France will begin the defence of the World Rugby U20 Championship when the 12th edition of the premier age-grade tournament kicks off in the Argentinian cities of Rosario and Santa Fe on 4 June.

First held in Wales in 2008, when it was known as the Junior World Championship, only four teams have lifted the distinctive trophy in New Zealand, South Africa, England and France, but the 2019 edition promises to be the most competitive yet, with newly-crowned Oceania champions Australia and Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland among those vying to win the coveted title.

The tournament is already a proven pathway to the top with a total of 655 players have graduated from the U20 Championship to play test rugby since New Zealand won that inaugural title.

U20 Championship 2008

Host: Wales
Dates: 6-22 June
Venues: Cardiff Arms Park (Cardiff), Rodney Parade (Newport), Liberty Stadium (Swansea), Racecourse Ground (Wrexham)

Pool A – New Zealand, Argentina, Ireland, Tonga
Pool B – South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, USA
Pool C – England, Australia, Canada, Fiji
Pool D – Wales, France, Italy, Japan


New Zealand 31-6 Wales
England 26-18 South Africa

New Zealand 38-3 England

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Luke Braid (NZL)
Winning captain: Chris Smith (NZL)
Winning coaches: Dave Rennie and Russel Hilton-Jones (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Sam Whitelock (NZL) 108, Will Genia (AUS) 100, Rob Simmons (AUS) 94

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,985
Tries: 257

Top point scorer
Player: Francois Brummer (RSA) 67
Team: South Africa 257

Top try scorer
Player: Ratu Nasiganyavi (AUS) 7 (Now known as Nemani Nadolo, FIJ)
Team: South Africa 37

New Zealand were in a class of their own at the inaugural World Rugby U20 Championship in 2008, where their brand of free-flowing rugby saw them win every match by at least 25 points. Three quarters of the squad in Wales had helped New Zealand dominate the U19 Championship a year earlier and the new tournament – which replaced the U19 and U21 events – saw more of the same with 242 points and 34 tries scored and only 28 points and one try conceded by a team captained by second-row Chris Smith. Labelled “a special group” by co-coach Russel Hilton-Jones, New Zealand overwhelmed England 38-3 in the final at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea with Kade Poki, Jackson Willison, Andre Taylor and Ryan Crotty their try-scorers. South Africa finished third after a 43-18 win over a Wales side captained by Sam Warburton, while USA were relegated to the second tier U20 Trophy in 2009 after losing the 16th place play-off to Japan 44-8.  

U20 Championship 2009

Host: Japan
Dates: 5-21 June
Venues: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium (Tokyo), Mizuho Rugby Ground (Nagoya), Level 5 Stadium (Fukuoka), Best Amenity Stadium (Saga)

Pool A – New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Uruguay
Pool B – England, Samoa, Scotland, Japan
Pool C – South Africa, France, Fiji, Italy
Pool D – Australia, Wales, Tonga, Canada


New Zealand 31-17 Australia
England 40-21 South Africa

New Zealand 44-28 England

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Aaron Cruden (NZL)
Winning captain: Aaron Cruden (NZL)
Winning coach: Dave Rennie (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Rob Simmons (AUS) 94, Ben Youngs (ENG/Lions) 87, James Slipper (AUS) 86

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,973
Tries: 257

Top point scorer
Player: Tom Homer (ENG) 68
Team: New Zealand 215

Top try scorer
Player: Zac Guildford (NZL) 8
Team: New Zealand 33

With only one of New Zealand’s 2008 team returning in Zac Guildford, it was Australia who arrived in Japan as favourites given the Super Rugby players in their ranks such as Kurtley Beale. Australia showed why in the pool stages with three dominant displays, while New Zealand failed to find that 80-minute performance. The rivals met in the semi-finals but, contrary to expectations, it was New Zealand who finally delivered with captain Aaron Cruden pulling the strings in a 31-17 victory. England emerged victorious, 40-21, in the other semi-final against a South African side that had scored 43 unanswered points in their Pool C decider with France to recover from 20-0 down after 30 minutes. On finals day in Tokyo heavy rain fell until just before the title decider, but while England were more competitive than 12 months earlier, they never recovered from a two-try blitz from the inspirational Cruden and New Zealand defended their crown with a seven-try 44-28 win. South Africa finished third again after coping better with the wet conditions than Australia. With the tournament being cut from 16 to 12 teams for 2010, the teams who finished bottom of their pools were relegated in Canada, Japan, Italy and debutants Uruguay.

