Seeding for 2023: 1
Tournaments played: 12 (2008-19)
Best finish: Champions (2018, 2019)
Worst finish: Ninth (2016)
U20 Championship match record: Played 60 / Won 40 / Drawn 1 / Lost 19
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 1,651 / 202

U20 graduates: 83
Most capped U20 graduate: Gaël Fickou (79 tests)

Did you know …? France were involved in the only draw in World Rugby U20 Championship history, 23-23 against South Africa in the pool stage of the 2017 edition in Georgia.

Coach: Sébastien Calvet
Calvet has been involved in coaching for the best part of a quarter of a century and is currently the technical director of the FFR's Nouvelle Aquitaine. He has previously been head coach of both the France U18 and France U19 teams and has Top 14 coaching experience with Montauban. 

What he said: “We're very hungry. We want to test ourselves against southern hemisphere nations that we don't know … We want to show that the French team is more competitive than ever. While we respect the other nations, our objective is to say to ourselves that we have to go and get this title for the third time.”

Captain: Nicolas Depoortere

One to watch: Posolo Tuilagi
The 18-year-old Perpignan second-row made his debut against England in this year’s U20 Six Nations, having made 11 appearances – including two starts – in the Top 14. He’s played seven times since then, scoring tries against Wales in the find round of the Six Nations, and in the promotion-relegation play-off against ProD2 side Grenoble.  

The headline news from France is not who is in the 2018 and 2019 champions’ squad, as much as who isn’t. Two well-known players have been left “at the disposal of the XV de France to prepare for the major event at the end of this year, the 2023 World Cup in France”.

Coach Sébastien Calvet confirmed that 19-year-old Pau centre Emilien Gailleton – leading try-scorer in the Top 14 this season – and rising Bordeaux back-three star Louis Bielle-Biarrey, were in Fabien Galthié’s thinking for the World Cup in France September

“This demonstrates the transversal strength of the international project, thanks to the open-mindedness and collaboration with Fabien Galthié, Raphaël Ibanez and the staff. Congratulations to these two players, their training clubs and their current clubs,” Calvert said in a statement announcing the squad.

Squad: Zaccharie Affane (Bordeaux), Théo Attissogbe (Pau), Hugo Auradou (Pau), Maxence Biasotto (Brive), Estaban Capilla (Bayonne), Léo Carbonneau (Brive), Mathis Castro Ferreira (Toulouse), Paul Costes (Toulouse), Nicolas Depoortère (Bordeaux), Léo Drouet (Provence), Thomas Duchene (Clermont), Mathis Ferté (Brive), Marko Gazzotti (Grenoble), Baptistes Jauneau (Clermont), Oscar Jegou (La Rochelle), Pierre Jouvin (Agen), Julien Lino (Racing 92), Alexandre Kaddouri (La Rochelle), Thomas Lacombre (Toulouse), Brent Liufau (Pau), Barnabé Massa (Grenoble), Arthur Mathiron (Lyon), Clément Mondinat (Pau), Maël Moustin (Bordeaux), Lenni Nouchi (Montpellier), Louis Penverne (La Rochelle), Hugo Reus (La Rochelle), Andy Timo (Massy), Posolo Tuilagi (Perpignan), Noa Zinzen (Racing 92).


Seeding for 2023:6
Tournaments played: 12 (2008-19)
Best finish: Runners-up (2013)
Worst finish: Seventh (2010, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2018)
U20 Championship match record: Played 60 / Won 35 / Lost 25
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 1,531 / 181

U20 graduates: 71
Most capped U20 graduate: Dan Biggar (111 – 107 Wales, four British and Irish Lions)

Did you know …? A certain Sam Warburton, who would go on to captain the senior Wales side as well as the British and Irish Lions, scored Wales’ first points in what was then known as the IRB Junior World Championships, scoring a try against Italy in the inaugural tournament in 2008.

Coach (interim): Mark Jones
Jones is a former Wales international, capped 47 times on the wing. He steps in for Byron Hayward who tendered his resignation as Lead Pathway Coach at the WRU. His varied and much-travelled coaching career includes stints with Namibia and the Crusaders in New Zealand as well as a spell as an assistant with the senior men's Wales team in 2013. 

