Walker, 1 Ollie Dawe
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Joseph Morris, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Max Wright
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant Referees: Tual Trainini (France), Stéphane Boyer (France)
TMO: Arnaud Blondel (France)
Scotland U20s v Italy U20s
Scotland need a win in their final match against Italy to avoid their first Wooden Spoon since 2014 after slipping to a fourth consecutive defeat in England in round four.
The Scottish are currently sixth in the table on points difference to the Italians, who have also suffered four straight Championship losses.
Their two tournament points so far have come courtesy of a losing bonus against Ireland and four-try bonus against Wales, but the Scots will require victory to surpass the Azzurrini.
The same can be said of the Italians who also must win to stay above Scotland in the standings and dodge a seventh Wooden Spoon in the competition’s 10-year history.
Italy secured a crucial losing bonus point in their 18-13 defeat to France last time out thanks to full-back Massimo Cioffi’s last-minute penalty kick.
Their other point also came courtesy of a losing bonus from replacement Alberto Rollero’s 78th-minute converted try in the 27-26 loss to Ireland in round two.
Expect a full-on collison between these two teams – who will also meet in Pool B at the U20s Championships on Thursday 8th June – as they battle desperately to beat the bottom.
Prediction: Scotland by 5
Scotland: 15 Darcy Graham, 14 Robbie Nairn, 13 Stafford McDowall, 12 Ali Grieg, 11 Logan Trotter, 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 Luke Crosbie, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Craig Pringle, 23 Robert Kay
Italy: 15 Massimo Cioffi, 14 Andrea Bronzini, 13 Ludovico Vaccari, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 10 Antonio Rizzi Vincenzo, 9 Charly Ernst Trussardi, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Jacopo Bianchi, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Lorenzo Masselli, 3 Marco Riccioni (c), 2 Alberto Rollero, 1 Daniele Rimpelli
Replacements: 16 Danilo Fischetti, 17 Damiano Borean, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Gabriele Vendetti, 20 Lodovico Manni, 21 Matteo Maria Panunzi, 22 Michelangelo Biondelli, 23 Roberto Dal Zilio
Venue: Broadwood Stadium
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Dermot Blake (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
France U20s v Wales U20s
France will be aiming to finish what has been a mixed campaign on a high note with a home win over Wales on Friday evening.
Should Les Bleuets defeat the Welsh and England beat Ireland, they will come third and could even end up in second if they achieve a four-try scoring bonus success.
Of course the French would also need to deny Wales – who have scored 106 points in their previous two games and have a superior points difference – anything in order to overtake them.
Wales have been in resurgent form since their 37-21 home defeat by England in round two, with a 65-34 beating of Scotland and a pulsating 41-27 victory over Ireland; scoring 13 tries in the process.
Although the Welsh surrendered their Six Nations’ crown to England in round four, their impressive recent showings indicate they are growing in confidence ahead of this summer’s U20s World Championships.
And an away triumph in France would certainly ease the pain of losing their title by securing second place with a third win on the bounce.
Anticipate a highly intriguing contest between two teams with potent backlines and who like to attack.
Prediction: Wales by 6
France: 15 Geoffrey Cros, 14 Faraj Fartass, 13 Théo Millet, 12 Laurent Uberti, 11 Gabriel N’Gandebe, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Charlie Francoz, 6 Killian Geraci, 5 Mickaël Capelli, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Thomas Laclayat, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Ugo Boniface
Replacements: 16 Simon-Pierre Chauvac, 17 Pierre Bourgarit, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Alban Requet, 20 Dylan Crétin, 21 Didier Retière, 22 Adrien Séguret, 23 Romain Buros
Wales: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Ioan Nicholas 12 Keiran Williams (c), 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Ben Jones, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Aled Ward, 7 James Botham, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Sean Moore, 4 Alex Dombrandt, 3 Steff Thomas, 2 Corrie Tarrant, 1 Rhys Carre
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Tom Mably, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Jack Pope, 20 Sid Blackmore, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Owen Lane
Venue: Stade Sapiac, Montauban
Kick-Off: 21:00 local (20:00)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), David Sutherland (Scotland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
by Aron Hegarty