5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
The 12 teams are now settled at their bases in Nantes, Vannes and La Roche-sur-Yon in north west France with the scene set for a thrilling event, and all the captains, including Ireland's Luke McGrath, have their sights on lifting the coveted trophy.
McGrath was part of the Ireland Under-20 team that claimed a best ever finish of fifth at last year's tournament in South Africa, and the Leinster scrum half is hoping for more of the same as Mike Ruddock's youngsters try to negotiate a difficult pool.
The Ireland U-20s have been paired with perennial winners New Zealand, Australia and Fiji in Pool B, with an opening night fixture against the Australians in Vannes foremost in their minds at present.
"(Beating South Africa on day one last year) kind of set us up nicely for the rest of the tournament. Most people are saying that the first game is probably the most important one because it kind of sets you up," said McGrath.
"So, it's very important we get that win on Wednesday. We're just focused on Australia for now.
"We are used to playing the Six Nations sides every year, so I suppose it is really good for our learning experience to play against these southern Hemisphere sides. Playing against them we can learn a lot and everyone is really looking forward to getting out on the pitch and playing."
He added: "All is good in camp. We had a very good campaign (at the 2012 Junior World Championship), we stuck together as a team and got through it.
"It's a tough tournament, we had good squad rotation last year which really helped and there was a lot of belief in the team. It is looking similar this year hopefully, we have a lot of competition for places and everyone is on the same page."
McGrath's Australian counterpart, Curtis Browning, commented on Wednesday's opponents: "The Irish put in a strong performance in the Six Nations and we know they are going to be solid around the park and really tight in the forwards and they will really put it to us for the full 80 minutes."
Building on last year's record-breaking tournament in South Africa, the 2013 Junior World Championship will be beamed to almost 317 million homes around the world, in 184 countries, a record broadcast for the competition which is now in its sixth year.
Seventeen matches will also be streamed live for overseas supporters on www.irb.com, while Irish viewers can follow the fortunes of Ruddock's side with all three of their pool matches broadcast live on TG4 and Sky Sports. The Irish language channel will also have live coverage of the semi-finals and final.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Talking to the captains this afternoon, you get a sense of just how exciting this year's tournament is going to be.
"There are some mouth-watering matches in store and personally I can't wait to see France take on England in 'Le Crunch' at La Roche-sur-Yon on Wednesday.
"These players have an excellent opportunity at this tournement, and it's up to them to grasp it with both hands. The scene is set, the preparations are in place and now it's just all down the players to give it their best."
Fédération Française du Rugby President Pierre Camou added: "The FFR is proud to organise the IRB Junior World Championship as being the host of such event is a sign of confidence from the International Rugby Board.
"I know the committees of Pays de Loire and Brittany have the ability to succeed in the face of this challenge and promote the Game in their territory with this competition."
Since 2008, the Junior World Championship has provided the springboard for more than 200 players to graduate to the Test arena, including 2013 British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, Ireland and Lions scrum half Conor Murray, Ireland's summer tour captain Peter O'Mahony and 2011 Rugby World Cup winners Aaron Cruden, Sam Whitelock and Zac Guildford.
IRELAND UNDER-20S' IRB JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES:
POOL B -
Wednesday, June 5: Ireland Under-20s v Australia Under-20s, Stade de la Rabine, Vannes, 6.45pm local time/5.45pm Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 3 red button/Sky Sports Xtra)
Sunday, June 9: Ireland Under-20s v Fiji Under-20s, Stade de la Rabine, Vannes, 6.45pm local time/5.45pm Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 4/HD4)
Thursday, June 13: New Zealand Under-20s v Ireland Under-20s, Stade de la Rabine, Vannes, 6.45pm local time/5.45pm Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 3 red button/Sky Sports Xtra)
Tuesday, June 18 and Sunday, June 23
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