Argentina hosted the cream of international age-grade rugby in June when the World Rugby U20 Championship took place in Rosario and Santa Fe, nine years on from the first time the competition was played in the country.
It was hailed as one of "the great tournaments" by World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont following 18 days of brilliant action which culminated in France retaining their crown at the expense of an Australia side seeking their first title.
The U20 Trophy, staged in Brazil for the first time, was equally compelling, and like the U20 Championship, it went right down to the wire with Japan enjoying a last-gasp victory against Portugal.
WORLD RUGBY U20 CHAMPIONSHIP 2019
WHEN: 4-22 June, 2019
WHERE: Rosario, Santa Fe (Argentina)
BACK-TO-BACK: Les Bleuets became the third team to successfully defend the World Rugby U20 Championship title with a 24-23 defeat of Australia in a pulsating final that will live long in the memory. The lead changed hands no fewer than seven times before France fly-half Louis Carbonel – one of the stars of their triumphant 2018 campaign – kicked what proved to be the winning penalty with 15 minutes to go at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario. Previously, New Zealand (2008-11) and England (2013-14) were the only other teams to gone back-to-back.
ROSARIO REWIND: Full of confidence after winning an historic Oceania title and led by brilliant openside Fraser McReight, the Junior Wallabies reached their second final, in the same city where they had been well beaten by New Zealand in 2010. While New Zealand had blown them away then, winning 62-17, these Junior Wallabies pushed France all the way on their return to Rosario and would have been celebrating a maiden title had 10 points not gone begging from missed kicks at goal.
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN IN VAIN: Scotland will be playing in the World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2020 after suffering relegation for the first time. Unfortunately for the Scots they came up against a rampant Fiji in the 11th place play-off, losing 59-34. In bagging a brace in the painful defeat, Scotland hooker Ewan Ashman took his tally for the tournament to seven to become the first front-row to finish as the top try-scorer in U20 Championship history.
FORMER CHAMPIONS FALTER: Past reputations counted for nothing in Argentina with England struggling to impose themselves on the tournament and six-time winners New Zealand losing to both South Africa and Wales before finishing in their lowest-ever position of seventh.
PATHWAY TO THE TOP: Two players went on to play at Rugby World Cup 2019 three months later in Georgia captain Tedo Abzhandadze and hooker Vano Karkadze. In total 228 U20 Championship graduates played at RWC 2019 out of the total number of 690 that have followed this pathway to the test arena, including South Africa captain Siya Kolisi who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.
WHAT THEY SAID: “It is an unbelievable feeling, I am very, very happy and proud of this team.” France captain Arthur Vincent
FINAL STANDINGS: 1. France 2. Australia 3. South Africa 4. Argentina 5. England 6. Wales 7. New Zealand 8. Ireland 9. Italy 10. Georgia 11. Fiji 12. Scotland
LEADING POINTS-SCORER: Josh Hodge (England), 63
LEADING TRY-SCORER: Ewan Ashman (Scotland), 7
For all the results from the World Rugby U20 Championship, click HERE
WORLD RUGBY U20 TROPHY 2019
WHEN: 9-21 July 2019
WHERE: São José dos Campos, Brazil
FINAL DAY DRAMA: When Japan scored a promotion-clinching try with two minutes to go in the final against Portugal, it brought the curtain down on a final day of high drama at the Estadio Martins Pereira. The 35-34 victory, in what was a re-run of the 2017 showpiece, was the third consecutive match to be decided by three points or less. Brazil’s seventh-place play-off with Hong Kong went to sudden-death extra-time, the hosts winning their first match at this level thanks to a drop goal, while Tonga’s play-off for bronze with Uruguay would have gone beyond the 80 minutes had Los Teritos kicker Matias D’Avanzo not struck the upright with an all-important conversion.
ONE TO WATCH: Portugal may have lost out on a maiden U20 Trophy title, but they unearthed a player with a very bright future in 18-year-old winger Raffaele Storti. A brace of tries in the final took the speedster’s tally to nine, equalling the record for a single U20 Trophy tournament set by Samoa’s Robert Lilomaiava in 2011.
TWO-TIME WINNER: Japan’s success ensured captain and back-row Shota Fukui created a piece of U20 Trophy history. Fukui, then a winger, was part of the 2017-winning side and becomes the first player to win the title twice – and in very different positions, too!
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: Canada enjoyed a good U20 Trophy – their best since 2015 – and it was a memorable tournament for one particular family. Cousins David, Frank and Nick Carson all scored a try apiece in the same match, a record 78-26 win over Hong Kong, while scrum-half Jack Carson appeared off the bench.
FINAL STANDINGS: 1. Japan 2. Portugal 3. Tonga 4. Uruguay 5. Canada 6. Kenya 7. Brazil 8. Hong Kong
LEADING POINT SCORER: Will Percillier (Canada), 65
LEADING TRY SCORER: Raffaele Storti (Portugal), 9
For all the results from the U20 Trophy, click HERE