U20 Championship 2010

Host: Argentina
Dates: 5-21 June
Venues: Estadio CA Colon (Santa Fe), Club Atletico Estudiantes (Paraná), Estadio El Coloso del Parque (Rosario)

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Fiji, Samoa
Pool B – England, France, Argentina, Ireland
Pool C – Australia, South Africa, Scotland, Tonga


Australia 28-16 England
New Zealand 36-7 South Africa

New Zealand 62-17 Australia

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea (NZL)
Winning captain: Tyler Bleyendaal (NZL)
Winning coach: Dave Rennie (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Taulupe Faletau (WAL/Lions) 76, Joe Marler (ENG) 59, Tevita Kuridrani (AUS) 58

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,569
Tries: 179

Top point scorer
Player: Tyler Bleyendaal (NZL) 82
Team: New Zealand 262

Top try scorer
Player: Julian Savea (NZL) 8
Team: New Zealand 33

The 2010 edition certainly left its mark on the Litoral region of Argentina with thousands of fans attending matches across the venues in Rosario, Santa Fe and Paraná and creating atmospheres to savour. They were treated to some thrilling matches and tension, particularly when the hosts needed a kicking competition to beat Wales after the sides had drawn 19-19 on day four. Australia reached a first final after back-to-back wins over South Africa and England, but the title decider proved a match too far as New Zealand produced what coach Dave Rennie labelled “pretty close” to the perfect performance. Captain Tyler Bleyendaal pulled the strings, scoring 28 points in their seven-try, 62-17 victory, with winger Telusa Veainu scoring a hat-trick. South Africa finished third again after beating England 27-22, while Samoa were condemned to relegation to the U20 Trophy – to be replaced by 2010 winners Italy – in 2011 after losing the 11th place-play-off 23-3 to Tonga. Earlier in the tournament, Ireland captain Rhys Ruddock had been called away to join up with the senior squad in Australia as injury cover and his subsequent test debut meant that all 17 nations to grace the U20 Championship had capped a graduate.

U20 Championship 2011

Host: Italy
Dates: 10-26 June
Venues: Stadio Maria Battaglini (Rovigo), Stadio Communale di Monigo (Treviso), Stadio Plebiscito (Padova) 

Pool A – New Zealand, Argentina, Wales, Italy
Pool B – Australia, France, Fiji, Tonga
Pool C – England, South Africa, Ireland, Scotland


England 33-18 France
New Zealand 37-7 Australia

New Zealand 33-22 England

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: George Ford (ENG)
Winning captain: Luke Whitelock (NZL)
Winning coach: Mark Anscombe (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Michael Hooper (AUS) 91, Brodie Retallick (NZL) 75, Eben Etzebeth (RSA) 75

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,640
Tries: 204

Top point scorer
Player: Gareth Anscombe (NZL) 86
Team: New Zealand 274

Top try scorer
Player: Arno Botha (RSA) / Christian Wade (ENG) 7
Team: New Zealand 37

New Zealand and England met for the third time in four U20 Championship finals and while the result was the same, this was the closest the champions had come to losing a title decider. Six Nations Grand Slam winners England dominated the early exchanges in Padova but couldn’t turn it into points on the scoreboard. New Zealand, by contrast, made the most of their opportunities and the fact that Gareth Anscombe didn’t miss a kick ultimately proved the difference in a 33-22 victory – their 20th in a row. Australia had avenged their Pool B decider loss to France to finish third, while Fiji felt the wrath of a South African side who had failed to reach the last four with a 104-17 mauling. Despite that final day loss, Fiji still left Italy with their best finish of sixth. Hosts Italy also had cause to celebrate on the final day when they beat Tonga 34-22 in the 11th place play-off to retain their place in the top tier, condemning the Pacific islanders to relegation to the U20 Trophy in 2012.

