An immediate return to the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2020 is Japan’s sole focus in Brazil over the coming weeks as they prepare to compete with seven other teams for the right to win promotion to the top tier of age-grade international rugby. Japan find themselves outside of the elite having narrowly lost to Ireland in last year’s epic 11th place play-off in France.

Joining them from Asia are Hong Kong, who are looking to build on last year’s best-ever finish of sixth, while hosts Brazil are competing for the first time and eager to put on a good show.

Also representing South America are Uruguay, the inaugural champions in 2008 and the most experienced team in terms of matches played at this level. Los Teritos have won 56 per cent of their 36 U20 Trophy matches, the same ratio as Tonga, whose best finish was runners-up to Japan in 2014.

Kenya’s surprise qualification at the expense of African rivals Namibia sees them return to the U20 Trophy line-up for the first time in a decade, while Canada will hope to go one better than their second-place finishes of 2013 and 2015 having seen off the USA in the qualification process.

Portugal have medalled at the last two tournaments and many of the players on show in Uruguay and Romania have already been capped at senior level, proving that the U20 Trophy is just as rich a pathway to higher honours as its sister competition, the U20 Championship.


U20 Trophy 2008

Host: Chile
Dates: 15-27 April
Venues: Stade Français, Estadio San Carlos (both Santiago)

Pool A – Chile, Romania, Namibia, Cook Islands
Pool B – Uruguay, Georgia, Korea, Jamaica


Chile 8-20 Uruguay

Winning captain: Matías Fonseca
Winning coaches: Martin Mendaro and Bruno Grunwaldt

Most capped graduates: Diego Magno (URU) 80, Lasha Khmaladze (GEO) 73, Leandro Leivas (URU) 67 

Tournament statistics
Points: 877
Tries: 126

Top point scorer
Player: Goderdzi Joglidze (GEO) - 50
Team: Georgia - 190

Top try scorer
Player: Kim Hyun Soo (KOR) - 7
Team: Georgia – 28

A Los Teritos team containing a test captain in the making in Juan Manuel Gaminara and other future stars such as Diego Magno and Jeronimo Etcheverry broke the hearts of the partisan 7,000 crowd in attendance at the Stade Français Club in Santiago with a stirring come-from-behind win. A final between the two unbeaten sides from the pool stages looked to be heading the way of the home side when they raced into an 8-0 lead, but Los Teritos replied with 20 unanswered points, scoring tries through Magno and fly-half Germán Albanell, to take the inaugural title. The absence of a semi-final stage meant the pool runners-up went into a straight shootout for the bronze, Georgia winning an all-European affair with Romania, 34-10

U20 Trophy 2009

Host: Kenya
Dates: 21 April – 3 May
Venues: RFUEA Ground, Impala Ground (both Nairobi)

Pool A – USA, Kenya, Namibia, Cayman Islands
Pool B – Romania, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Korea


USA 13-25 Romania

Winning captain: Eduardo Marinca
Winning coaches: Mircea Parashiv

Most capped graduates: Cam Dolan (USA) 44, Johan Tromp (NAM) 40, Madalin Lemnaru (ROM) 35

Tournament statistics
Points: 1049
Tries: 152

Top point scorer
Player: Stefan Patrascu (ROM) 61
Team: Namibia 198

Top try scorer
Player: Ionut Puisoru (ROM) / Thomas Claps (CHI) / Sung Kun Cha (KOR) / Collins Omae (KEN) 5
Team: Namibia 30

Like the inaugural final, the eventual winners had to come from behind with Romania overhauling a 13-3 half-time deficit against the USA. Barry Sheehan’s yellow card on the stroke of half-time proved costly as Romania scored through Adrian Apostol within four minutes of the re-start before Marian Pirvu and Stefan Patrascu added their names to the scoresheet late on. With the U20 Championship being cut from 16 teams to 12 in 2010, champions Romania missed out on promotion. Maintaining their form from the year before, Chile claimed the bronze medal with a 19-17 win over hosts Kenya.

