The Ireland Under-20s, sponsored by PwC, have been drawn with hosts France, South Africa and Georgia for next summer’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship, following confirmation that the tournament will be held in France.
2018 WORLD RUGBY UNDER-20 CHAMPIONSHIP POOLS:
POOL A: New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Japan
POOL B: England, Scotland, Italy, Argentina
POOL C: South Africa, France, IRELAND, Georgia
World Rugby has announced that France will host to the 2018 World Rugby Under-20 Championship with matches being played in Béziers, Perpignan and Narbonne, across five match days (May 30, June 3, June 7, June 12 and June 17).
With the Ireland Under-20s draw in Pool C with the host nation, their U-20 Six Nations opener against the French in Brive on Friday, February 2 will have added significance as both teams look to gain a psychological advantage ahead of next summer’s clash.
Last season’s Ireland U-20s won their final two matches against Samoa (52-26) and Georgia (24-18) to secure a ninth place finish at the 2017 World Rugby U-20 Championship, and a number of players from that squad will return for a second year at the U-20 grade.
They will renew rivalries with the up-and-coming Georgians in the pool stages next summer. Indeed, this will be the third successive World Rugby tournament that Ireland have played the Junior Lelos. The 2016 side, who finished as runners-up under the captaincy of James Ryan, recorded a 35-7 victory over Georgia during the pool stages in Manchester.
Ireland have not played France in a World Rugby U-20 Championship fixture since losing 19-13 in their 2014 pool opener in Auckland, while the Ireland U-20s’ most recent meeting with South Africa was back in June 2012 when they opened that year’s tournament with a superb 23-19 win over the hosts in Stellenbosch.
Seven current senior internationals were on the field that night in South Africa – Chris Farrell, Kieran Marmion, Niall Scannell, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan and Luke McGrath – along with Munster’s JJ Hanrahan, the man-of-the-match for Mike Ruddock’s youngsters, and Tadhg Beirne who is set to join Farrell, Scannell and Hanrahan at Munster next summer.
The 2018 tournament features three pools of four teams, with the pool winners and the best runner-up progressing to the semi-finals. New Zealand are the reigning champions, having won their sixth title in 10 years with a resounding 64-17 final win over England in Georgia last June.
South Africa claimed third place at the expense of France, with hooker Johan Grobbelaar crossing for a brace of tries in their 37-15 final day victory. The French Under-20s have finished fourth on three occasions in the last seven years.
The pool matches next May and June will be played at Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan, Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers and Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l’Amitié in Narbonne. The semi-final and final venues will be announced in due course.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby U-20 Championship is a proven finishing school for aspiring international players, with some of the biggest names in the game having graduated amongst a group of more than 550 internationals, including double World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Beauden Barrett.
“Following the success of Georgia, which broke all social media records, we are delighted to be heading to France and the rugby cities of Narbonne, Béziers and Perpignan. I am sure that the Championship will capture the imagination and it will be fascinating to see who graduates to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.”
FFR President Bernard Laporte added: “We are honoured to be hosting the World Rugby U-20 Championship, which plays an important role in the international development of the sport. It is a proven developer of young talent and players who graduate from France 2018 will go on to compete at the highest level at future Rugby World Cups, including 2023 in France.”