Long wait almost over as France defend U20 Championship crown in South Africa
We give you the lowdown on each of the six matches set to be played on the opening day of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023 this Saturday.
On the road … The host nation has only won the tournament three times, South Africa in 2012, England in 2016 and France in 2018.
Trophy lifters … The 12 winning captains are Chris Smith (2008), Aaron Cruden (2009), Tyler Bleyendaal (2010), Luke Whitelock (2011), Wiaan Liebenberg (2012), Jack Clifford (2013), Maro Itoje (2014), Atunaisa Moli (2015), Harry Mallinder (2016), Luke Jacobson (2017), Arthur Coville (2018) and Arthur Vincent (2019).
Final appearances … England (9), New Zealand (7), South Africa (2), Australia (2), France (2), Ireland (1) and Wales (1).
Winning percentage … France have a 100 per cent success rate in finals and New Zealand 85.71 per cent having won on six of their seven appearances. England have reached nine finals but won only three, while South Africa have a 50 per cent win record.
Semi-final heartbreak … Argentina are the only other side to make a semi-final.
Record-breakers ... New Zealand ripped up the U20 Championship record books in beating England 64-17 in the 2017 final, scoring the most tries and points in a title decider.
Welcome back to South Africa … South Africa becomes the fourth country after Italy, France and Argentina to host the pinnacle event of age-grade rugby twice, having first hosted it in 2012.
Top for tries … New Zealand winger Tevita Li scored a record 13 tries across his two appearances in the U20 Championship.
Ten of the best … Australia’s Andrew Kellaway holds the record for the most tries in a single U20 Championship with 10 in 2014.
Welcome back … Japan are back on the U20 Championship stage after winning its sister event, the U20 Trophy back in 2019.
Longest unbeaten run … New Zealand won their first 21 matches in the U20 Championship before slipping to a shock 9-6 defeat to Wales in the 2012 pool stages in Stellenbosch.
Fast-tracked … Handré Pollard suffered heartbreak in the 2014 final as South Africa captain and was named Junior Player of the Year, but eight days later the fly-half enjoyed the high of making his Springbok debut against Scotland.
The future stars of world rugby … Some 913 players have taken part in an U20 Championship and gone on to make their test debut.
Breeding ground … Argentina boast the most of these U20 Championship graduates with 85.
In on the act … Eleven nations who have never graced the U20 Championship stage have capped players who have played in the tournament in Algeria, the Bahamas, Cook Islands, Germany, Hong Kong China, Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Zimbabwe.
World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year … Six of the last eight recipients have all been U20 Championship graduates. Brodie Retallick became the first U20 graduate to receive the accolade in 2014 and has been followed by his fellow All Black Beauden Barrett in 2016 and 2017, Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit in 2019, France scrum-half Antoine Dupont in 2021 and Ireland’s Josh van der Flier in 2022.
Back to back … All Black Sam Whitelock is the only U20 graduate with two Rugby World Cup winners’ medals.
Rugby World Cup winners … There were three U20 graduates in the All Blacks' RWC 2011 winning squad on home soil and 10 four years later in England, while South Africa’s RWC 2019 winners featured 16, including the first captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Siya Kolisi.
Doubling up … Fifteen players have won both an U20 Championship and Rugby World Cup, including Springbok trio Pieter-Steph du Toit, Handré Pollard and Steven Kitshoff who helped South Africa win their only U20 Championship title on home soil in 2012.
Quarter-time … More than a third of players at RWC 2019 had come through the U20 Championship pathway.
Kicking competition … In the knockout stages, only once in 11 tournaments has a kicking competition been required to decide the winner of a match – in 2010 when hosts Argentina beat Wales 9-8 to reach the fifth-place play-off after the sides had been locked at 19-19 after extra-time.
First draw … France and South Africa played out first draw in the pool stages of an U20 Championship in Georgia in 2017, the Junior Springboks converting a last-gasp try to salvage a 23-23 draw.
Half century … New Zealand’s first win in 2023 will be their 50th in U20 Championship history.
Most capped graduate … Sam Whitelock (New Zealand) with 143 tests.
First U20 Championship graduate … Alatasi Tupou of Samoa made his debut against New Zealand on 3 September, 2008 and has gone on to captain Samoa on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Most recent U20 Championship graduate … Marco Manfredi of Italy, who made his debut against Scotland on 18 March.
Centurion club … Sam Whitelock was the first U20 graduate to join the test centurion club for his country in 2018 and 14 others have now joined him with Stuart Hogg and Taulupe Faletau the newest members earlier this year. More are in contention to join them by the end of Rugby World Cup 2023.