U20 Trophy 2010

Host: Russia
Dates: 18-30 May
Venues: Fili Stadium, Slava Stadium (both Moscow)

Pool A – Italy, Romania, Uruguay, Papua New Guinea
Pool B – Japan, Russia, Canada, Zimbabwe


Italy 36-7 Japan

Winning captain: Tommaso Benvenuti
Winning coaches: Andrea Cavinato

Most capped graduates: Andrés Vilaseca (URU) 46, Joaquin Prada (URU) 45, Ramil Gaisin (RUS) 43

Tournament statistics
Points: 703
Tries: 83

Top point scorer
Player: Alberto Chillon (ITA) 51
Team: Italy 156

Top try scorer
Player: Takaaki Nakazuru (JPN) 4
Team: Italy 22

Despite being guaranteed a return to the top-tier U20 Championship in 2011 as hosts of World Rugby’s premier age-grade tournament, Italy were determined to take their place among the elite in their own right as U20 Trophy champions. Kicking off with comfortable wins against Papua New Guinea (74-0) and defending champions Romania (30-7) in Pool A of what was a hugely competitive tournament with Japan, Canada and Uruguay also having played at a higher level the year before, the Azzurrini then beat Uruguay thanks to a last-gasp penalty try. Pool B winners Japan lay in wait but an early try from dashing centre Tommaso Benvenuti calmed any nerves the young Italians may have had, and Antonio Denti, Michele Mortali and Gabriele Cicchinelli confirmed their dominance against the gallant Japanese, who scored a late consolation try through Mao Enoki. Denis Kukishev’s penalty, 12 minutes into extra-time, saw Russia claim the bronze medal at Romania’s expense.

U20 Trophy 2011

Host: Georgia
Dates: 24 May – 5 June
Venues: Avchala Stadium, Shevardeni Stadium (both Tbilisi)

Pool A – Samoa, Uruguay, Russia, USA
Pool B – Japan, Canada, Georgia, Zimbabwe


Samoa 31-24 Japan

Winning captain: Patrick Faapale
Winning coaches: John Schuster

Most capped graduates: Mateo Sanguinetti (URU) 54, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili (GEO) 50, Rodrigo Silva (URU) 49

Tournament statistics
Points: 879
Tries: 115

Top point scorer
Player: Bakhva Kobakhidze (GEO) 52
Team: Samoa 166

Top try scorer
Player: Robert Lilomaiava (SAM) 9
Team: Samoa 26

The 2011 final followed the same pattern as the first two with Samoa trailing Japan 17-0 before finally showing the sort of form that had seen them sweep Uruguay, USA and Russia aside in topping Pool A with a perfect record. Tries from winger Masakatasu Hikosaka and hooker Yoshikatsu Hikosaka put Japan on the front foot, but in typical Samoan fashion, they struck back with dangerous broken-field play leading to tries from Jordan Taufua, Robert Lilomaiava and Faavae Faavaeand a 19-17 half-time lead. Winger Viliamu Alauni dotted the ball down to make it 24-17 to the Samoans, but back came Japan with prop Mao Enoki’s second try in as many finals levelling the scores. Then, with the match heading into extra-time, full-back Peter Schuster scored at the death to win it for Samoa. Georgia outscored Uruguay two tries to nil to win the third place play-off, 20-15.

