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Captains ready for challenge in Argentina
The captains of the 12 teams contesting the World Rugby U20 Championship 2019 came together in Santa Fe and Rosario.
With 180 kilometres separating the two cities hosting the World Rugby U20 Championship 2019 matches, the 12 captains were split across Santa Fe and Rosario.
The captains of the five teams based in Santa Fe and the seven based in Rosaio met at iconic locations in each city to launch the premier age-grade tournament with the traditional captains' photos.
On Santa Fe's promenade, with the Puente Colgante (Hanging Bridge) as a backdrop, the captains of 2018 runners-up England (Fraser Dingwall), World Rugby U20 Trophy 2018 winners Fiji (Tevita Ikanivere), Australia (Fraser McReight), Italy (Davide Ruggeri) and Ireland (Charlie Ryan) came face-to-face with each other.
Meanwhile, in Rosario, with the Nuestra Señora del Rosario bridge over the River Paraná, which connects the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos, behind them the same was true for the captains of South Africa (Phendulani Buthelezi), Wales (Dewi Lake), Georgia (Tedo Abzhandadze), Scotland (Connor Boyle), New Zealand (Kianu Kereru Symes, defending champions France (Arthur Vincent) and hosts Argentina (Juan Pablo Castro).
The 12th edition of the World Rugby U20 Championship gets underway on Tuesday and the teams are all raring to go.
“We are in a very good place now, already polishing final details ahead of our first game against Wales,” insisted Castro, who will play in his third U20 Championship with Los Pumitas.
“We’ve seen Wales in action but we are mostly focusing on ourselves. If we do things well, we can win. But for that, we must be focused on our game plan.
“I am very proud to be the captain, a prize to the effort done over the last years. Representing friends, family, club mates is great, knowing that we are playing at home.”
New Zealand are the most successful team in U20 Championship history, having won the title six times, including nine years ago when the tournament was last hosted in Argentina.
“To represent my country in this tournament is such an honour,” said captain Kianu Kereru Symes. “When you look at the people that wore the shirt before, a lot of people that have done well for themselves on and off the field.
“In our first game, we are playing Georgia, who are actually in the same hotel as us so it is interesting. We expect them to be a forwards orientated team but with good backs, they are big boys. We are looking forward to playing them.”
A huge honour
Opening the first round at the Hipódromo de Rosario will be the other Pool C teams in South Africa and Scotland.
“To be playing in the Championship for the Junior Springboks is a massive honour, a dream of mine and to be here, captaining the side is something I will cherish forever,” said Buthelezi.
“It is a very big honour being here and hopefully I can also go on and play for the Springboks one day.
“We have got Scotland first, a very physical team. They like to maul a lot so it is something we have worked on this week. We’ve prepared well and are looking forward to Tuesday and playing for our country.”
Among the teams in Santa Fe are Australia, runners-up in the 2010 final in Rosario, who arrive in Argentina on a high after winning a first Oceania Rugby U20 Championship title last month. They will kick-off proceedings at CRAI against U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland.
“It is a huge honour to represent your country in anything, let alone U20s right here in Argentina. It is pretty special, to travel to some cool places around the world and do it with your mates.
“It is unreal and even better to be captain of your side, to do that here. The U20s is a perfect platform for myself and I am here to grow as a human and leader and I know it will help me progress in my career.”
Photos: Franco Perego and Leo Galletto