The history of the New Zealand Under 20s

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The concept of an age grade New Zealand rugby team began in 1955 when a New Zealand Under 21 team toured Australia and Sri Lanka.

The team won all nine matches on tour with future World Rugby Hall of Famer Colin Meads announcing himself to the rugby world on the tour.

Between 1955 and 2007 the New Zealand U21 team (sometimes referred to as New Zealand Colts) played 151 games and had 117 wins, and that includes two World Under-21 championship successes in 2003 and 2004. Typically, the side would play domestically against local opposition.

In 2008, the current incarnation of the World Rugby Under 20 Championship began. New Zealand has fashioned a 49-12 record in the World Championship winning the title four times from 2008 to 2011 and again in 2015 and 2017. That is the best record of any country at the event. The Under 20s' are 65-14 in all internationals since 2008. They have beaten 15 countries. France won titles in 2018 and 2019 before the tournament was put on hold from 2020-2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

2008: Inaugural Under 20 Champions

Previous incarnations of the World Junior Rugby championships had consisted of Under 17, 19, and 21 age groups. In 2008 the tournament reverted to its present format.

New Zealand conceded just one try in their five victories over Tonga (48-9), Ireland (65-10), Argentina (60-0), and Wales (31-6 in the semi-final) before the 38-3 final triumph over England at Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

The championship-winning side was guided by co-coaches Dave Rennie and Russell Hilton-Jones. Daniel Kirkpatrick was named player of the final. He later played Super Rugby for the Hurricanes and the Blues before a long stint in France. Ryan Crotty (who scored a try in the final), Zac Guildford, Sam Whitelock, and Aaron Smith all became All Blacks.

2011: The Greatest Ever?

The New Zealand roster in 2011 was stacked full of talent. Codie Taylor, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Beauden Barrett, Brad Weber, Charles Piutau, Lima Sopoaga, Francis Saili, TJ Perenara, and Waisake Naholo all became All Blacks.

Whitelock was the captain of the side that beat England 33-22 in the final.

England, by way of comparison, had George Ford, Owen Farrell, and Elliot Daly in their backline as well as Mako Vunipola, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde, Joe Launchbury, Sam Kvesic, and Sam Jones in their roster.

Ironically Brad Shields, a New Zealand squad member, later played for England. Ben Tameifuna (Tonga) and Gareth Anscombe (Wales) were also internationals.

New Zealand’s biggest win of the tournament was 92-0 against Wales and they beat Australia 37-7 in the semis.

The margin of victory eclipsed the 62-17 victory over Australia in the 2010 final. In that match, Tyler Bleyendaal scored 28 points, and Telusa Veainu three tries.

2017: English Destroyers

Watching hooker Asafo Aumua score three tries in a 64-17 demolition of England in the final was like jumping in a time machine and watching Jonah Lomu all over again. New Zealand ran rampant to win a tournament where there was a question mark initially about their forward resistance. In a 68-26 hiding of Italy for example, the side conceded multiple rolling maul tries. Aumua along with captain Luke Jacobson, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Braydon Ennor, and Will Jordan have become All Blacks. Others like Pouri Rakete-Stones, Isaia Walker-Leawere, and Tom Christie are regulars in Super Rugby.

The New Zealand Under 20 has won the most World Rugby Under 20 titles of any team with six (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017), France and England have won three titles each.

The Rugby Championship Under 20 match schedule

Thursday 2 May, Sunshine Coast Stadium

New Zealand v South Africa, 7pm NZT

Australia v Argentina, 9pm NZT

Tuesday 7 May, Sunshine Coast Stadium

New Zealand v Argentina, 7pm NZT

Australia v South Africa, 9pm NZT

Sunday 12 May, Sunshine Coast Stadium

South Africa v Argentina, 3.30pm NZT

Australia v New Zealand, 5.30pm NZT

Watch all games LIVE on Sky Sport NZ.


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