SPOTLIGHT: 2024 World Rugby Under 20 Championship

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New Zealand is grouped with Wales, France and Spain, seeking to win their first title since 2017. 

Three-time defending champions France will be the toughest group match. At the 2023 tournament, France beat New Zealand by 35-14. However, France only finished third in the Six Nations with England taking out the title.

In 2008, the current incarnation of the World Rugby Under 20 Championship began. New Zealand has won the title six times, the best record of any team at the event.

The 2024 class has already played three games and tasted success in capturing the inaugural Under 20 Rugby Championship.

Played in Queensland earlier this year, New Zealand drew with South Africa (13-13) and beat Argentina (43-20) and Australia 36-25 to win the title.

World Rugby Under 20 Championship 2023 Recap

New Zealand Results

Pool Play: Wales, 27-26

Pool Play: France, 14-35

Pool Play: Japan, 62-19

Semi for Fifth: Australia, 35-44

Playoff for Seventh: Georgia, 50-26


Ireland 31-12 South Africa
France 52-31 England


Ireland 14-50 France

Player of the Tournament: Marko Gazzotti (France)
Winning captain: Lenni Nouchi (France)
Winning coach: Sébastien Calvet (France)

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,844
Tries: 146 

Top points scorer

Player: Hugo Reus (FRA), 62

Team: France 251

Top try scorer

Nicolas Depoortère (France), Basa Khonelidze (Georgia), Caleb Tangitau (New Zealand), Macca Springer (New Zealand), 5

New Zealand Players To Watch

Stanley Solomon – The diminutive Wellington flyer was a standout in the Rugby Championship scoring two long range tries in the win against Australia and the first try against South Africa. Typically a first-five, Solomon has been on the wing with the 20’s. Solomon won the Billy Wallace Best and Fairest Award as the best player in Wellington club rugby in 2023 and a season earlier represented the New Zealand Secondary Schools. 

Johnny Lee – Captain of the Crusaders Super Rugby Pacific Under 20 championship winning team, Lee is a dogged and tireless openside flanker who plays his club rugby for the Lincoln University Rams. Lee is powerful over the ball and has deceptive speed for a loose forward.

Vernon Bason – The New Zealand captain is a dynamic hooker out of Fielding High School who led his First XV to Central North Island glory. Bason stands six foot and 106kg and is an accurate throw and aggressive ball carrier. Vernon’s younger brother Mosese is also in the squad. The Hurricanes loose forward was named the player of the tournament at the Super Rugby Pacific Under 20 championship.

Rico Simpson – The prolific scoring first-five, who’s style resembles Wallabies great Stephen Larkham, led Sacred Heart College to their first 1A Auckland championship in 58 years last season with a man-of-the-match display against St Kentigern College in the final. Simpson was the leading points scorer for the New Zealand Schools and the New Zealand Under 20’s on their respective Australian tours.

Ones to Watch From New Zealand’s Group

Marko Gazzotti (France) – Gazzotiti was named best player at last year's World Championship. The trained number 8, who can also play all the third-row positions, is 192cm and 107 kg. A native of Savoie, born to a father with Italian roots and a Lithuanian mother (who gave the 'k' to his first name), a former handball player, he was nurtured and trained in Grenoble (alongside 19-year-old hooker Barnabé Massa, also a 2023 world champion) and courted by the biggest clubs (Toulon and Montpellier) before arriving in Bordeaux in 2023, already with solid experience in Pro D2. Another interesting feature of the French team is halfback Léo Carbonneau who played nine matches for his country and scored three tries in 2023. His father Philippe played 32 tests for France from 1995 to 2001. His uncle Oliver was a longtime Toulouse centre. Carbonneau plays for Brive in the French Top 14.

Ryan Woodman (Wales) - The Dragons RFC back rower missed the Six Nations championship through injury, but is regarded as one of Wales best players with his tenacious tackling and all-action carrying. Wales' squad includes just two uncapped players, brothers Ioan and Steffan Emanuel. Coach Richard Whiffin commented, “We have got power throughout the team with genuine athletes in all areas of the field… “The way we want to play is to move the ball and express ourselves in the wider channels – hopefully we have a team who can be competitive in what is an extremely competitive pool.”

Beau Finnian Peart (Spain) - Spain will be playing in the World Rugby U20 Championship for the first time in 2024 after a thrilling 39-32 victory over Uruguay in a qualifying event at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Finnian Peart is Spain’s general. The first-five has a goal kicking range of 50m and is a dependable tactician. Openside flanker Borja Ibanez Escalera scored two tries in the historic win against Uruguay and impressed with his breakdown work.

World Rugby Under 20 Championship - New Zealand Under 20 schedule

GAME ONE: New Zealand v Wales, Sunday 30 June, 5.30am NZT, DHL Stadium, Cape Town

GAME TWO: New Zealand v France, Friday 5 July, 2.30am NZT, DHL Stadium, Cape Town

GAME THREE: New Zealand v Spain, Wednesday 19 July, 5am NZT, DHL Stadium, Cape Town

All games LIVE on Sky Sport NZ.


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