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Six men’s U20 players to watch in 2021
Ahead of the return of men’s U20 internationals, we look at six players who could light up the next few months on the pitch.
Following a hiatus of more than a year, rugby fans around the world will have a chance to run the rule over some of the men’s game’s brightest emerging talents this month.
The U20 Six Nations 2021, which was delayed as a result of COVID-19, will take place in Cardiff between 19 June and 13 July, as England go in search of a ninth title.
Next Friday, meanwhile, South Africa will welcome Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay to Stellenbosch for the U20 International Series.
Ahead of the action we picked out six players who could be set for a couple of months to remember.
👊 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝘁.— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) June 6, 2021
👏 @OscarBeard_ #COYQ pic.twitter.com/RAAK3MOEhf
Oscar Beard (England)
Beard made his English Premiership debut for Harlequins at Sale last Friday, lining up on the left wing and earning plaudits for his willingness to put his body on the line in defence.
It is in the centre that Beard has caught the eye at age-group level, and he appeared to be the man in possession of the number 13 jersey. He was not included in the England U20 squad named on Friday, though, which potentially suggests he has a role to play for Harlequins in the Premiership play-offs.
Still only 19, the outside-centre is a product of the Harlequins academy having played in the junior ranks of both Alton Rugby Club and Farnham RUFC, as World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Jonny Wilkinson did.
One player who will be looking to make their mark in the England midfield this month is Dan Lancaster, son of former national team coach Stuart.
Joshua Brennan (France)
One of several players included in the France U20 squad with a famous surname, Brennan is the son of former Ireland international Trevor.
Brennan, who like his older brother Daniel came through the Toulouse academy, made his Six Nations U20 debut during last season’s curtailed tournament, and captained France against Wales.
The Dublin-born second-row played twice for the Toulouse first-team this season and scored a try in the final as the academy side beat Perpignan to the junior championship title.
Brennan’s Toulouse pack-mate Théo Ntamack, brother of Romain and son of Émile, is also in the France squad and will hope to carry his good recent form into the tournament in Wales.
👏 Your Player of the Match 👏— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) May 15, 2021
Jordan Hendrikse followed up his cameo last week with a top performance in a valiant @LionsRugbyCo defeat 💪
🏆 #PRO14RainbowCupSA pic.twitter.com/QmaS4QsVBV
Jordan Hendrikse (South Africa)
Fly-half Hendrikse will not turn 19 until 28 June, but his undoubted quality has already earned him first-team opportunities at Gauteng franchise, the Lions.
Hendrikse turned in a Player of the Match performance when he wore the number 10 jersey in the Lions’ 39-37 defeat to the Stormers last month, kicking 12 points in the process.
“He has got a special talent. More than him kicking the ball prodigiously, it’s the confidence that he brings in the way he organises everyone around him,” Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said after the Rainbow Cup contest.
If selected for the matches against Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay, Hendrikse will follow in the footsteps of older brother Jaden, who represented the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2019.
Ben Muncaster (Scotland)
Born in North Berwick, Muncaster travelled south of the border when he won a cricket and rugby scholarship to Rugby School in England.
Although he had a trial with Middlesex, it was with an oval ball that he excelled and his performances for Rugby, where William Webb Ellis is said to have invented the game almost 200 years ago, caught the attention of Leicester Tigers.
Muncaster spent his formative years in the Tigers academy before being lured back up to Scotland with Edinburgh last summer, and he subsequently made his senior debut during the Rainbow Cup win over Zebre in April.
Back-row forward, Muncaster has represented Scotland at both U18 and U19 level and has been included in his country’s squad for this year’s U20 Six Nations.
Davit Niniashvili (Georgia)
It remains to be seen whether Niniashvili will travel to Stellenbosch with Georgia U20 such has been his impact with the full Lelos squad.
Niniashvili has admitted that he felt “dazzled and excited” when he was first called up to the seniors last May, aged just 17.
But, he has gone on to excel on the test stage, winning his first caps as a replacement in the Autumn Nations Cup matches against Ireland and Fiji.
Full-back Niniashvili has since started matches against Russia (twice) and Spain, and scored his first international try in a 23-6 defeat of the Russians in Kaliningrad in March.
It has also been confirmed that he will move to Top 14 club Lyon next season with countryman Beka Saghinadze.
Joaquín Oviedo (Argentina)
Number eight Oviedo was the surprise inclusion in Mario Ledesma’s training squad for Argentina’s 2020 test matches, receiving the call-up on his 19th birthday.
Oviedo did not make it onto the pitch in any of Los Pumas’ official matches, but will have learned an incredible amount training alongside Rodrigo Bruni and Facundo Isa.
He will now hope to put those lessons into practice when Argentina U20 face South Africa, Georgia and Uruguay in Stellenbosch.
Oviedo’s older brother Leonel is a hooker who featured at the World Rugby U20 Championship in both 2017 and 2018, and went on to play for the Argentina XV at the World Rugby Nations Cup 2019.