U20 Trophy 2012

Host: USA
Dates: 18-30 June
Venues: Murray Rugby Park, Salt Lake City

Pool A – USA, Tonga, Chile, Russia
Pool B – Japan, Canada, Georgia, Zimbabwe


USA 37-33 Japan

Winning captain: Will Magie
Winning coaches: Scott Lawrence

Most capped graduates: Tamaz Mchedlidze (GEO) 50, Lasha Lomidze (GEO) 44, Jake Ilnicki (CAN) 33

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,015
Tries: 144

Top point scorer
Player: Madison Hughes (USA) 72
Team: Canada / USA 149

Top try scorer
Player: Hosea Saumaki (TGA) 7
Team: Japan / Tonga 22

The USA became the first host nation to win the Junior World Rugby Trophy on home soil after a thrilling victory over Japan in Salt Lake City. The 2012 final was typical of the nail-biting drama evident throughout a tournament that did much to boost rugby’s appeal in the US. In an epic match that saw 10 tries shared equally and the lead change hands seven times, USA withstood one last onslaught from the Brave Blossoms to cling on for a 37-33 win in front of a sell-out crowd. Having lost the two previous finals it was a case of more disappointment for Japan who were christened the ‘Cardiac Kids’ because of their involvement in a series of heart-stopping pool matches, and the final was no different. Having fought their way back from a 14-point deficit in the first half, the match was ultimately won by wing Noah Tarrant’s hat-trick try in the 76th minute and the determined defensive rearguard that followed. Madison Hughes kicked 12 points in the match to take his overall tournament tally to 72 points, which is still a tournament record to this day. Manase Folau’s late try saw Tonga deny Georgia 31-29 in an equally thrilling third place play-off.

U20 Trophy 2013

Host: Chile
Dates: 28 May – 9 June
Venues: Estadio German Becker, Estadio Municipal Freire, Estadio Municipal Pitrufquen, Universidad de la Frontera (all Temuco)

Pool A – Italy, Chile, Portugal, Namibia
Pool B – Canada, Japan, Tonga, Uruguay


Italy 45-23 Canada

Winning captain: Angelo Esposito
Winning coaches: Gianluca Guidi

Most capped graduates: Djustice Sears-Duru (CAN) 46, Tomas Appleton (POR) 33, Bruno Medeiros (POR) 31

Tournament statistics
Points: 840
Tries: 112

Top point scorer
Player: Shane O'Leary (CAN) - 45
Team: Italy - 187

Top try scorer
Player: Kai Ishii (JPN) - 8
Team: Italy- 27

For the second time in five years the U20 Trophy was held in Chile but this time it was Italy, not Uruguay, who came out on top. The Azzurrini, who were relegated to the second tier after losing 19-17 to Fiji in the relegation play-off at the U20 Championship in 2012, won all four of their matches in Chile to ensure their place among the world’s elite teams in New Zealand the following year. Having safely negotiated their way through the pool stages, Italy made their intentions clear from the start of the final at the Estadio Germán Becker with Marcello Violi crossing in the opening minute. But, despite leading only 10-6 at half-time, Italy took advantage when Canada had two players sin-binned in the second half, scoring five tries, including a second by Violi, to run out impressive winners. Hosts Chile made it onto the podium, as they did in 2008, after beating Japan 38-35 to claim the bronze medal.

U20 Trophy 2014

Host: Hong Kong
Dates: 7-19 April
Venues: Hong Kong Football Club 

Pool A – Tonga, USA, Georgia, Hong Kong
Pool B – Japan, Uruguay, Namibia, Canada


Tonga 10-35 Japan

Winning captain: Rikiya Matsuda
Winning coaches: Keisuke Sawaki

Most capped graduates: German Kessler (URU) 39, Ignacio Dotti (URU) 34, Lucas Rumball (CAN) 29

Tournament statistics
Points: 761
Tries: 82

Top point scorer
Player: Revaz Jinchvelashvili (GEO) 63
Team: Japan 134

Top try scorer
Player: Vakhtang Amiranashvili (GEO) / German Kessler (URU) 4
Team: Japan 19

