Defending champions France, Ireland, England and host nation Italy all recorded convincing victories in the quarter-finals of the FIRA-AER European Under 18 Championship in Venetia on Sunday.
France ran out 52-6 winners over Spain with Baptiste Gay, Jérémy Sinzelle, Julien Fritz, Clément Veeckman (2), Raphaël Eymond, Benjamin Petre and Gwendal Lamache the try scorers in the Group A encounter.
The defending champions now face Italy, who overcame Romania 25-0, on Wednesday for the right to play either England or Ireland in the final at the weekend after both scored over 50 points in their quarter-finals against Georgia and Russia respectively.
Nico Fraser scored a hat-trick of tries in England’s 53-3 defeat of Georgia with Rhys Jones and Jon Kennedy also touching down before replacement centre Henry Staff claimed a brace for himself. Ireland, meanwhile, were 53-0, winners of Russia.
The other four teams will play off the placing from fifth to eighth – with the bottom side relegated to Group B for 2009 – on Wednesday with Spain facing Romania and Russia their neighbours Georgia.
The European Under 18 Championship had actually kicked off on Saturday with the matches in the other three sections with Portugal, Germany, Poland and Belgium enjoying victories in Group B.
Bulgaria spring a surprise
Portugal overcame Lithuania 22-10 and now meet Belgium, who beat the Netherlands 44-7. The other semi-final pits Germany against Poland after they defeated the Czech Republic 26-19 and Ukraine 21-5 respectively.
There was a surprise in Group C where Bulgaria, who were promoted after winning Group D in 2007, came from behind to beat the side relegated from Group B Latvia 22-15. Bulgaria now face Hungary on Tuesday after they overcome Denmark 17-5.
The other Group C semi-final will be between Switzerland and Sweden. Switzerland beat Austria 19-5, while Sweden overcame Israel 15-0. The ranking games for fifth to eighth pit Latvia against Denmark and Austria against Israel.
Group D has been split into two pools with Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Luxembourg comprising Pool A and Serbia, Slovenia and Moldova making up Pool B. The two pool winners will then meet to determine who is promoted to Group C for 2009.
Bosnia & Herzegovina kicked off with a 13-5 defeat of Croatia, but then narrowly lost 8-5 to Luxembourg on Monday. Meanwhile in Pool B Slovenia suffered a heavy 58-0 loss to Serbia in their opening match, but bounced back to beat Moldova 18-0.
The European Under 18 Championship continues on Tuesday with the semi-finals and ranking games in Groups B and C. All the games can be followed on the FIRA-AER website – www.fira-aer-rugby.com.
Click here to listen to an interview with IRB Regional Development Manager for Europe, Michel Arpaillange, on the Championship on this week's Total Rugby Radio.