England and Wales got their World Under-20 Championship campaign off to a winning start on Wednesday, with their Leicester Tigers at the heart of the action.
Tigers wing Jordan Olowofela scored two of England’s tries in a 39-18 bonus-point victory over Argentina in Narbonne.
With two scores from Olowofela, a try for hooker Henry Walker and two James Grayson conversions, England led 19-15 at half-time. Second-half scores from Walker and Marcus Smith, both converted, as well as a long-range penalty from Leicester’s Tom Hardwick, helped to seal victory.
Scrum-half Ben White was also in the England starting line-up, with Tigers team-mates Joe Heyes and Sam Lewis making a contribution from the bench.
Argentina latched on to loose ball in midfield to score the opening points, but Olowofela got England straight back as he showed his strength to score from close range.
The Pumas added a penalty to lead 10-7 and, after Walker added England’s second try, they dotted down to edge in front again at 15-14.
But a powerful maul provided the platform for England’s backline to attack and put Olowofela into space for his second try for a 19-15 half-time lead.
A Grayson penalty stretched the advantage and then Walker charged over for the bonus-point score. And, after an Argentina penalty, Hardwick's kick from halfway restored the 14-point advantage and then a strong run from Olowofela and an offload in contact provided a score for replacement Smith.
Head coach Steve Bates said: “We scored some good tries, we scrummaged well, we got the ball from the lineout and scrum regularly, so we’ll look back on that and say that’s not a bad start to the tournament.
“There is plenty for us to work on but that’s a tough start, so we’ve got to be careful with our recovery now and move forward.”
Tigers flanker Tommy Reffell captained Wales to their first-ever win over Australia at the World Under-20s in Beziers.
Wales showed their strength in defence, coupled with ambition to attack, as they held on for a 26-21 win.
After scrum-half Ryan Lonergan opened the scoring with a penalty for Australia, full-back Cai Evans kicked Wales into a 6-3 lead. But their rivals claimed the opening try, with James Ramm acrobatically tapping the ball back in mid-air from a crossfield kick for full-back Mack Hansen to score.
A try from Ioan Nicholas gave Wales a five-point lead and, after Lonergan kicked a penalty in reply, a converted score from replacement Joe Goodchild put Wales 20-11 in front at half-time.
Another Evans penalty increased the lead and, when Lonergan replied, the Wales full-back stepped up once more to make it 26-14.
Reffell and his back-row colleagues Taine Basham and Dan Davis were then central to a defensive effort that frustrated the Aussies in the final quarter until replacement Tate McDermott scored with just three minutes remaining and the conversion cut the gap to just five points before the Welsh managed to close out the final stages.
“We said we’re not here to make up the numbers in the pool,” said skipper Reffell at full-time. “We’re here to compete against the best teams in the world and put ourselves on the stage.
“Defence is something we’ve worked on in training back in Cardiff and it was nice to see some of that come into the game.”
Scotland, with Leicester prop Sam Grahamslaw among the second-half replacements, were beaten 27-26 by Italy in their opening game, with a last-minute score settling the outcome.
Grahamslaw was used as a 55th-minute replacement but was yellow-carded in the final stages as Italy fought back from a 13-point deficit to record an opening victory.
In the second round of fixtures on Sunday, England face Italy, while Wales go up against New Zealand, and Scotland run out against Argentina.