The Ireland Under-20s will kick off the 2017 World Rugby U-20 Championship in Georgia against Italy on Wednesday, May 31. The match schedule for the tournament was announced today.
The Ireland Under-20s reached the final of the 2016 tournament in Manchester, recording an historic win over New Zealand along the way. For 2016, the Irish youngsters are drawn in Pool B along with Scotland, Italy and New Zealand again.
The Georgians will host the tournament for the first time when the event gets underway in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. The pool stages will be played on May 31 and June 4 and 8, with the semi-finals on June 13 and the final at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi on June 18.
Pool A sees 2016 champions England face Australia, Wales and Samoa, who were promoted to the U-20 Championship after winning the U-20 Trophy in Zimbabwe this year.
Pool B, which will be based in Kutaisi, will see 2016 runners-up Ireland play New Zealand, Scotland and Italy, while Pool C will see some tremendous clashes as hosts Georgia tackle Argentina, South Africa and France in Tbilisi.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Under-20 Championship is proving to be an enormously popular and important tournament and it plays a key developmental role in preparing the future stars of the game.
“Rugby is growing at an incredible rate in Georgia and interest is at an all time high. I have no doubt that we’ll see passionate and energetic crowds in Tbilisi and Kutaisi next year as all 12 teams put on a masterclass for fans.
“With preparations continuing for Rugby World Cup 2019, many of the players we see in Georgia could also feature on the greatest stage in Japan in just under three years’ time.”
Georgia Rugby Union President Gocha Svanidze added: “The whole country is excited about the fact that in less than a year’s time, we will host the future stars of world rugby in Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
“Fans from all over the world can now plan their journey to Georgia to support the future stars of world rugby and experience the world famous Georgian hospitality. We all are determined that, along with the support of our national government and World Rugby, this will be one of the most successful U-20 Championships.”
More than 430 players have made the step up from the U-20 Championship to the international arena since the tournament (formerly the Junior World Championship) began in 2008.
Three teams have lifted the coveted trophy – New Zealand (2008-11 and 2015), South Africa (2012) and England (2013, 2014 and 2016).
The nine captains to have lifted the coveted trophy are Chris Smith (New Zealand, 2008), Aaron Cruden (New Zealand, 2009), current Munster out-half Tyler Bleyendaal (New Zealand, 2010), Luke Whitelock (New Zealand, 2011), Wiaan Liebenberg (South Africa, 2012), Jack Clifford (England, 2013), Maro Itoje (England, 2014), Atu Moli (New Zealand, 2015) and Harry Mallinder (England, 2016).