- World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont excited by future of the men’s game
- France claim back-to-back titles as Argentina prove hosting capabilities
- Passion, colour, atmosphere and competitive rugby light-up tournament
- Italy named as host of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2020
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has hailed this year’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina as “one of the great tournaments” after watching a thrilling final day of action.
France claimed back-to-back titles with a 24-23 victory over Australia in a pulsating match that will be remembered as one of the best finals in the competition’s 12-year history, confirming that the future of the game is exceptionally bright.
Beaumont said: “I would like to congratulate France on a second successive win – they fully deserve their crown – and Australia on playing their part in the best U20 final that I have seen, but everyone is a winner in this important age-grade competition.
“The Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) hosted a magnificent championship – one of the great tournaments – and I would like to thank Marcelo Rodríguez, my friend Agustín Pichot and the UAR team for delivering an outstanding event for teams and fans. It certainly has enhanced the stature of the championship as an exciting proposition for fans around the world.”
Played across five gripping match days, the tournament captured the imagination of the host country, as the future stars of rugby showcased the very best of the sport both on and off the field. The pinnacle of age-grade rugby offered up plenty of excitement, colour and atmosphere to enthusiastic crowds across the two host cities, Rosario and Santa Fe, thanks to a number of sell-out sessions and a passionate local fan base.
To the delight of the host nation, Los Pumitas centre Juan Pablo Castro was named Breakthrough Player of the Tournament.
The scintillating action caught the attention of audiences worldwide with broadcast coverage in more than 85 territories across the globe. In France alone more than 4.6 million viewers tuned in to the U20 Championship with over 2.2 million fans watching the final live on France 4.
There were also impressive audiences on digital media with more than 44 million video views recorded on World Rugby’s social media platforms during the tournament, marking a five per cent increase from 2018.
South American fans enjoyed a record amount of Spanish language content with more than 630 posts on World Rugby channels. As a result, 12,000 new fans joined on Spanish channels, which included the launch of World Rugby’s spanish Instagram account that has already attracted 10,300 new fans.
Hosts Argentina were top of the digital discussion with 12% of the conversation and ranking in the top four global locations using the #WorldRugbyU20s hashtag. An outstanding try by Argentina’s Thomas Gallo was the top performing piece of content with over 650,000 video views.
On the pitch over the past three weeks, rugby’s premier age-grade tournament has demonstrated the strength, depth and breadth of the competition at U20 level, highlighted by six-time champions New Zealand failing to make the top six in the tournament for the first time ever.
The U20 Championship is a key component of World Rugby’s elite player pathway and continues to be a rich breeding ground for tomorrow’s test stars. Eight players involved in last year’s edition in France have already gone on to make their test debuts and this year will no doubt see several more progress. In total, 655 players have graduated from the tournament to the test arena since the U20 Championship was first held in 2008.
The tournament also offered a taste of the growing popularity of the sport in both Argentina and South America, as rugby in the region continues to grow at a rapid pace. There are now more than 680,000 people playing across the continent, while Argentina alone boasts 121,000 registered players nationwide. The number of people watching and enjoying rugby in the region has also risen to an incredible 198.2 million, signifying a bright future for the sport in South America.
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Agustín Pichot said: "I was proud to enjoy such an incredible tournament take place in my home country – from the passion and excitement of the fans who came to watch, to the warm welcome that was extended to all teams by the host cities of Rosario and Santa Fe, it was a joy to be part of. Rugby holds an important place in Argentinian community as this tournament demonstrated, and with the sport growing rapidly both here and across the region, the future looks very bright.”
South America is hosting a trio of World Rugby events across June and July. In addition to the annual showcase Americas Rugby Championship, alongside the U20 Championship in Argentina, Uruguay hosted the World Rugby Nations Cup earlier this month, which served as vital preparation for hosts Uruguay, Argentina XV, Russia and Namibia ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019. Next month, attention turns to neighbouring Brazil, who will host the World Rugby U20 Trophy for the first time.
The World Rugby U20 Championship hosting baton has now been passed to Italy, who will welcome the world’s best young players in 2020 – the third time the tournament has taken place in the country after 2011 and 2015. Further details on the location and dates of the 2020 tournament will be announced soon.