England beat Argentina in their first match at the tournament and then qualififed for the semi-finals by thrashing Italy on Saturday. Photo: Twitter/@EnglandRugby

NARBONNE – England booked their place in the semifinals of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship on Sunday, on a day that  also saw victories for defending champions New Zealand, South Africa, hosts France, Australia and Argentina.

Three places remain to be filled in the tournament semis after former winners England were confirmed as Pool B winners, after another day of compelling rugby in France on Sunday. 

England’s 43-5 defeat of Italy in Perpignan gives them a maximum 10 points from two rounds and means that whatever happens when the pool stages conclude on Thursday, they cannot be overhauled by Argentina or the Italians.

Defending champions New Zealand and South Africa are the only other teams with 10 points and sit top of Pool A and C respectively. New Zealand beat Wales 42-10 in wet conditions in Béziers, while South Africa had to dig deep again to overcome Ireland 30-17 in Narbonne.

Hosts France are the only other unbeaten team left in the tournament after they battled past Georgia 24-12 in Béziers, but the failure to secure a bonus point leaves them one behind South Africa and sets up perfectly their Pool C decider in round three.

Four other teams remain in contention, although Wales, Italy and Argentina can only hope to claim the best runner-up spot across the three pools. Argentina kept themselves in the mix with a 29-13 defeat of Scotland in the opening match in Perpignan. The day's other winners were Australia, who finished strongly to beat Japan 54-19 in Narbonne.

In Béziers on Thursday, Italy take on Argentina in Pool B before England tackle rivals Scotland, while in Narbonne Ireland face Georgia before hosts France and South Africa battle it out for top spot. 

In Pool C action Wandisile Simelane’s hat-trick helped the Junior Springboks to a second victory. The bonus-point win leaves South Africa to the top of Pool C, one point above their next opponents France, but they will be concerned after seeing star flyhalf Damian Willemse carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury.

South Africa's hat-trick hero Wandisile Simelane said: “It was a very important win for us, it was like a cup final because we knew we needed to win to stay in the competition. From the start we said that it would take 80 minutes of hard work so I am very proud of the boys that we pulled it off."

Meanwhile in Perpignan, Wales will face Japan with New Zealand and Australia meeting in the Pool A decider.

African News Agency (ANA)

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