U20 Championship 2012

Host: South Africa 
Dates: 4-22 June
Venues: Danie Craven Stadium (Stellenbosch), University of the Western Cape Stadium, Cape Town Stadium, Newlands Stadium (Cape Town)

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Fiji, Samoa
Pool B – England, South Africa, Ireland, Italy
Pool C – Australia, France, Scotland, Argentina


New Zealand 30-6 Wales
South Africa 35-3 Argentina

South Africa 22-16 New Zealand

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Jan Serfontein (RSA)
Winning captain: Wiaan Liebenberg (RSA)
Winning coach: Dawie Theron (RSA)

Most capped graduates: Pablo Matera (ARG) 58, Tommaso Allan (ITA) 48, Pieter-Steph du Toit (RSA) 46

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,343
Tries: 165

Top point scorer
Player: Tom Prydie (WAL) 61
Team: Wales 158

Top try scorer
Player: Jamie Farndale (SCO) 6
Team: Scotland 21

The form book was ripped up in 2012 with the final contested for the first time by two teams who had lost a pool match, hosts South Africa falling to Ireland and New Zealand suffering their first ever U20 Championship loss, against Wales. It was the dream final, between the hosts and the four-time defending champions, and the 35,000 crowd packed into Newlands Stadium ensured it was played in a cauldron of noise. Two second-half tries, one by centre Jan Serfontein, gave South Africa the breathing space to survive the final 10 minutes when New Zealand threw all they had at their hosts. South Africa had ended New Zealand’s vice-like grip on the trophy, but it had also been a breakthrough tournament for Argentina who finished fourth after defeat to Wales on the final day. England could only finish a disappointing seventh, while Fiji had to dig deep to survive a fight-back by Italy to win the relegation battle 19-17 and condemn the Italians to the U20 Trophy in 2013.

U20 Championship 2013

Host: France 
Dates: 5-23 June
Venues: Stade Henri Desgranges (La Roche-sur-Yon), Stade de la Rabine (Vannes), Stade Pascal Laporte (Nantes) 

Pool A – South Africa, England, France, USA
Pool B – New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Fiji
Pool C – Wales, Argentina, Scotland, Samoa


Wales 18-17 South Africa
England 33-21 New Zealand 

England 23-15 Wales

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Sam Davies (WAL)
Winning captain: Jack Clifford (ENG)
Winning coach: Nick Walshe (ENG)

Most capped graduates: Pablo Matera (ARG) 58, Jonny Gray (SCO) 51, Tommaso Allan (ITA) 48

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,550
Tries: 189

Top point scorer
Player: Patricio Fernandez (ARG) 82
Team: England 219

Top try scorer
Player: Seabelo Senatla (RSA) 7
Team: South Africa 30

The first final to feature two northern hemisphere teams was the proverbial game of two halves. Touches of brilliance from Welsh fly-half Sam Davies saw his side lead 15-3 at half-time in Vannes, but once Jack Nowell scored just before the hour mark the momentum swung England’s way and the 23-15 win meant they finally got their hands on the trophy after three previous final defeats. England, who only made the last four as the best runner-up after losing to South Africa, had beaten New Zealand for the first time at age grade level in the semi-finals, while Davies was Wales’ hero against the Junior Springboks, setting up a try in the final minute and then nailing the touchline conversion for the 18-17 win. South Africa won an 11-try thriller with New Zealand to finish third, while Fiji proved too strong for USA in the 11th place play-off, winning 46-12 to condemn the Junior All-Americans to an immediate return to the U20 Trophy they had won in 2012.

