How teams qualified for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023

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Zimbabwe players and officials celebrate with Africa U20 Barthes Trophy after their final match against Kenya on April 30, 2023 at Nyayo National Stadium

The USA have become the sixth and final team to qualify for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 when they defeated Canada 82-35 on aggregate across the two-legged play-off.

USA won the first leg of the Rugby Americas North regional qualifier 43-21 in South Carolina on Tuesday and followed it up with a 39-14 victory in the second and final encounter on Saturday, to go through and join Scotland, Uruguay and Zimbabwe in Pool A.

The make-up of Pool B has long since been decided with Hong Kong China, Kenya, Samoa and Spain grouped together.

As the host nation, Kenya’s participation was guaranteed, while Scotland’s involvement has come about through their relegation from the World Rugby U20 Championship when it was last held in 2019.

Scotland became the first Home Nation to suffer that fate when they were on the receiving end of a 59-34 defeat at the hands of Fiji in Rosario in the 11th-place play-off, debunking the myth that such high-stakes games are normally tight, low-scoring affairs.

Spain were the first team to qualify for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 through the regional qualifiers back in November, beating Samoa, Uruguay and Hong Kong China in booking their place in the tournament line-up by a matter of weeks.

Victories over Czechia (51-13) and Belgium (25-6) saw Spain progress to the final of the Rugby Europe U20 Championship 2022 and, once there, they successfully defended their title with a 13-6 win over the Netherlands on a wet day in Lisbon. Second-row Hector Matamoros Abad scored the only try of the game in the 11th minute.

Now that the USA have secured their place through the North American qualifiers, the line-up for age-grade international rugby’s second-tier competition is complete.

After two hugely competitive matches against host nation Tonga at the Teufaiva Stadium in Nuku’alofa, Samoa came through to win the Oceania Rugby U20 Trophy and secure their place in the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023.

Tonga took the first game 20-19 but an 8-5 victory in the second leg ensured the Junior Manu Samoa squad booked their ticket to Kenya, 27-25 on aggregate, where they will hope to maintain their proud record in the competition,

In three previous appearances at the World Rugby U20 Trophy, Samoa have won it twice, in 2011 and 2016, and were runners-up on the other occasion in 2018.

With Europe and Oceania’s places confirmed, focus then quickly turned to South America, where a runners-up finish behind Sudamerica U19 champions Argentina was enough for Uruguay to qualify. Having lost to Argentina, Los Teritos overcame Chile 62-14 on home soil in Paysandú.

As a result, Los Teritos will play in their 11th World Rugby U20 Trophy (out of 13), making them the most experienced team in the field of eight teams.

Next to join the World Rugby U20 Trophy line-up was Hong Kong China, as winners of the Asia Rugby U19 Championship 2022.

Hong Kong China won their seventh U19 title following victories over host nation Malaysia (43-9) and Chinese Taipei (19-12).

That left Africa and North America as the only regions to decide their representatives.

In April, the Africa slot was filled by Zimbabwe, after an emphatic 60-6 win against Tunisia in the semi-finals of the Rugby Africa Barthes U20 Trophy. This followed on earlier 55-0 win against the Ivory Coast.

Zimbabwe Under-20 captain Panashe Zuze being presented with the Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy after his team’s victory in Nairobi, Kenya

With the other finalists, Kenya, already qualified because of their status as host nation, reaching the final was sufficient to ensure the Young Sables would be Africa’s second team at the World Rugby U20 Trophy.

But the Young Sables were not content with just qualifying, they had an African U20 title to defend and they went on to beat Kenya, 28-7, at a packed Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.

Lastly, the USA can look forward to competing in the World Rugby U20 Trophy for the first time since 2016 after two dominant displays against Canada saw them qualify with ease.

The World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 gets underway on 15 July with the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi hosting all 16 matches.

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