The World Rugby U20 Championship 2015, which will take place across four venues in northern Italy from 2-20 June, was officially launched in Rome on Friday.
With less than four months to go, representatives from the global governing body and Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR) were in attendance for the launch at the Stadio Olimpico on the eve of the RBS 6 Nations match between Italy and Ireland at the iconic stadium. The countdown is now on for the pinnacle age-grade tournament in the world game.
The tournament will see England returning to defend their crown which they retained in June in New Zealand after winning the tournament for the first time in 2013. Four cities will host the U20 Championship this year, namely Parma, Calvisano, Viadana with the final held in Cremona on 20 June.
A video promoting the tournament has been produced by FIR, which can be viewed HERE >>
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "With 2015 now well underway, the excitement is building for the world’s best under-20 players as they prepare for the World Rugby U20 Championship.
"As we saw in 2011, Italy is a great place to stage this tournament and I know the FIR is fully committed to putting on a fantastic show and making it an event to remember for players, spectators, sponsors and viewers. We look at this tournament as a finishing school for the future stars of world rugby as they learn about competing in a high-intensity, highly pressurised, elite rugby environment.
"For many of them it will be the first time they have been exposed to the glare of the media and, crucially, they will also receive education on issues facing the game as a whole, such as anti-doping and integrity."
FIR President Alfredo Gavazzi said: "We’re thrilled to host the future stars of international rugby in our country in June. The 2011 edition was a successful one and we’re confident we’ll deliver a memorable World Rugby U20 Championship later in the year that is full of passion and great rugby."
CLICK HERE FOR THE WORLD RUGBY U20 CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 FIXTURES >>
Since 2008 when the U20 Championship (formerly known as the Junior World Championship) was first staged, 335 graduates of this tournament have gone on to represent their country at full test level. Current stars such as Aaron Cruden and Julia Savea from New Zealand, Australian Quade Cooper, France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray, England backs George Ford and Owen Farrell and South Africa fly-half Handré Pollard are just some of the players to make the step up in recent seasons.
Italy centre Luca Morisi, who also represented his country at under-20 level, is ambassador for this tournament. Indeed, of the 23-man squad for Saturday’s game against Ireland, Italy can boast 10 graduates of previous U20 Championships or its sister tournament, the World Rugby U20 Trophy. Those players are: Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Morisi, Edoardo Gori, Joshua Furno, Andrea Manici, Marco Fuser, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Allan, Giovambattista Venditti.
The World Rugby U20 Championship (formerly the Junior World Championships) started in 2008, after the U19 and U21 competitions were amalgamated.
The competition has been won by New Zealand four times (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011), South Africa once (2012) and England twice (2013 and 2014).
The pinnacle of age-grade rugby, the tournament has produced 335 graduates to the test arena. Current stars who have graduated from the U20 Championship to full internationals include Aaron Cruden and Julian Savea (both NZL), Quade Cooper (AUS), George Ford and Owen Farrell (both ENG), Sam Warburton (WAL) and Conor Murray (IRE).
Some of Italy’s current senior squad have also risen through the ranks of the U20 Championship.
The quickest graduate to rise through the ranks, South Africa’s Handre Pollard, made his Springbok debut just eight days after playing in the final of the 2014 competition and was named Junior Player of the Year.
It is also seen as a crucial development tournament for the world’s best emerging match officials with many of the current elite international referees having previously appeared at this tournament.
2015 will see Italy will host the tournament for the second time (the 2011 event took place in the Veneto region). This year’s tournament (2-20 June) will be staged at four different venues in Lombardy – Parma, Calvisano, Viadana and Cremona, which will host the final.
The U20 Championship, and its sister event, the U20 Trophy, are key strategic initiatives for World Rugby, which invests a total of more than £2million in these competitions (£650,000 on the U20 Trophy and £1,360,000 on the U20 Championship).
Each year, one team is relegated from the U20 Championship and replaced the following year by the side that wins the U20 Trophy.
The Under 20 Championship has grown significantly in recent years. 2012 saw 35,000 fans pack Newlands in Cape Town to watch hosts South Africa claim the cup after a thrilling match against New Zealand. The 2013 and 2014 tournaments were broadcast and streamed to more fans than ever before in a record 180 territories.
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