U20 Championship 2014

Host: New Zealand 
Dates: 1-20 June 
Venues: QBE Stadium and Eden Park (Auckland), ECOLight Stadium (Pukekohe)

Pool A – England, Argentina, Australia, Italy
Pool B – Wales, France, Ireland, Fiji
Pool C – South Africa, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland


England 42-15 Ireland
South Africa 32-25 New Zealand

England 21-20 South Africa

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Handré Pollard (RSA)
Winning captain: Maro Itoje (ENG)
Winning coach: Nick Walshe (ENG)

Most capped graduates: Guido Petti (ARG) 45, Jesse Kriel (RSA) 40, Handré Pollard (RSA) 39

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,473
Tries: 187

Top point scorer
Player: Patricio Fernandez (ARG) 73
Team: New Zealand 196

Top try scorer
Player: Andrew Kellaway (AUS) 10
Team: New Zealand 28

Two previous winners met in a U20 Championship final for the first time and England and South Africa produced a pulsating encounter at Eden Park. It took time to spark into life, but had fans on the edge of their seats as it edged one way then the other. Jesse Kriel scored twice for South Africa but England’s defence held firm, surviving a drop goal attempt from the impressive Handré Pollard, to win 21-20 and retain their title. Hosts New Zealand had twice been beaten by South Africa, but finished on a high after four second-half tries against a gutsy Irish side were enough to secure third place, while winger Andrew Kellaway set a new record for tries in a single championship with a brace as Australia fought back to beat France 34-27 in the battle for fifth place. Meanwhile, Fiji were relegated to the U20 Trophy in 2015 after losing the 11th place play-off to Italy 22-17.

U20 Championship 2015

Host: Italy
Dates: 2-20 June 
Venues: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi (Parma), Stadio San Michele (Calvisano), Stadio Luigi Zaffanella (Viadana), Stadio Giovanni Zini (Cremona)

Pool A – England, France, Wales, Japan
Pool B – South Africa, Australia, Samoa, Italy
Pool C – New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Scotland


New Zealand 45-7 France
South Africa 20-28 England

New Zealand 21-16 England

Winning captain: Atu Moli (NZL)
Winning coach: Scott Robertson (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Anton Lienert-Brown (NZL) 33, Emiliano Boffelli (ARG) 23, Garry Ringrose (IRE) 20

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,432
Tries: 180

Top point scorer
Player: Brandon Thomson (RSA) 59
Team: New Zealand 191

Top try scorer
Player: Tevita Li (NZL) 6
Team: New Zealand 24

New Zealand won the first four tournaments but had endured a barren time since. However back on Italian soil, where they had won their last title in 2011, they got their hands on the silverware for a fifth time with a 21-16 victory over England. Akira Ioane scored the only try of the second half and that proved the difference come the final whistle in Cremona. South Africa overcame France to finish third as Hanro Liebenberg came up short in his hopes of following in his brother Wiaan’s footsteps and lifting the trophy. Scotland and Japan, on their return to the U20 Championship, recorded their highest finishes of eighth and 10th, while the relegation battle went right down to the final play, Samoa missing with a penalty attempt from halfway that would have condemned Italy to relegation to the U20 Trophy in 2016. Instead, the 20-19 loss meant Samoa slipped once more back to the second tier.

U20 Championship 2016

Host: England 
Dates: 7-25 June 
Venues: AJ Bell Stadium and Manchester City Academy Stadium (Manchester)

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Ireland, Georgia 
Pool B – England, Australia, Scotland, Italy
Pool C – South Africa, France, Argentina, Japan


Ireland 37-7 Argentina
England 39-17 South Africa

England 45-21 Ireland

Winning captain: Harry Mallinder (ENG)
Winning coach: Martin Haag (ENG)

Most capped graduates: Marcos Kremer (ARG) 21, Jacob Stockdale (IRE) 19, James Ryan (IRE) 17

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,572  
Tries:  208

Top point scorer
Player: Harry Mallinder (ENG) 68
Team: New Zealand 223

Top try scorer
Player: Ataata Moeakiola (JPN) 6
Team: New Zealand 34

England became only the second host nation to lift the silverware after a tournament in Manchester that produced plenty of surprises along the way. Ireland had found themselves in a pool with defending champions New Zealand and Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales, but became the first Irish men’s team to beat New Zealand in topping Pool A. Argentina also upset the form book in beating South Africa not once but twice – including 49-19 on the final day – to record their best finish of third. Ireland reached the final for the first time, but couldn’t deny an England side inspired by captain Harry Mallinder their third title in four years. New Zealand failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time but bounced back to finish fifth while Georgia finished 10th on their debut, giving Wales and France real scares along the way. Italy survived another relegation battle to condemn Japan to the U20 Trophy in 2017 after a 41-17 defeat.

