A traditional New Zealand Maori welcome launched the IRB Junior World Championship as captains and coaches gathered for the official tournament start in Auckland on Friday.
With just three days to go until the Under-20 tournament gets underway, the captains met for the first time before getting ready to do battle during the premier age-grade competition.
At the Orakei Marae in Auckland the players were joined by All Black legend and IRB Tournament Ambassador Jonah Lomu who passed on his words of wisdom.
“For me it’s a great honour to be asked by the IRB to be an Ambassador for this Junior World Championship,” said Lomu.
“I know what I have to do in terms of being out here and supporting the tournament but also I’m really looking forward to watching it, because the future of world rugby is here on our doorstep.
“This is the time when you see rugby in its raw form and it’s great. These guys are here to impress, they’re still at the stage where they want to showcase their skills. They could be the new household names of world rugby.”
Ireland get their Pool B campaign underway at QBE Stadium on Monday (kick-off 5.35pm local time/6.35am Irish time) when they take on this year’s Six Nations champions France in a key clash.
The pool opener will be broadcast live on TG4 and there will be a full repeat on the channel at 11.35am Irish time. You can also catch the game live on Sky Sports 1 (red button).
Ireland vice-captain Ross Byrne, who made four starts at out-half during the Six Nations, said: “Preparation has been pretty good, we have had a few injuries but the guys that have come in have brought a lot of energy. So far so good, we are looking sharper every time we train.
“We are here to win and we will take it one game at a time. If we win the first game (against France) then we get a bit of momentum and see where we go from there.”
All Junior World Championship matches will also be streamed live on IRB.com, however some regions will be geo-blocked due to rights agreements. Viewers should check with the broadcaster in their region for more details.
Fans travelling to the tournament in New Zealand can find out more information on tickets here.
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew commented: “It’s a great privilege for us and we really appreciate the importance of this event. A lot of our own players from the past four or five years have gone on to be a fully fledged All Black.
“All the countries that are here have got their future talent on show. We take the opportunity and responsibility incredibly seriously and we’re looking forward to putting on a great event.”
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