The World Rugby U20 Championship kicks off on Wednesday, with reigning champions England beginning their 2017 campaign against Samoa.
The competition, now in its 10th year, has been renowned for producing some of the best players in the world. Aaron Cruden, Tyler Bleyendaal and Maro Itoje are just some of the names that have graced the competition, that have also gone on to lift the World Rugby U20 Championship Cup.
The World Rugby U20 Championship will broadcast to over 110 countries around the world when the tournament kicks off next week in Georgia
— Brett Gosper (@brettgosper) May 25, 2017
2017 will be no different and will set the stage for the great players of tomorrow. Here’s just three of the key players to watch in Georgia.
Playing in his second U20 Championship, Zach Mercer has taken the Premiership by storm. Starring in a number of fixtures for Bath, Mercer has gone from strength to strength for both club and country. Mercer’s back-row versatility has proven difficult for defences to handle and after an impressive U20 Six Nations campaign, was unlucky not to be included in Eddie Jones’ England squad for Argentina. Mercer started all five Six Nations ties, scoring in three that culminated in a grand slam victory in Dublin.
Recently named the Rugby Players Association ‘Young Player of the Year’ Mercer’s leadership in the Six Nations victory will once again make his England side firm favourites in Georgia.
Son of former Hurricanes and Maori All Black Gordon Falcon, young Tiaan Falcon has been a pivotal figure for Hawke’s Bay in recent seasons. Falcon was duly rewarded with a starting spot in the Hurricanes’ pre-season outing against the Blues. His steady rise continues to impress and a stand out debut for the Baby Blacks against Fiji in the opening round of the Oceania U20 Championships proved influential in his inclusion for the squad to Georgia.
Falcon was equally impressive in New Zealand’s dominant final 43-6 win over Australia, taking the Oceania title home for the third consecutive season.
Teenage sensation Curwin Bosch has been a key figure for Super Rugby franchise the Sharks this season. The South African fly-half has made an immediate impact in the competition, having racked up 13 appearances for the Durban-based side and scoring 133 points in the process. Bosch will head to Georgia for his second U20 Championship, following his inclusion in 2016. His current rate of success could also see him ear-marked for the South African national squad sooner rather than later.
Planning for the World Cup in 2019 could see him rewarded for his efforts as they seek to build a team to compete for the title. His Super Rugby and Currie Cup experience will be put to the test in Georgia as the Junior Boks look to land their first U20 title since 2012.
2017 U20 Championship – Georgia
The 12 team tournament will run from May 31 – June 18. Sides have been seeded into three pools of four teams, with each playing three matches to qualify for the knock-out stages.
- Pool stages – Round 1: Wed 31 May
- Pool stages – Round 2: Sun 4 June
- Pool stages – Round 3: Thurs 8 June
- Semi-finals: Tues 13 June
- Final: Sun 18 June