What he said: “It’s a very mixed team in terms of youth and experience. There are a lot of exciting players in there particularly around our backline and back row. There is also a lot of potential in the front five moving forward.”

Captain: Ryan Woodman

One to watch: Archie Hughes 
Two senior games were enough to convince Dwayne Peel, head coach of United Rugby Championship side Scarlets, to offer the 20-year-old scrum-half a new contract. Expect to see more of him in senior rugby next season, with Gareth Davies and Kieran Hardy likely to be away on international duty.

Interim coach Mark Jones has called up five uncapped players to his 30-strong squad for the under-20 world championships as Wales look to bounce back from disappointment in the Six Nations, when they lost all five matches. 

Ospreys’ Kian Hire and Evan Hill, Harlequins’ Seb Driscoll, Cardiff’s Harri Wilde, and Dragons’ Huw Anderson could make their debuts at u20 level in South Africa this month.

Squad: Huw Anderson (Dragons RFC), Bryn Bradley (Harlequins), Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff Rugby), Seb Driscoll (Harlequins), Daniel Edwards (Ospreys), Liam Edwards (Ospreys), Gwilym Evans (Cardiff Rugby), Ellis Fackrell (Ospreys), Louis Fletcher (Ospreys), Tom Florence (Ospreys), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Evan Hill (Ospreys), Louie Hennessey (Bath Rugby), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Che Hope (Dragons RFC), Harri Houston (Ospreys), Archie Hughes (Scarlets), Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths (Dragons RFC), Lewis Lloyd (Ospreys), Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby), Llien Morgan (Ospreys), Lewis Morgan (Scarlets), Josh Morse (Scarlets), Morgan Morse (Ospreys), Sam Scarfe (Dragons RFC), Joe Westwood (Dragons RFC), Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby), Harri Williams (Scarlets), Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby), Ryan Woodman (Dragons RFC).


Seeding for 2023: 7
Tournaments played:> 12 (2008-19)
Best finish: Champions (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017)
Worst finish: Seventh (2019)
U20 Championship match record: Played 60 / Won 49 / Lost 11
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 2,526 / 352

U20 graduates: 64 (63 Championship, one Trophy)
Most capped U20 graduate: Sam Whitelock (143 tests)

Did you know …? New Zealand won their first 21 matches in a row on the U20 Championship stage before Wales ended their run with a 9-6 victory in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2012

Coach: Clark Laidlaw
Laidlaw's time as the Junior All Blacks head coach is only going to be short-lived as his new role as Hurricanes head coach in Super Rugby Pacific starts once the tournament is over. Laidlaw comes into the U20 Championship fresh from six years as head coach of the All Blacks Sevens, winning two HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series titles and a Commonwealth Games gold medal in that time. The 45-year-old is the son of former Scotland and British and Irish Lions scrum-half, Roy Laidlaw, and the cousin of recent Scotland captain Greig, and has his own international playing pedigree as a former Scotland Sevens player. He moved to New Zealand in 2008, which is when his coaching career began.

What he said: “We’re incredibly fortunate to have such a talented cohort of players to select from, all of which showcased their potential against the Junior Wallabies. It’s great to have a talented young group heading off to the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.”

Captain: Noah Hotham

One to watch: Peter Lakai 
The latest in the long, rich line of baller eights from the Land of the Long White Cloud. In his breakout season, Lakai – vice-captain in South Africa – helped Wellington to a first NPC Premiership title in 23 years, and made seven appearances for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby Pacific. All after being a key member of the New Zealand under-20s squad that dominated last year’s Oceania Championship. 

New Zealand coach Clark Laidlaw – without the services of Auckland’s Payton Spencer and Maliu Niuafe, Taranaki’s Fiti Sa, Waikato’s Cody Nordstrom and Canterbury’s Toby Bell – has appointed Noah Hotham as captain, supported by vice-captains Lakai and Taha Kemara.

