JWRT 2023

Spain Promoted to Tier 1 U20 Championship; Scotland Finish 3rd; USA 7th

It’s not the result that would have been predicted pre-tournament. Scotland a Tier 1 rugby nation, a Six Nations member, were heavy favourites to win and get promoted back to the JWC U20 championships. It didn’t happen, they ended up finishing 3rd and USA 7th. Spain and Uruguay were the top two teams with Spain just edging Uruguay in the final.

The results open up a number of discussions. In reference to Canada where do the men’s senior XVs program and their feeder age-grade programs stand? The last match between Canada and Spain in 2022 saw Spain come away with a +23 win in Ottawa. The previous match in 2017 saw Canada win by +10 in Spain, and before that it was a comprehensive +38 win by Canada in 2010, in Spain. The comparison between the two country’s men’s XVs programs over the last two decades tells a story of one program progressing and one declining.

from World Rugby

Spain have made it to the top tier of international age-grade rugby for the first time after winning a sensational World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 final against Uruguay.

And on the evidence of their performance in Nairobi on Sunday, they will look right at home in the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Both teams played some breathtaking rugby and the good-sized crowd in Nyayo National Stadium was treated to a spectacular 10-try match that went one way and then the other before ending 39-32 to Spain.

For Spain, there was joy but for Uruguay, the heartbreak of missing out on a second title after their last win in the inaugural final in 2008 was there for all to see.

The final rounded off a brilliant last day of action in the Kenyan capital, one in which there were also big wins for Scotland, Zimbabwe and USA.

Openside Monroe Job scored a hat-trick on his U20 debut as clinical Scotland secured third place in the U20 Trophy with a 12-try, 83-10 win over Samoa in the bronze final.

Earlier USA opened the final day’s action at the World Rugby U20 Trophy, securing a seventh-place finish with a comfortable 47-22 win over Hong Kong China.

But the home supporters inside the Nyayo Stadium didn’t get the finish they wanted after Kenya lost 64-10 to Zimbabwe in the fifth-place match. It was the Junior Sables’ biggest-ever win and highest score in the competition.

Suffering from what seemed to be big-match nerves, Spain got off to the worst possible start when scrum-half Pablo Perez Merono was sent to the sin bin with only 45 seconds gone for tackling a player without the ball not once but twice, and Uruguay immediately took advantage when full-back Juan Carlos Canessa kicked the resulting penalty.

Guillermo Juan Storace then showed the form that has seen him start every game for Los Teritos in midfield with an electric break through the heart of the Spanish defence. When he was eventually taken to ground 20 metres out, the inside-centre had the presence of mind to pop the ball up to onrushing flanker Francisco Deffemiinis, who marked his return to the team by brushing off two defenders for the opening try.

Spain then spurned an opportunity to get points on the board when the normally reliable Beau Finnian Peart pushed his penalty attempt wide. And it was looking even bleaker for Spain when Uruguay scored again from a kick return, a feature of their play in Kenya. Canessa took the ball just inside his own half and then fed Juan González, who sped down the right touchline and then darted back inside. With Canessa converting, Uruguay had punished Spain to the tune of 15 points during the sin-bin period.

At last, Spain recovered from their slumber and once back to 15 players, they worked a good try for Borja Ibanez Escalera after left winger Mario Coronado Mico hit the line at pace and then switched the point of attack with a neat inside pass that gave the openside just enough space to find his way to the line.

By now, Spain were well and truly into their stride and a multi-phase attack resulted in a second try, loose-head prop Cristian Moreno Fernandez supplying the finish from five metres out. With Peart atoning for his earlier penalty with both conversions, the horror start endured by Spain had all but been erased.

Attack had dominated defence up to that point but Spain’s next points came about thanks to a brilliant turnover penalty won by Daniel Catanzaro Omati. Peart backed himself from 45 metres out and slotted the three points.

With half an hour gone, Spain had the lead for the first time and they extended it further as they completely dominated the latter stages of the first half, Escalera scoring his second after the powerful-built centre Catanzaro Omati had softened up the Los Teritos defence on the crash-ball from a strong scrum platform.

Referee Saba Abulashvili’s whistle blew for half-time as soon as the flags were raised to signal Peart’s conversion was good but, in reality, Spain wouldn’t have wanted play to come to a stop.

Indeed, it was Uruguay who started the second half as they had done the first, on top. Uruguay’s set-piece had been solidified by some important half-time substitutions but if Los Teritos were going to get back in the match, the feeling was that it would be down to their slick-handling backs and four minutes after the restart they showed their class. A big carry by Storace had Spain back-pedalling before fly-half Icaro Amarillo’s put Canessa away in the corner with a brilliant behind-the-back offload.

A failure to exit from their own 22 undid their hard work though. Spain charged down a box kick clearance and won the ball back before spreading it wide to the left to enable Gabriel Rocaries to cross for his fifth try of the tournament.

Just when his side needed it most, Martin Civetta got Uruguay right back in it again, the replacement forward showing a brilliant turn of pace to race home from 50 metres out. With the conversion, Uruguay had pegged back Spain’s lead to just four points, at 31-27, with the final quarter approaching.

Uruguay then responded to Marcel Sirvent Sanso’s 48-metre penalty for Spain with their fifth try of the match and, this time, it was all down to the forwards. A powerful rolling maul saw them advance 30 metres into the Spanish 22 before brilliant hooker Máximo Lamelas decided to go for it and burst off the back. He was stopped a few centimetres short but there was no stopping replacement scrum-half Pedro Hoblog from close range. Canessa’s conversion would have levelled the scores but he sent his kick wide of the posts.

Spain’s brilliant breakdown work stymied Uruguay’s attacking efforts thereafter and they managed to close out a famous win with a try from replacement Diego Gonzalez a few minutes from time.

Zimbabwe spoilt Kenya’s closing party with a 64-10 victory in the fifth-place play-off on the final day of the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Nairobi on Sunday.

Both teams impressed during the Pool stages, each winning one of three matches and running their other opponents close, but this was a one-sided affair dominated by the superior power and slick offloading game of the Junior Sables, who ran in 10 tries in all.

Despite a noisy home crowd, it was all Zimbabwe from the first whistle and they took the lead in the ninth minute through Tawanda Matipano. The winger improvised from a loose pass to kick ahead and touch down in the right-hand corner after an impressive turn of pace.

Matipano bagged another try in the 17th minute, capitalising on a powerful carry from number eight Shingi Manyarara, who recently signed for Racing 92, to score in the same corner.

Try number three soon followed, this time inside centre Dion Khumalo cutting a devastating angle after a lineout to power over near the posts and Zimbabwe were in full control when prop Tadiwa Chinwada barrelled over from close range just before the half-hour mark.

A devastating team move down the left resulted in winger Benoni Nhekairo touching down for the fifth try before half-time.

Further scores from Manyarara and Simbarashe Kanyangarara extended Zimbabwe’s lead in the second half but Kenya found a glimmer of hope when Khumalo received a red card for a dangerous tackle just before the hour mark.

Kenya scored their first try from the resulting penalty through replacement James Tsinalo, but the hosts couldn’t make their numerical advantage count and it was Zimbabwe who scored next, a penalty try compounded for Kenya by two yellow cards.

Further scores, including a trademark flying finish from replacement Shadreck Mandaza, put a gloss on the scoreline and no doubt left Zimbabwe – who began the tournament by conceding 51 points in the first half to Scotland – wondering what might have been.

A hat-trick from debutant Monroe Job and doubles from hooker Corey Tait and tighthead Cam Norrie allowed Scotland to overpower Samoa, scoring 12 tries in the process.

If Andrew McLean had converted Will Reid’s last-minute try, Scotland would have signed off the tournament with the third-highest match score of all time in the U20 Trophy.

And Job could have had one more, after replacement Will Robinson’s break midway through the second half, but the freshly arrived flyer was bundled into touch just before he could get his pass away. Robinson had landed in Nairobi just over a day before coming off the bench, as coach Kenny Murray scrambled for injury cover – and later scored a try of his own as the Scots ran riot.

Third place was secured by the time referee Robin Kaluzniak called an end of the opening period, as Scotland ran in five first-half tries, stretched Samoa from one side to the other and overpowered them in the set-piece.

Job’s tries were off the training-ground set-piece template. Three times – starting as early as the fifth minute – he came up with the ball at the back of an unstoppable Scottish maul. It was a successful scoring method the side would repeat several times in the match, as Samoa struggled with their discipline.

The first of Tait’s brace – a variation on the lineout-maul-try theme – came four minutes after Job’s first international touchdown. Scrum-half Ben Afshar, who finished the tournament with 63 points, darted through a hole in Samoa’s defence after his hooker had carried with intent into contact to add their third in just the 15th minute.

Second-row Faauiga Tauese Tanumoa charged down Afshar’s clearance kick in the 18th minute to get defiant Samoa on the scoreboard. But, an Afa Moleli penalty on 26 minutes would be their final contribution to the points tally, despite looking dangerous in the scant moments they had control of the ball.

The Pacific Islanders’ rapidly lost cause was not helped when influential fly-half Moleli left the pitch on a stretcher midway through the second half with a suspected head injury.

In fact, the second half was all Scotland. Norrie forced his way over after another penalty kick to the corner early on. He barged his way over a second time a matter of minutes later.

And 18-year-old wing Kerr Johnston got his name on the scoreboard on his first start, darting over from another scrum that was piling forward. Second-row Jake Parkinson was an unstoppable force too close to the line soon after.

Then Tait went over for his second; Robinson scored a thoroughly deserved try for all his buzzing energy after coming on; Archie Falconer had hold of the ball as the forwards ran their lineout-to-tryline play one final time; and Matt Reid rounded off the scoring with the score of the match, as Samoa wilted.

A hat-trick of tries from back-rower Hayden McKay and a brace from winger Aaron Faison – on his first start – eased USA to a comfortable 47-22 win over Hong Kong China in the opening game of the final day at the U20 Trophy.

An early Solomon Williams try – the scrum-half benefiting from mimicking Antoine Dupont’s ‘minister of the interior’ role to pick up an inside ball from Rand Santos, who had quickstepped his way through the Hong Kong China defence – sent USA off on a perfect start en route to a seventh-place finish.

And Faison’s first minutes later, the ball shipped crisply and accurately wide to him, hinted that it would be a long day at the office for Hong Kong China.

But Hong Kong China’s pack had other ideas. They took on USA up front and had such an early advantage that they prompted tactical personnel changes on both sides of the US front row as early as the 25th minute.

Bringing on replacement props John Wilson and Connor Devos steadied USA’s scrum – but it was already too late to prevent Hong Kong China getting a score of their own, through hooker Dewi Simons.

It came from a well-worked training ground five-metre lineout move down the short side that allowed Simons to power over in the corner and was no less than Hong Kong China deserved as they enjoyed more than their fair share of territory and possession.

By now, though, USA Captain Hugh O’Kennedy, deputising for Dom Besag, who has been called up to the US Eagles’ side because of his impressive performances in Kenya, was starting to control proceedings from fly-half.

And McKay’s first try, after 35 minutes, was prologue to a dominant second half. Dylan Fortune had been held up over the line moments earlier when McKay charged over from 15 metres out as USA raced back the resulting goal-line dropout.

USA upped the ante early in the second half, replacement Wilson coming up with the ball at the back of a maul to extend their lead. Two minutes later, Faison went over for his second, picking up Corbin Smith’s perfect pass to finish off a crisp move.

There was plenty of time left for McKay to score his second and third – taking his overall tally for the tournament to seven – in typical openside style and end the match as a contest.

But though Hong Kong China were down, they were far from out. In the closing minutes, tries from 17-year-old Fritz Mahn, Charles Warren and a highlight-reel score from Max Threlkeld, after USA replacement Henry Duke had been shown a second yellow for a late tackle, ensured the scoreline was not deceptively one-sided.

*Scotland, Samoa, Uruguay and Spain Victorious in Round One of JWRT*

Scotland go in as heavy favourites to win the 2023 JWRT and return to the top group. Japan have already been relegated from the Tier 1 JWC and will be competing in the JWRT next year.

Scotland put 50 unanswered points on Zimbabwe before coasting to a 64-33 win. Canada U20 were defeated by Zimbabwe U20 32-24 in 2022. The main contenders to Scotland appear to be Samoa, Uruguay and Spain who also won their first round matches. The USA lost a close 33-31 match to Uruguay in the first round.

from World Rugby

Scotland, Samoa, Uruguay and Spain emerged victorious from the opening day of the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday.

In a classic game of two halves, Scotland ran out 64-33 winners over Zimbabwe in the opening game of the tournament, but a five-try second-half burst from the Junior Sables ensured it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Scots.

Samoa, too, did not have things all their own way against hosts Kenya in the first Pool B match, but two quick tries from captain John Mata Samuelu and a double from winger William Hunt ensured the former champions opened their 2023 challenge with a 34-25 win.

The third match was a much cagier affair, with Uruguay edging the battle of the former champions against USA 33-31, thanks to a late try from Dante Soto and the accurate boot of Juan Carlos Canessa.

Spain then wrapped up the opening day’s action with a 53-0 defeat of Hong Kong China with Eloy de la Pisa Cuadrado and Gabriel Rocaries both dotting down twice to take Los Leones U20 to the top of Pool B.

The action continues on Thursday, 20 July when the Pool B match between Samoa and Hong Kong China will open proceedings at 10:00 local time (GMT +2).

Uruguay then take on Zimbabwe at 12:00 before the other Pool A match between Scotland at USA at 14:00. Spain and hosts Kenya play in the final match of round two at 16:00.


Scotland kicked off the 13th edition of the World Rugby U20 Trophy with a 64-33 victory against Zimbabwe at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya.

Making their first appearance in the tournament after being relegated from the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2019, Scotland ran in 10 tries against the Junior Sables, whose last appearance came on home soil in 2016, when they lost all three games.

It took Scotland just three minutes to open the scoring, capitalising on a turnover on halfway to move the ball wide to co-captain and scrum-half Ben Afshar, who showed a good turn of pace to touch down.

The next try was simplicity itself. Scotland won a scrum penalty and, from the resulting lineout drive, hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty emerged with the ball as the Zimbabwe maul splintered.

The rest of the half was all about winger Geordie Gwynn. His first try came after a clever chip and chase to the corner; he then crashed over from close range following an attacking scrum.

With Zimbabwe losing key ball carrier Shingi Manyarara to injury and two players to yellow cards, Scotland made their numerical advantage pay with the last play of the half, Gwynn completing his hat-trick with a simple finish.

Gwynn made a barnstorming start to the second half, too, running half the length of the field before being brought down just short of the line. Scotland recycled quickly for second-row Eddie Erskine to score.

Afshar then got his second after a flowing team move before replacement hooker Corey Tait touched down from another driving lineout to make it 50-0.

Zimbabwe, who spilled the ball on the rare occasions they threatened during the opening hour, finally got on the scoresheet in the 53rd minute. They bundled Scotland into touch near their own line and from the resulting lineout drive, hooker Bryan Chiang broke away and stretched over.

With Scotland becoming uncharacteristically ragged, Zimbabwe then scored three more tries in quick succession – and how.

First, winger Edward Sigauke took advantage of slick hands and great running lines in midfield. Then Leo Mutendi and Tawanda Matipano finished length-of-the-field moves to send the small but vocal Zimbabwe support in the crowd wild.

Normal service was resumed when Scotland intercepted another Zimbabwe counter-attack for Ben Salmon to score.

Replacement Shadreck Mandaza responded with a joyful diving finish after forcing a Scotland mistake with his kick ahead, but Scotland had the final say as Erskine crashed over for his second.


The boot of Uruguay full-back Juan Carlos Canessa was the difference against USA as – after two free-scoring, up-tempo matches – two former champions played out a nip-tuck affair in the third match of the opening day.

Canessa was accurate with the boot all game, and coolly held his nerve to nail a tricky late conversion out wide and pull Los Teritos back into the lead after they had earlier let slip a 13-point advantage.

It had been all Uruguay in the opening exchanges. The try-line was definitely the way for Icaro Amarillo after just six minutes as Los Teritos opened their campaign in style. The fly-half burst through two tackles on his way to the line after his pack had turned over the ball in USA’s 22.

Two penalties from Canessa either side of Amarillo’s touchdown helped Uruguay race into a 13-0 lead in as many minutes. They perhaps should have had more, such was their early dominance.

But USA, against the run of play at the time, found a way back into the game before the end of the opening quarter. Captain Dominic Besag scored after a breakout from inside his own half. He fed winger Sosaia Pongi, who eased to within a couple of metres of the line before shipping the ball back over the top to his captain.

Canessa and USA fly-half Hugh O’Kennedy traded further first-half penalties, before USA loose-head John Wilson was yellow carded for one infringement too many. Uruguay kicked to touch and from the resulting lineout just inside USA’s 22, mauled their way ferociously to the line. Second-row Franco Bertini got the try-scoring credit, but it was very much a pack try on the half-time whistle.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, USA scored first after the restart, Hayden McKay – who switched from flanker to hooker due to Caden Crist being ill – coming up with the ball after a maul early in the second period to reduce USA’s arrears to just three points. That advantage was eradicated completely by O’Kennedy with half an hour to go before he added another penalty six minutes later to take USA into the lead for the first time.

McKay broke off from the back of another maul for his second try in the 62nd minute, after USA had chosen to kick a penalty to touch rather than go for the posts. O’Kennedy, unusually, missed from the touchline.

Canessa cut the deficit to five points a few minutes later as a cagey match in which neither team could break away edged to a close.

Replacement Dante Soto’s 75th-minute try – with his first touch of the game – levelled the scores, and gave Canessa a tricky shot at goal to restore Los Teritos’ advantage. He didn’t miss and Uruguay could celebrate at the final whistle.


Two quick tries from captain John Mata Samuelu and a double from winger William Hunt ensured former U20 Trophy champions Samoa opened their 2023 challenge with a win to maintain their near-perfect record in the tournament.

Heading into their opening match in Nairobi, they had won 11 of 12 matches they had played in the second-tier U20 competition – their only defeat coming in the 2018 final.

But they didn’t have things all their own way. Indiscipline cost them, while hosts Kenya sent a clear warning to their Pool B rivals as they troubled the larger Samoan squad with their pace and elusive running.

It was Kenya who opened the scoring, as rangy second-row Stanslas Shikoli powered over the corner on their first entry into Samoa’s 22, after they had soaked up 10 minutes of early pressure at the other end of the pitch.

Their lead, however, did not last long. Afa Moleli picked up a loose ball after his pack had shoved Kenya off the ball in a scrum, fed Paul Stanley out of the tackle and he raced clear to the corner. Moleli missed the conversion, but added a penalty soon after to give Samoa the lead.

Kenya were being driven back at the scrum, but gave as good as they got in the loose. As the clock ticked past the half-hour mark another attack was turned over and Samoa demonstrated how dangerous they were on transition. It was simple, devastating rugby. A break, and a footrace to the line pulled up just short. Recycled, the ball went through the hands, before a long pass to Hunt, who dived – spectacularly – over.

An early second-half penalty for Kenya’s Eddy Murage appeared to kick Junior Manu Samoa up a gear. Stanley, back in the fray after a yellow card, ripped through the Chipu defence and deep into their 22. A quick penalty later and second-row Samuelu crashed over from short range. He added a second, from a similar distance, a few minutes later to extend Samoa’s lead.

It looked as if that would open the floodgates. But Kenya weren’t done and were still causing problems with their speed in the loose. Then, just after the hour, they played against type, patiently phasing their way to Samoa’s line, and Wicklife Otieno flopped over from close range after Samoan back-row Benjamin Faavave was yellow carded.

There was time left for more excitement from the Nairobi crowd as livewire Kenya gave the tiring Samoans – who picked up four yellow cards to play 40 minutes with a numerical disadvantage – the runaround.

With 74 minutes on the clock, Hunt skirted round three defenders for his second as he took a scenic route to the try-line from inside his own half, and proved that there’s much more to them than power alone. It ended the match as a contest.

But Kenya had the final say, mauling over for a deserved pack score from a five-metre lineout with just a couple of minutes remaining, before Raphael Wanga benefited from a Samoa error to score the final try.


Spain made a flying start to the World Rugby U20 Trophy and brought the opening day of the tournament to a close with a 53-0 win over Hong Kong China in Nairobi.

The 2016 runners-up scored the first of nine tries in the seventh minute. Hong Kong China failed to gather a kick ahead allowing blindside flanker Ignacio Pineiro Molla to touch down.

In an error-strewn opening, neither team managed to nail their set-pieces. That finally changed in the 15th minute when Spain got their rolling maul going from a lineout and captain Alvaro Garcia Albo touched down.

A similar opportunity went begging shortly afterwards as Spain knocked on but the third try eventually came after a dominant scrum left the Hong Kong China defence back-peddling. Openside flanker Borja Ibanez Escalera crashed over two phases later.

Hong Kong China almost hit back but were held up over the try-line. They were left to rue the missed opportunity minutes later when they turned over possession near halfway. Ibanez Escalera showed an impressive turn of pace that allowed Eloy de la Pisa Cuadrado an easy run-in.

Three minutes into the second half, Spain grabbed their fifth try. Garcia Albo punched a hole in the Hong Kong China defence, Daniel Catanzaro Omati cut a lovely line in midfield and full-back Gabriel Rocaries did the rest.

Spain enjoyed most of the possession and territory in the third quarter but were let down by their accuracy in the red zone and had to wait until the 60th minute for their sixth try. It was Rocaries again, this time courtesy of a jinking run and finish.

De la Pisa Cuadrado then scored his second and Spain’s seventh after a fizzing flat pass from Pineiro Molla.

In the 70th minute, Hong Kong China again had the ball over the try-line but replacement TK Yamauchi failed to ground it and Spain, even with Pineiro Molla in the sin-bin, made them pay.

Another replacement, Martin Pena, made no mistake from close range and Spain broke the 50-point mark with the final play of the game, replacement Alvaro Vilchez going over after a quick tap penalty.

Posted in National Men's XVs.

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