Paris (AFP) – Teenager Jordan Joseph inspired France to a 23-14 victory over three-time champions England on Sunday to claim a maiden World Rugby under-20 Championship title.
Joseph, just 17 and recently signed with Top 14 giants Racing 92, was part of a French pack that outplayed their English counterparts, France’s Toulon fly-half Louis Carbonel kicking 23 points in an exceptional display with the boot for the first-time finalists.
“It’s only the under-20s, but in a few years we hope to do the same thing,” Carbonel said, with France to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
A tearful France skipper Arthur Coville added: “For those people who say the French youth training set-up isn’t in a good place at the moment, it’s simply not the case.”
Carbonel opened the scoring in the fifth minute, booting a long-range penalty at a packed Stade de la Mediterranee in Beziers which was basking in sunshine.
The England scrum were soon under the cosh, Carbonel hitting his second penalty before Marcus Smith responded.
Carbonel went wide, however, when trying to convert a try from Cameron Woki, on hand to finish off some fine close-quarter scrambling by Toulouse winger Maxime Marty.
Smith then missed a penalty as England sought a way back into a half in which they dominated possession.
Instead it was Carbonel who turned the screw with a third penalty after England captain Ben Curry infringed.
England did reduce the arrears, however, going through more than 20 phases before a looping Tom Paxton pass found Jordan Olowofela with a chink of space, the winger making no mistake to dot down in the corner. Smith missed the extras to leave it 14-8 to France at the break.
Carbonel stretched the lead with two further penalties early in the second period, Marty, Agen full-back Clement Laporte, Brive tighthead Demba Mamba and the Joseph-inspired backrow proving to be stubborn thorns in England’s side.
The fly-half hit a 50-metre effort, Harlequins counterpart Smith banging over a 63rd minute penalty to leave it 23-11.
Carbonel made no mistake with his sixth penalty to give France a significant psychological advantage going into the final 10 minutes.
Replacement prop Joe Heyes crashed over for England, James Grayson converting to make it 26-18 amid repeated renditions of ‘La Marseillaise’.
But home worries were put to rest when Carbonel’s delicious grubber was pounced on by Lyon centre Adrien Seguret, the fly-half converting to put the match beyond England.
Olowofela crossed for a consolation try for England, converted by Grayson, but it was all too late for the Red Rose.
Six-time winners New Zealand, whom France beat 16-7 in the semi-finals, went down 40-30 to South Africa in the third-place play-off earlier in the day.
The Baby Blacks were up 25-14 at half-time, but the Boks scored four second-half tries thanks to a dominant forward display aided by countless New Zealand errors.
South Africa coach Chean Roux called it “an awesome comeback in the second half”.
“I am happy for the players because they worked very hard for this, so all credit to them,” Roux said.
In the lesser play-offs, Australia beat Argentina 41-15 to seal fifth, Wales bagged seventh after seeing off Italy 34-17, while Georgia beat Scotland (39-31) and Ireland were victorious over Japan (39-33) for ninth and 11th positions respectively.