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Round one team of the week | 2024 World Rugby U20 Championship

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Sunday Jun 30, 2024

World Rugby’s brightest prospects took to the pitches of the Athlone and DHL Stadiums in Cape Town yesterday for round one of the 2024 World Rugby U20 Championship.

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Played out across six pulsating fixtures, the matches brought forward several intriguing individual performances as the pre-tournament favourites all secured wins.

Here is RugbyDump’s team of the round from round one of the 2024 championship.

1. Asher Opoku-Fordjour – England
Perhaps the most ‘polished’ pro at this year’s championship, the Sale Sharks loosehead is already senior international quality and he showed in round one as he dominated the Argentine front row.

2. Vernon Bason – New Zealand
Captain fantastic for his team, Bason is in the new mould of hooker as a quasi-fourth backrower. Defensively, the skipper smashed Welsh ball carriers whilst in attack. His threat as a runner was overshadowed by his exceptional ball-playing skills, as was evidenced by the try he set up in the 50th minute. When he departed in the 52nd minute, things went a little haywire for his team as the Welsh came roaring back into contention.

3. Billy Sela – England
Not to be outdone by his front-row buddy, the tighthead put in a serious shift for the 68 minutes he was on the pitch. This work rate and fitness clearly caught Argentina off guard as the Bath man-made line-breaks right up until he left the action.

4. Bathobele Hlekani – South Africa
Matching his performance on the pitch with some hilarious on screen action when he was taken off, Hlekani was the most dynamic operator in the Junior Boks pack. Playing more like a Fijian than a traditional South African lock, he absolutely steamrolled defenders with his power in the carry and displayed outlandish footwork that a world-class centre would’ve been happy with.

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5. Evan O’Connell – Ireland
Sometimes, lineage in sports is indicative of what’s to come, and in the case of Evan O’Connell (nephew of former Ireland captain Paul), this is the case. A natural leader with the playing ability to match any lock at this year’s championship, the Ireland skipper led his team with aplomb. Searing through the Italian defence for a big-time break in the second half showed a glimpse of his world-class athleticism.

6. Thabang Mphafi – South Africa
Matching his secondrow teammate’s energy, Mphafi put in some huge hits and was a great link between forwards and backs for the baby Boks. Over the ball at ruck time, he routinely hassled the Fijian attack and ultimately stunted any momentum they generated.

7. Henry Pollock – England
A do-it-all live wire, Pollock was everywhere as England mounted an incredible comeback to down Argentina. Starting with a timely turnover as los Pumitas looked certain to score early in the first half and ending with an outlandish out-the-back offload to set up a try; Pollock had an all-time performance in round one.

‘I think we kind of really all bought into that’ – Henry Pollock discusses U20 Six Nations triumph

8. Morgan Morse – Wales
Yellow card aside, the latest great Welsh number eight prospect was superb as his team added yet another thriller to their budding rivalry with New Zealand at this level. Physically imposing, Morse’s pace and ability to get his hands free in the tackle is a key cog in the Welsh attacking game.

9. Dylan Pledger – New Zealand
The standout nine in round one, Pledger got his team off the mark with a well taken intercept try where he displayed his elite pace. Around the breakdown his ability to deliver quick and accurate service got his team rolling. When he did depart the attack looked less fluid and was generally contained by the Welsh.

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10. Hugo Reus – France
Les Bleus skipper is a silky smooth operator with all of the skills of Freddie Michalak combined with the control and direction of David Skrela. Whilst he, by and large, had an armchair ride as his pack got on top of Spain, his brilliant out-the-back pass to set up the opening try was mesmerising.

11. Franco Rossetto – Argentina
Los Pumitas danger man, Rossetto was the spark that got his team off to the perfect start against England. Popping up a brilliant offload to his scrumhalf for the opening try, the winger built on his top quality showing against South Africa in the U20 Rugby Championship. If Argentina are to rebound and push towards the semi-final there is no doubt he will be a key contributor.

12. Sam Berman – Ireland
A hat trick says it all, and he was ultimately the separator when it came to getting him the nod in the toughest position to pick in this team. All of his tries came from moments of individual brilliance as he split the Italian defence with ease and slapped shut any thoughts of an efficient attacking game as he smashed the Italians in defence. Honourable mentions must be made to New Zealand’s Xavi Taele, Wales’s Louie Hennessey, and England’s Sean Kerr, who were all exceptional in round one.

13. Finn Treacy – Ireland
Linking up with his Ireland teammate, Treacy gets the nod ahead of South Africa’s Jurenzo Julius on account of the junior Bok getting a yellow card and the South African backline sputtering in the second half. The Connacht star resembles another player from his province, Robbie Henshaw, with his versatile ability and physical presence. Switching between 12 and 13 throughout the contest, Treacy was a gainline generator for the impressive men in green.

14. Jack Bracken – England
Another rugby legacy player, the son of 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Kyran Bracken, Jack, had a debut to remember. Still just 18 years old and playing out of position, Bracken scored a hattrick as he had the Argentinean defenders grasping at shadows as he slipped by. In order to avoid slipping into a paragraph of hyperboles, the youngster is the real deal.

15. Ben Redshaw – England
Arguably the catalyst for England’s comeback, Redshaw showed maturity beyond his years to methodically cover the backfield, kick intelligently and counter attack when it was on. Very much the calming presence in the England back three, Redshaw edges out South Africa’s
Michail Damon and Ireland’s Ben O’Connor for the shirt.

Watch the World Rugby U20s Championship live and for free on RugbyPass TV. Register here now
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