Having fallen at the final hurdle on three occasions from 2010-12, Japan were determined to finally lift the trophy. The signs were not good when they lost their opening match to Uruguay, but they bounced strongly, winning the rest of their matches to march imperiously into the final, where first-time finalists Tonga were no match for them. That said, it was Tonga who drew first blood early in the final when fly-half Mosese Latu knocked over a penalty, but Japan levelled the scores when opposite number Matsuda landed the first of his six kicks. A long stretch of Japanese pressure on Tonga’s try-line led to a penalty try and 10-3 half-time lead. Second-half tries from Shunta Nakamura, Shuhei Narita and Takayuki Watanabe confirmed the win and promotion to the U20 Championship. The third place play-off was a battle of the Americas and two former U20 Trophy champions that went right down to the wire with the USA holding on to beat an ill-disciplined Uruguay, who finished the game down to 12 men, 26-25.

U20 Trophy 2015

Host: Portugal
Dates: 12-24 May
Venues: Estadio Universitario, Jamor Sports Complex (both Lisbon)

Pool A – Georgia, Uruguay, Fiji, Portugal
Pool B – Canada, Namibia, Tonga, Hong Kong


Georgia 49-24 Canada

Winning captain: Badri Alkhazashvili
Winning coaches: Ilia Maisuradze

Most capped graduates: Lucas Rumball (CAN) and Santiago Arata (URU) 29, Damian Stevens (NAM) 24, Facundo Gattas (URU) 23

Tournament statistics
Points: 862
Tries: 114

Top point scorer
Player: Revaz Jinchvelashvili (GEO) 51
Team: Georgia 144

Top try scorer
Player: Christo van der Merwe (NAM) 5
Team: Georgia / Tonga 20

Georgia reaffirmed their status as a growing power in world rugby with a maiden U20 Trophy title. For many in the Junior Lelos’ ranks, the final victory over Canada marked the start of something special, especially scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze who, just four months later, would go on to become the youngest player to appear at a Rugby World Cup, aged just 18 years and 340 days. Canada went into the game at the Estadio Universitario with a settled team showing only one change from the starting XV that had beaten Tonga to reach a second final in three years. But the Canadians were second-best for large periods of the game against a Georgian outfit that demonstrated their ability to be clinical in the tight as well as the loose. Tries before the break for Mikheili Babunashvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Badri Liparteliani and Tornike Zoidze were followed by three more in the second half, scored by Anzor Sichinava, Giorgi Kveseladze, Revazi Jintchvelashvili. Canada captain Lucas Rumball served notice of the ability that has seen him earmarked as one to watch at Rugby World Cup 2019 with a try on the stroke of half-time, while fellow loose forward Luke Bradley grabbed a brace. Tonga and Uruguay served up a feast of tries in a third place play-off that ended in a 44-43 win for the South Americans.

U20 Trophy 2016

Host: Zimbabwe
Dates: 19 April – 1 May
Venues: Harare Sports Club

Pool A – Samoa, Fiji, Uruguay, Zimbabwe
Pool B – Spain, Namibia, USA, Hong Kong


Samoa 38-32 Spain

Winning captain: Jarred Adams
Winning coaches: Ramsey Tomokino

Most capped graduates: Jordi Jorba (ESP) 18, Alvar Gimeno (ESP) 16, Obert Nortje and Cliven Loubser (NAM) 15

Tournament statistics*
Points: 1,054
Tries: 141

* Law trials with points (try = six, penalty try = eight, conversion/penalty/drop goal = two)

Top point scorer
Player: Hanco Germishuys (USA) 48
Team: Samoa 180

Top try scorer
Player: Hanco Germishuys (USA) 8
Team: Samoa 24

Played under a new trial point structure, with six points awarded for a try, the 2016 edition of the U20 Trophy was a feast of running rugby. A then tournament record 1,054 points were scored with 70 of them coming in a classic final that was won in the fifth minute of extra-time thanks to a try from replacement Tivoli Masaga. Even for a tournament where entertainment had been the order of the day throughout, few people would have predicted that the final would have been quite so dramatic. Leading by eight points with nine minutes left to go, Spain threatened to cause an upset against the side relegated from the U20 Championship in 2015 until number eight Elia Elia struck with his hat-trick try to hand Samoa a lifeline which they gratefully accepted when Masaga crossed in the corner. Despite his treble, Elia missed out on the top try scorer award to another number eight, USA’s Hanco Germishuys. In the third place play-off, five first-half tries meant the bronze medal was Fiji’s long before Namibia staged a second-half fightback.