U20 Championship 2017

Host: Georgia 
Dates: 31 May-18 June 
Venues: Avchala Stadium and Mikheil Meskhi Stadium (Tbilisi) and Kutaisi Stadium (Kutiasi) 

Pool A – England, Australia, Wales, Samoa
Pool B – Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Italy
Pool C – Argentina, South Africa, France, Georgia


England 24-22 South Africa
New Zealand 39-26 France

England 17-64 New Zealand

Player of the Tournament: Juarno Augustus (RSA)
Winning captain: Luke Jacobson (NZL)
Winning coach: Craig Philpott (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Jordan Larmour (IRE) 13, Bautista Delguy (ARG) 11, Blair Kinghorn (SCO) 10

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,789  
Tries:  239

Top point scorer
Player: Tiaan Falcon (NZL) 69
Team: New Zealand 282

Top try scorer
Player: Juarno Augustus (RSA) 7
Team: New Zealand 41

New Zealand ripped up the U20 Championship record books in claiming a sixth title with their 64-17 victory over defending champions England seeing them score the most tries, most points and record the biggest winning margin in a final. The tournament in Georgia produced plenty of surprises along the way with the first draw in the competition's history, between France and South Africa on day one, as well as the highest ever finish for both Scotland (fifth) and Italy (eighth) with the latter not having to contend with a final day relegation battle as they had done in their previous five tournament appearances. Instead, it was Argentina and Samoa who faced that play-off with the Pacific Islanders losing 53-42 to drop down to the World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2018.

U20 Championship 2018

Host: France
Dates: 30 May-17 June
Venues: Stade de la Méditerranée (Béziers), Stade Aime Giral (Perpignan) and Stade D'Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l'Amitie (Narbonne)

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Australia, Japan
Pool B – England, Italy, Argentina, Scotland
Pool C – France, South Africa, Georgia, Ireland


England 32-31 South Africa
New Zealand 7-16 France

England 25-33 France

Player of the Tournament: Jordan Joseph (FRA)
Winning captain: Arthur Coville (FRA)
Winning coach: Sébastien Piqueronies (FRA)

Most-capped graduates: Tedo Abzhandadze (GEO) 7, Demba Bamba (FRA) 6, Guram Gogichashvili (GEO), Romain Ntamack (FRA), Damian Willemse (RSA) 5

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,628
Tries: 220

Top point scorer
Player: Louis Carbonel (FRA), 60
Team: Australia 178

Top try scorer
Player: Giovanni D'Onofrio (ITA), Wandisile Simelane (RSA), 6
Team: South Africa 26

France overturned their Six Nations loss to England at a sold-out Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers to become the fourth nation to add their name to the U20 Championship trophy. England outscored France three tries to two in the final but a 23-point contribution from the boot of Louis Carbonel, through seven penalties and a conversion, ensured it was Les Bleuets who came out on top, 33-25, to the delight of their passionate home support. England had claimed a thrilling one-point win over South Africa in the first semi-final with France dethroning defending champions New Zealand in the other, but there would be no stopping a team regarded as France's “golden generation” in the title decider. The tournament in France saw Italy match their best-ever finish of eighth from the previous year with Georgia showing their continued development by beating Ireland, Japan and Scotland to finish ninth. Ireland found themselves in the relegation play-off against Japan, needing a last-gasp try to triumph 39-33 and avoid dropping into the U20 Trophy in 2019.

Who will add their name to the honour roll come the final in Rosario on 22 June? Join the conversation @WorldRugby using #WorldRugbyU20s.