Junior World Championship vital for the All Blacks

Getty Images     21 May 2014     Getty Images

“I have been fortunate to have been to a few of these tournaments myself and there has been some great rugby played and some of the super stars of tomorrow will be playing it.”

More importantly, he knows well that JWC is a proven finishing school for his own future All Blacks. 17 of the 2013 Air New Zealand European Tour squad were JWC graduates.

“It’s massively important for their development, it doesn’t mean to say you can’t make the All Blacks by going through that team, but it does help.

“It exposes them to high level, professional preparation and from my point of view, preparation is key to everything and if you get that right, you get a consistency of performance each week and you get an opportunity as selector to say, hey, this guy is playing well.

“Whether it be at Super Rugby level or ITM Cup level, those guys are that age are looking at making a career and it’s about consistency of performance.”

All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw echoes those comments. He played in an earlier version of the tournament and regards the experience as one of his fondest memories as a young player.

"It’s a really important tournament. A huge percentage come through this and become All Blacks. It’s also where you first figure out how to be a professional and how you go about things as a player.”

The New Zealand Under 20 team is now in camp in Mt Maunganui preparing for a tournament the team won four straight years from 2008, the first time the tournament was held, but lost out the past two years.

Hansen says the tournament is clearly getting tougher every year as countries see the role it plays in improving the performance of senior national teams.

“We may have fallen into the trap of expecting to win it every time and when you do that, you get comfortable and maybe that is what has happened. But it’s also a credit to the other nations. Everyone is working hard at trying to get better at their game and there is no better example of that than the team that is coming here in June, England.”

Hansen believes host nation advantage could be a double edged sword for New Zealand.

“A big positive is that they will have local support and family will be there to give them that support, but the negative is the added expectation and pressure that comes with the scrutiny of playing in your own backyard. If they deal with that and take it head on, they will be OK, but if they don’t, it may be too over bearing for them.

He urged fans to take advantage of the opportunity to see the best young players in the world.

“For the fans, if they can go and support, very much like they did for the senior World Cup, it will bode well for New Zealand, because there will be a lot of overseas people that will travel to see their young folk play so it’s an opportunity to embrace the rugby public of the world and show them that New Zealand is a great place as well as seeing some marvellous rugby.”