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PREVIEW: World Rugby U20 Championships 2018

World Rugby

allblacks.com     28 May 2018     World Rugby

New Zealand will be gunning for back-to-back titles after taking out the 2017 edition in Georgia with a 64-17 win over England in the final.

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There will be no shortage of title contenders standing in New Zealand’s way with hosts France looking to bounce back from their heart-breaking 39-26 loss to New Zealand in last year’s semifinal. England are a danger team once-again with a number of returning players from last year’s tournament and South Africa are looming as a big threat after a third-place finish in 2017.

Each match during pool play will be crucial with the winners of each of the three pools progressing to the semifinals alongside the second placed team with the most points from any of the pools.

New Zealand has been drawn alongside Australia, Wales and Japan in an intriguing Pool A.

Pool B is headlined by England who will face tough competition from Scotland, Italy and Argentina.

If there was a ‘pool of death’ in this tournament it is Pool C which sees highly regarded South Africa drawn alongside hosts France, always strong Ireland and fast improving Georgia.



While New Zealand are familiar with Australia having beaten them 43-28 in the Oceania Championships recently, Wales and Japan bring the unknown factor.

Wales were better than their seventh place finish at the 2017 tournament with tight losses to Australia and England showing their danger.

Japan have earned promotion to the World Rugby U20 Championships after winning the World Rugby U20 Trophy last year and will be eager to make a positive impression.

New Zealand captain Tom Christie said that his team has prepared well and is keen to get their campaign underway against Japan on Thursday (NZT).

“Last year I think we got a lot right from a team point of view, so this year we are looking to repeat that but also create our own legacy as well. It’s always an honour to be a captain of a team, and when it involves the black jersey it just takes it to another level of honour and excitement,” Christie said.

The World Rugby U20 Championship 2018 takes place in Perpignan, Narbonne and Béziers from 30 May to 17 June and will unearth the next generation of test stars to follow in the footsteps of more than 570 players who have graduated from the premier age-grade tournament since it began in 2008.

New Zealand Under 20 squad:

Forwards:

John Akau'ola-Laula - Auckland
Sione Asi - Manawatu
Tom Christie (Captain) - Canterbury
Rob Cobb - Auckland
Devan Flanders - Hawkes Bay
Tom Florence - Taranaki
Ricky Jackson - Otago
Tevita Mafileo - Bay of Plenty
Laghlan McWhannell - Waikato
Xavier Numia - Wellington
Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa - Auckland
Hoskins Sotutu - Auckland
Flynn Thomas - Southland
Will Tremain - Hawkes Bay
Will Tucker - Canterbury
Kaliopasi Uluilakepa - Wellington

Backs:
Caleb Clarke - Auckland
Leicester Faingaanuku - Tasman
Scott Gregory - Northland
Vilimoni Koroi - Otago
Harry Plummer - Auckland
Billy Proctor - Wellington
Jay Renton - Southland
Xavier Roe - Waikato
Jamie Spowart - Tasman
Bailyn Sullivan - Waikato
Tanielu Tele'a -Auckland
Kaleb Trask - Bay of Plenty

New Zealand kick off their World Rugby Under 20 Championships campaign against Japan at 7am on Thursday 31 May. Watch live on TVNZ Duke.