Squad:Ben Ake (Auckland), Tom Allen (Hawke’s Bay), Vernon Bason (Manawatu), Tahlor Cahill (Canterbury), Che Clark (Auckland), Ajay Faleafaga (Otago), Cooper Flanders (Hawke’s Bay), Harry Godfrey (Hawke’s Bay), Leo Gordon (Auckland), Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo (Auckland), Malakai Hala (Manawatu), Noah Hotham (Tasman), Isaac Hutchinson (Canterbury), Taha Kemara (Waikato), Peter Lakai (Wellington), Siale Lauaki (Wellington), Will Martin (Waikato), Hunter Morrison (Hawke’s Bay), Gabe Robinson (Waikato), Macca Springer (Tasman), Will Stodart (Otago), Xavi Taele (Auckland) Caleb Tangitau (Auckland), Jack Taylor (Southland), Aki Tuivailala (Waikato), Ray Tuputupu (Manawatu), Cody Vai (Bay of Plenty), Jordi Viljoen (Manawatu), Riley Williams (Auckland), Malachi Wrampling (Waikato).


Seeding for 2023: 12
Tournaments played: 5 (2008-09, 2015-16, 2018)
Best finish: 10th (2015)
Worst finish: 15th (2008, 2009 – 16 teams in tournament)
U20 Championship match record: Played 25 / Won 3 / Lost 22
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 447 / 67

U20 graduates: 51 (23 Championship and 28 Trophy)
Most capped U20 graduate: Michael Leitch (78)

Did you know…? Japan regained their place in the top-tier competition by beating Portugal in the World Rugby U20 Trophy final in Brazil in 2019. But pandemic delays meant they had to wait until this year for their Championship return.

Coach: Rob Penney
Penney was announced as Japan U20 head coach in December 2022. The 59-year-old New Zealander has an extensive coaching CV, at home and overseas, including spells as head coach at Munster and the NSW Waratahs. Penney also led the Junior All Blacks to the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2012 where they were beaten by South Africa. Penney is very familiar with Japanese rugby having held various positions at club level, including his current advisory role with Japan Rugby League One team, the Urayasu D-Rocks.

What he said: “Our squad is made up entirely of university players who are still two years away from turning professional. They will play with heart, passion, and pride, all of which are hallmarks of our great game. Thank you to our hosts South Africa and to World Rugby for providing the opportunity and thank you to the volunteers and fans who we know will make this a truly great tournament.”

Captain: Yoshiki Omachi

One to watch: Yoshitaka Yazaki
The swift-thinking, fleet-footed, free-scoring full-back and winger was a member of the High School Japan side that played Ireland U19 in March and is widely considered one of Japan’s stars of the future. He scored a try off the bench in Japan’s 52-46 win over New Zealand Universities on 27 May.

Head coach Rob Penney has a difficult job on his hands with Japan in a tough pool on their Covid-delayed return to the championship.

The squad regained their place in the top-tier competition by beating Portugal in the World Rugby U20 Trophy final in Brazil in 2019. But pandemic delays meant they have had to wait until this year to make their sixth appearance in the tournament.

Penney’s squad, captained by full-back Yoshiki Omachi, has been busy preparing for their trip to South Africa, beating Tonga A as Junior Japan in the returning World Rugby Pacific Challenge in Apia last month, but losing to Manuma Samoa and Fiji Warriors in the four-nation tournament, before beating New Zealand Universities 52-46 in Tokyo on 27 May.

Squad: Asahi Doei, Keito Hayashi, Sera Hwang, Genki Ikuta, Ryohei Imano, Tenta Kobayashi, Bunsuke Kurita, Tomoki Kusuda, Koki Miyashita, Taison Mogami, Kosho Muto, Kouta Nagashima, Kanjiro Naramoto, Hampei Nishino, Kengo Nonaka, Ryotaro Nose, Taishin Ohshima, Renji Oike, Yoshiki Omachi, Takashi Omoto, Yuzuki Sasaki, Kosuke Sugiura, Shota Taira, Yutaro Takahashi, Kantaro Tajima, Riku Tomita, Toki Toshikawa, Harry Willard, Yoshitaka Yazaki, Tomoki Yumbe

POOL A FIXTURES (kick-off times local, GMT+2)

Saturday, 24 June

14:00 – France v Japan – Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch
16:00 – Wales v New Zealand –  Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl<

Thursday, 29 June

13:30 – France v New Zealand – Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
14:00 – Wales v Japan – Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch

Tuesday 4 July

16:00 – New Zealand v Japan – Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
16:30 – France v Wales – Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town

All squads are subject to change