Just days until the premier nations in World Rugby send their best stars to France, Last Word on Rugby features the teams and challenges ahead of the Under 20 Championship tournament.
To be hosted by France, it is the annual competition for the ‘stars of tomorrow’. A stage where players can make a name for themselves, and where the emphasis has always been on development.
In 2018, the bar will be raised once again. The speed, the skillset and the enthusiasm. It is the perfect step-up for 17/18/19 year old men to demonstrate if they have the goods. If they can work to a plan, perform at the highest level – only just below Test level in fact.
So let us meet the teams, the pools, the draw and tournament rules (including a new World Rugby proviso).
World Rugby Under 20 Championship, France 2018
This promo reel only shows the faces of the men involved. Now, meet the teams/pools.
Pool A features defending champions New Zealand, Australia, Wales and the U20 Trophy 2017 winners Japan.
New Zealand – seeded number one, and with the form coming off another Oceania U20 Championship. With head coach Craig Philpott returning, he is familiar with the program and with the knockout nature of this tournament.
Captain: Tom Christie | Future Star: Caleb Clark | Expected Pool finish: First
Australia – as rated as their senior XVs team, even while head coach Jason Gilmore will have his men primed.
Captain: Ryan Lonergan | Expected Pool finish: Third
Wales – with a team representing the regions, coach Geraint Lewis will be hoping to better their performances in the Six Nations.
Captain: Tommy Reffell | Future star: Dane Blacker | Expected Pool finish: Second
Japan – this is a nod toward the Asian nations ranking; sitting above Tier Two, but just on an T1 level. If they bring their enthusiasm and take every opportunity, the Baby Blossoms might be a surprise package.
Captain: Hisanobu Okayama | Expected Pool finish: Fourth
Pool B features 2016 runners-up England, Scotland, Italy and Argentina.
England – no doubt, the big English side will cause plenty of headaches. They are fortunate not to draw any premier sides, but coach Steve Bates must focus on each Pool game….watch out for banana skins.
Captain: Ben Curry (and probable Future Star)| Expected Pool finish: First
Scotland – if head coach Bryan Redpath can communicate the pride that goes into wearing an Scotland jersey [capped 60 times] then his young men could push England hardest in Pool B.
Captain: Stafford McDowall | Expected Pool finish: Second
Italy – the minnows are still a fit group. With many able to communicate in two languages, they could foil many of the set-moves by English speaking teams.
Captain: Michele Lamaro | Expected Pool finish: Fourth
Argentina – one side; in the same way as their Test side, that will ‘give as good as they get’. In fact, playing against highly skilled UK teams, might raise the level of performance for the young Pumas.
Captain: Joaquin de la Vega | Future star: Juan Bautista Daireaux | Expected Pool finish: Third
Pool C is super-competitive. It features 2017 bronze medallists South Africa, hosts France, Ireland and Georgia.
South Africa – always a force to be reckoned with, what the Baby Boks need to do better, is convert finals into Championships. Head coach Chean Roux must motivate his men to last longer, than to just make the play-offs. Especially difficult to judge who will triumph, in the critical FRAvRSA pool match.
Captain: Salmaan Moerat | Future star: Damian Willemse | Expected Pool finish: Second
France – will be more confident than ever. After winning the Six Nations, they must feel at home, this is their best chance to claim an Under 20 Championship. Head coach Sebastien Piqueronies needs to manage his teams emotions, if they are to be a top seed – and avoid New Zealand in an possible semi-final clash.
Captain: Arthur Coville | Future star: Romain Ntamack | Expected Pool finish: First
— Romain Ntamack (@RomainNtamack) May 21, 2018
Ireland – with the confidence in Irish Rugby being so high, who knows what influence it could have on these young men. Either ‘playing out of their skins’ or, if could be too much expectation.
Captain: Caelan Doris (and probable Future Star)| Expected Pool finish: Fourth
Georgia – known for their increase in basic skills, if the European men can show an amount of flair, they should be the equal of Ireland. They might be the ‘best of the rest’ in regards to the Under 20 Championship competition [5-8th finishers].
Captain: Beka Saginadze | Expected Pool finish: Third
Pool play consists of three round robin games, before the top qualifiers progress to an semi-final, while the places below are contested for in a 5th/6th place knockout game.
World Rugby introduces trial ‘tackle height’ guideline
With the world watching, and with the size and power of these young men, World Rugby are going to trial new law variations, in France 2018. In an effort to curb the height of players tackling, thus in an effort to reduce head impact/concussion, the governing body will place restrictions on ‘tackle height’ at the Under 20 Championship.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) May 25, 2018
Known as the Nipple Line, the onus will be on players to ‘go in lower’. To avoid the chance of arms or shoulders hitting above the shoulder line – the current mandated tackle height.
The trial aims to change player behaviour through revised on-field and off-field sanctions. It was approved after a study of 1,500 games that concluded that the “risk of injury to both players from a high-contact tackle (when the tackler is upright) is 4.3 times greater than a low-contact tackle”.
The World Rugby Under 20 Championship begins on Wednesday, May 30
“Main photo credit”
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