2022 Under 20s Summer Series showcases the very best young talent

2022 Under 20s Summer Series showcases the very best young talent
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With the first round of pool matches complete, the 2022 Under 20s Summer Series showcases the very best young talent from eight Tier One nations.

Among the expected results, one outcome has set tongues wagging. Invitee South Africa has defeated England, to set Pool A alight!

With the pandemic spoiling the previous pinnacle World Rugby Under 20 (U20) global competition, returning to the mainstream sports stage will only bring rewards for the competing nations; England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Georgia, Italy, Wales, and South Africa. Hosted and staged in Italy, and split across venues in Verona and Treviso.

It is the inclusion of the African nation that is seen as a terrific initiative by the tournament organizers; the Six Nations. So the table has grown from six predominant sides, to bring in European powerhouse Georgia, and complimented by the World Champion South African nation showcasing their U20 emerging talent.

Always seen as the platform for players like Handre Pollard, Owen Farrell, Beauden Barrett, and many many more. An introduction to premier International opposition, and while it can be a jump ‘too high’ for some, each year a new superstar emerges. In this 2022 Under 20s Summer Series, expect a few names to become regularly featured across domestic competitions, as well as future World Rugby tournaments.

Note: the postponed World Rugby U20 Championship will return in 2023.

2022 Under 20s Summer Series showcases the very best young talent

England Rugby U20 head coach Alan Dickens expressed his approval before the tournament kicked off. “I think it’s fantastic that World Rugby and Six Nations got together to put something on for this current Under-20s crop”. And the players as much as stakeholders, will be delighted to add more rugby to their calendars. Many of the young men completing seasons with elite clubs across Europe, including the Premiership, Top14, and the Currie Cup in South Africa.

And the bonus of being played at the conclusion of domestic competitions in 2022, means that selected players can be involved from start to finish. When the U20 Six Nations championship is played, demands from players’ clubs does see some asked to return to their paymasters. Now, they can all freely represent their nation and to look to enjoy elevation for higher honours [every player’s goal].

Evidence of this was described by the 6Nations webpage. Dickens was quoted as saying “it is a great testament to the Under-20s program that then-captain Jack van Poortvliet has gone on to make the senior England squad for the tour to Australia after picking up a Premiership winners medal with the Champion Leicester Tigers“.

With the result going against the fancied England side, the pressure now mounts onto them, as well as Ireland. The Irish were put to the sword by the vastly improved French U20 team. Winning 42-21, they raised their arm to say “we want to win this tournament” and to emulate their senior XV men.

Wales had a good win over Scotland, taking out their home unions match 15-45; leading by nearly 20 points at halftime). That will boost the morale, as they would want to benefit from being in Pool B. Whereas the fancied Georgian team will need to do some soul searching, after a disastrous start against the hosts Italy. In a contested match, the hosts gained parity and used the hometown support to run away 36-19 winners. Both teams collected bonus points, that will prove critical to final seedings for the Championship round.

England too will need to address their deficiencies. The below highlights do point to areas the 2021 Six Nations winners must correct if they wish to hold off France and Ireland in pool play.

Motivation is varied across all eight sides, yet the fact Georgia can compete alongside Italy, Scotland, and Wales, it will underline their status, although results cannot be predetermined (as seen on Saturday). These young men play with heart and spirit. So after Round One, it is a start and not yet a true indicator of who might peak for the entire tournament – starting Friday June 24, and going through till the Cup final matches on July 13.

2022 Under 20s Summer Series pool play determines ranking

As France and South Africa kickstart their campaigns, there is no guarantee that any side will progress unbeaten. The Irish must hope to bounce back quickly – and the short turnaround of the 2022 U20s Summer Series is designed to challenge sides’ fitness and recovery systems. The sport is so much more than simply picking a team of 23, and tying up your laces. The professional set-ups for all eight nations have been transported to Italy, and the group of men and women involved must act quickly to repair the young men’s bodies and minds.

Pools consist of two sets of four teams;

Pool A Pool B
1 France 1 Scotland
2 Ireland 2 Wales
3 England 3 Italy
4 South Africa 4 Georgia

What is of particular interest is, how the final placings influence rankings for future World Rugby tournaments? Especially as New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and many other competitive Under 20 sides are not playing currently. The one benefit for the junior Boks is that they can maintain an awareness of the U20 sides firsthand, while Argentina, Japan, and the remaining Tier One nations must study games and results ‘from a distance’.

 

Fans will wait for those opportunities when a 12 or 16-team tournament can be scheduled. It must happen, to not only award the best team over a playoff/knockout format yet also to retain those key International rivalries and contests. This year’s 2022 Under 20s Summer Series has only just completed Round One, and you can sense how thirsty rugby fans are to enjoy more competition from the young stars of the sport.

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Follow Last Word on Rugby for updates over the course of the Summer Series. And join in the conversation on social media, or add your own voice by contributing through the LWOS network – learn more here.

 

“Main photo credit courtesy of Twitter