The 14th edition of the World Rugby U20 Championship is nearing its conclusion as Six Nations rivals Ireland and France ready themselves for a final battle of epic proportions.
Reigning champions, France are gunning for a third consecutive title, whilst Ireland are looking to back up their consecutive Six Nations Grand Slam titles with a world title.
Clearly head and shoulder above the competition this season, there can be no doubt that the two best teams are in the final.
Mirroring the senior international stage, the two sides have led the way in innovation, playing style and professionalism in this championship.
France have a squad stacked with players who feature regularly on the professional stage. Yet, the presence of Posolo Tuilagi has been the biggest talking point of the tournament for Les Bleus.
A man amongst boys at 6’4” and 150kg, Posolo the latest member of the iconic Tuilagi family. Following in his father Henry’s footsteps as a hard-hitting forward, Posolo showed his full array of skills as he manhandled the New Zealand pack during the pool stages.
Whilst Posolo has hogged the headlines, scrumhalf Baptiste Jauneau has been sublime. Just as the rugby world were getting used to the fact that Antoine Dupont is leap years ahead of any other scrumhalf. Few would have expected that a potential world-class French nine was already in the making.
For Ireland, three players have stood above the rest in Leinster flyhalf Sam Prendergast and Munster backrow duo Ruadhan Quinn and Brian Gleeson.
Long touted as the next great Irish flyhalf, Prendergast is far and away the best playmaker in this year’s competition. His pinpoint kicking game, physicality in defence and silky running has been key feature of the Irish game so far.
In the backrow, the Quinn and Gleeson double act has been a marvel for Irish fans as they have physically overpowered all come throughout the tournament.
France enters the clash as favourites given they have won the past two editions of the tournament and have swept all before them so far this year.
Whilst there can be no denying the greatness of Les Bleus, Ireland will hold no fear of their European brethren.
Winning both of their two most recent meetings, Ireland knows they have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with the French physicality.
Key to this will be how Prendergast controls proceedings as the Irish pack should, by and large, gain parity.
Should this happen, the Irish backline holds the edge and could well prove to be the difference. With the likes of John Devine, Andrew Osborne and James Nicholson all lethal when given half a chance, the men green have the ability to score points in quick succession.
Throw into the mix the emotional drive of this team, given the tragic incidents that have occurred throughout this tournament, and one gets a feeling fate might be on the Irish side.
This will be a titanic clash and, on paper, has all the makings of an all-time final between arguably the two most professional sides ever to play at this level.
Whilst the two packs will duke it out, Ireland’s panache will see them home. Ireland by five.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) July 12, 2023
☘⚡🇫🇷 𝐋𝐀 𝐕𝐎𝐈𝐋𝐀 !
😍 L’équipe de #FranceU20 qui affrontera l’Irlande en finale des Championnats du Monde !
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) July 12, 2023