U20 Trophy 2017

Host: Uruguay
Dates: 29 August – 10 September
Venues: Estadio Charrua (Montevideo) and Estadio Domingo Burgueño (Punta del Este)

Pool A – Japan, Namibia, Chile, Canada
Pool B – Portugal, Uruguay, Fiji, Hong Kong


Japan 14-3 Portugal

Winning captain: Hinata Takei
Winning coaches: Satoru Endo

Most capped graduates: Nuno Mascarenhas (POR) 15, Domingo Saavedra (CHI) 12, Jorge Abecasis (POR) and Santiago Videla (CHI) 9

Tournament statistics
Points: 727
Tries: 101

Top point scorer
Player: Alejo Piazza (URU) 40
Team: Uruguay 152

Top try scorer
Player: Faulua Makisi (JPN) 6
Team: Uruguay 22

Not even the torrential rain could dampen Japan’s enthusiasm as they celebrated a return to the World Rugby U20 Championship at the first attempt following a 14-3 victory over valiant Portugal in a truncated U20 Trophy final. With large pools of surface water on the Estadio Charrua pitch worsening all the time and thunderstorms rolling in, the decision was taken to abandon play with 15 minutes to go with Japan, 11 points up when referee Francisco Gonzalez led them from the field, declared the winners. Understandably the tactics of both teams were clear from the start – kick for territory and hope for a mistake, and Japan’s first try from Faulua Makisi, his sixth of the tournament, came from a charged down clearance kick. If the first owed itself to an opposition error, the second and ultimately decisive try of the match came about when scrum pressure resulted in a penalty try seven minutes into the second half. Hosts Uruguay managed a repeat of the bronze medal they won in Lisbon two years earlier with a relatively comfortable victory over Namibia in the penultimate game of the day.

U20 Trophy 2018

Host: Romania
Dates: 28 August – 9 September
Venues: Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest

Pool A – Samoa, Namibia, Hong Kong, Romania
Pool B – Fiji, Uruguay, Portugal, Canada


Samoa 8-58 Fiji

Winning captain: Raikabula Momoedonu
Winning coaches: Koli Sewabu

Most capped graduates: Manuel Marta (POR) 6, Rodrigo Marta and Martim Cardoso (POR) 5, Filipe Granja (POR) 4

Tournament statistics
Points: 1164
Tries: 166

Top point scorer
Player: Denzo Bruwer (NAM) 59
Team: Namibia 203

Top try scorer
Player: Manuel Ardao (URU) 6
Team: Fiji 32

Fiji celebrated a return to the World Rugby U20 Championship for the first time since 2014 in typically flamboyant fashion. Inspired by full-back Nabetelevu Turaganivalu and centres Vilimoni Botitu and Ilikena Vudogo, Fiji were irrepressible in attack as they ruthlessly capitalised on basic Samoan errors to put the two-time champions to the sword, scoring nine tries in a 58-8 win. Samoa’s lack of patience in attack and high turnover rate hurt them badly and Fiji could even afford to lose a man to the sin-bin in each half as they recorded the biggest win in the history of U20 Trophy finals. In a match of 16 tries, Manuel Pinto, Nuno Mascarenhas and Duarte Campos each bagged a brace as Portugal maintained their form from the year before to beat Namibia 67-36 and win the bronze medal.

Who will add their name to the honour roll come the final in São Jose dos Campos on 21 July? Join the conversation @WorldRugby using #WorldRugbyU20s.