In the 16 years of its existence, the World Rugby U20 Championship has played an integral part in the player development pathway as well as being a brilliant tournament in its own right.

Countless stars of the future have been unearthed. France are three-time defending champions and plenty of the triumphant 2018, 2019 and 2023 squads have gone on to establish themselves as lynchpins of the Les Bleus senior team in a short space of time.

And before them, double Rugby World Cup winners such as All Blacks forward Sam Whitelock and Springboks fly-half Handré Pollard used age-grade international rugby’s premier event as a stepping stone to the top.

To highlight its role in the player development pathway, more than 950 players have experienced playing at the U20 Championship and then gone on to be capped by their countries.

New Zealand were the dominant force in the first 10 years of the competition – claiming the title a record six times – but France have been the team to catch since then as they joined England on three titles following a 50-14 defeat of Ireland in the 2023 title decider in South Africa.


Host: Wales
Dates: 6-22 June

Pool A – New Zealand, Argentina, Ireland, Tonga
Pool B – South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, USA
Pool C – England, Australia, Canada, Fiji
Pool D – Wales, France, Italy, Japan

Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: England

New Zealand 31-6 Wales
England 26-18 South Africa

New Zealand 38-3 England

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Luke Braid (NZL)
Winning captain: Chris Smith (NZL)
Winning coaches: Dave Rennie and Russel Hilton-Jones (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Samuel Whitelock (NZL) 153, James Slipper (AUS) 134, Ben Youngs (ENG and Lions) 129

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,985
Tries: 257

Top points scorer
Player: Francois Brummer (RSA) 67
Team: South Africa 257

Top try scorer
Player: Ratu Nasiganyavi (AUS) 7 (Now known as Nemani Nadolo, FIJ)
Team: South Africa 37

New Zealand were in a class of their own at the inaugural World Rugby U20 Championship in 2008, where their brand of free-flowing rugby saw them win every match by at least 25 points.

Three-quarters of the squad in Wales had helped New Zealand dominate the U19 Championship a year earlier and the new tournament – which replaced the U19 and U21 events – saw more of the same with 242 points and 34 tries scored and only 28 points and one try conceded by a team captained by second-row Chris Smith.

Labelled “a special group” by co-coach Russel Hilton-Jones, New Zealand overwhelmed England 38-3 in the final at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea with Kade Poki, Jackson Willison, Andre Taylor and Ryan Crotty their try-scorers.

South Africa finished third after a 43-18 win over a Wales side captained by Sam Warburton, while USA were relegated to the second tier U20 Trophy in 2009 after losing the 15th place play-off to Japan 44-8. 


Host: Japan
Dates: 5-21 June

Pool A – New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Uruguay
Pool B – England, Samoa, Scotland, Japan
Pool C – South Africa, France, Fiji, Italy
Pool D – Australia, Wales, Tonga, Canada

Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: England

New Zealand 31-17 Australia
England 40-21 South Africa

New Zealand 44-28 England

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Aaron Cruden (NZL)
Winning captain: Aaron Cruden (NZL)
Winning coach: Dave Rennie (NZL)

Most capped graduates: James Slipper (AUS) 134, Ben Youngs (ENG and Lions) 129, Conor Murray (IRE and Lions) 125

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,973
Tries: 257

Top points scorer
Player: Tom Homer (ENG) 68
Team: New Zealand 215

Top try scorer
Player: Zac Guildford (NZL) 8
Team: New Zealand 33

With only one of New Zealand’s 2008 team returning in Zac Guildford, it was Australia who arrived in Japan as favourites given the presence of Super Rugby players such as Kurtley Beale in their ranks. And Australia showed why they were so fancied with three dominant displays in the pool stage, while New Zealand failed to find the elusive 80-minute performance.

The trans-Tasman rivals met in the semi-finals but, contrary to expectations, it was New Zealand who finally delivered with captain Aaron Cruden pulling the strings in a 31-17 victory. England won 40-21 in the other semi-final against a South African side that had made it through to the last four after an extraordinary game against France which saw them trail 20-0 after 30 minutes before scoring 43 unanswered points.

On finals day in Tokyo, heavy rain fell until just before the title decider, but while England were more competitive than 12 months earlier, they never recovered from a two-try blitz from the inspirational Cruden, and New Zealand defended their crown with a seven-try 44-28 win.

South Africa finished third again after coping better with the wet conditions than Australia. With the tournament being cut from 16 to 12 teams for 2010, the teams who finished bottom of their pools were relegated in Canada, Japan, Italy and debutants Uruguay.


Host: Argentina
Dates: 5-21 June

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Fiji, Samoa
Pool B – England, France, Argentina, Ireland
Pool C – Australia, South Africa, Scotland, Tonga

Australia 28-16 England
New Zealand 36-7 South Africa

New Zealand 62-17 Australia

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea (NZL)
Winning captain: Tyler Bleyendaal (NZL)
Winning coach: Dave Rennie (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Taulupe Faletau (WAL and Lions) 110, Matías Alemanno (ARG) 94, Joe Marler (ENG) 94, Jamie George (ENG and Lions) 94

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,569
Tries: 179

Top points scorer
Player: Tyler Bleyendaal (NZL) 82
Team: New Zealand 262

Top try scorer
Player: Julian Savea (NZL) 8
Team: New Zealand 33

The 2010 edition certainly left its mark on the Littoral region of Argentina with thousands of fans attending matches across the venues in Rosario, Santa Fe and Paraná and creating atmospheres to savour. They were treated to some thrilling matches and tension, particularly when the hosts needed a kicking competition to beat Wales after the sides had drawn 19-19 on day four.

Australia reached a first final after back-to-back wins over South Africa and England, but the title decider proved a match too far as New Zealand produced what coach Dave Rennie labelled “pretty close” to the perfect performance. