Junior World Championship Final: England vs Wales Preview

Anglo-Welsh unity might be at an all-time high on Saturday morning when the British and Irish Lions take on Australia, but just hours later that unity will be long forgotten as England U20s take on their Welsh counterparts in the final of the Junior World Championships. The meeting of these two teams marks the first time in the competition’s history that two Northern Hemisphere sides will contest age grade rugby’s ultimate prize.


England have made it to the final three times previously, but have lost on each occasion to New Zealand, who they impressively knocked out at the semi-final stage this year. Their most recent loss in the final came in 2011, when the England side boasted the talents of Mako Vunipola, Christian Wade and Owen Farrell to name but a few, and England’s next generation will be boosted by the knowledge that three current Lions were in exactly the same position as them, just two years previously.

Aside from a 20 minute spell against South Africa in the group stage when England’s players failed to turn up, they have been in exceptional form, beating the hosts France 30-6, before a 31-24 loss to South Africa, where the side produced a valiant comeback, but couldn’t quite get over the final hurdle. England’s fate was then out of their own hands, but they ensured they gave themselves the best chance of qualifying by defeating USA 109-0 in a record-setting game, and fortunately sealed the best runner up spot, earning them a semi-final against their greatest rival at this level, New Zealand. In perhaps England’s greatest victory at age-grade rugby, they dominated New Zealand throughout the game, and emerged with a 33-21 victory, booking themselves into an all Northern Hemisphere final.

Player to watch: Luke Cowan-Dickie

The Exeter Chief has an extremely bright future ahead of him, and so often looks a class apart at this level. More often seen at loosehead, Cowan-Dickie has been playing at hooker this year, and the transition has looked seamless from the outside. His lineout throwing has been on point at this tournament, but perhaps his most valuable asset has been his ball carrying, where he has consistently broken the gain line, earning England important ground every time he gets his hands on the ball. Arguably England’s form player of the tournament, another colossal game from Cowan-Dickie will go a long way to helping his side secure their first Junior World Championship trophy.


Wales were rewarded for their excellent third-placed finish at the 2012 event with a relatively easy pool, featuring Samoa, Scotland and Argentina, but handled their opposition professionally, and emerged from the group undefeated. They set off at a canter, beating Samoa 42-3, before a much closer 26-21 victory over Scotland, and finally beat Argentina 25-20, in what was a ‘winner takes all’ match, with both teams sitting pretty on two wins from two games. There were fears that Wales would be undercooked for their semi-final meeting with South Africa, and although they trailed heading into the dying minutes, a last minute try from Ashley Evans, and conversion from Sam Davies, meant that Wales’ endeavour and performance was justly rewarded with a narrow 18-17 win.

Player to watch: Sam Davies

The fly-half has been instrumental in Wales’ successes so far in the tournament, and will again have to be at his best if his side hope to see off England’s challenge. Davies looks to be extremely composed for a young fly-half, kicking well under pressure, distributing efficiently to a talented back line and generally controlling a game very well. With Welsh opinion splintered over Rhys Priestland, Dan Biggar and James Hook, do not be too surprised if Davies’ name is mentioned in relation to the senior fly-half jersey in a couple of years time, especially if he gets more playing time with the Ospreys next season.


England arguably have the edge at the set piece, and if their tight five can gain an advantage over their opponents early in the game, it could become England’s game to lose. That being said, Wales have a number of difference makers, including Davies, Ellis Jenkins and Jordan Williams, and they’ve developed significantly as a squad since their Six Nations loss to England. The game will most likely come down to who deals with the occasion better, and given the turnover in players at age-grade rugby, that is anyone’s guess. England by 3.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

10 thoughts on “Junior World Championship Final: England vs Wales Preview

  1. I think England will win and win more comfortably than 3 points as I remember watching them winning the Junior 6 Nations on a wet and blowy night in Colwyn Bay 15-28, their quality seems to be better than that of the Welsh side.

  2. I think England will win comfortably – in the age grade England’s size and power is so far above the other NH teams that they invariably dominate most 6Ns matches. I expect more of the same on Sunday – England will dominate the ball and territory until their backs let loose towards the end.

    1. OK the old B beats A, C beat B, therefore C beats A logic doesn’t count for too much but …. England did struggle with South Africa’s physicality in the early stages of their match (and lost). If Wales can get past SA then they must be able to compete with a team just as large and strong as England (if not more so).

      Only saw the first 2 England games, but on basis of those 2 performances I would pick out Clifford as the key player, serious pace from the base of the scrum and great skills. Cowan-Dickie has made a good decision to convert to hooker, looks to be similar specimen to Marler at that age, hopefully at hooker he won’t need to try to get too big and he keeps his pace and work rate as he becomes a premiership regular.

      No idea what the result will be, but think it’s great we have an all home nation final. I wonder how many of the Welsh have learnt a bit of French whilst they are over there!

  3. Have seen the highlights over on Rugbydump.

    The welsh fly-half and full-back (what a runner) both looked excellent – great prospects.

    The English number 8 (Clifford?) looks strong and fast. Also heard that Exeter’s Jack Nowell has been playing well at full-back, which is great as he really didn’t look out of place in the Premiership the couple of times I saw him play

    As with all these players, I hope they can kick on to the next level

  4. I’m almost as excited about this as the Lions game. Any chance of getting the two squads on here for Sunday’s game?
    For anyone who doesn’t know the game is live on Sky Sports 2 (and HD). Seems as though my Sky Sports package for the Lions tests is becoming very beneficial!!

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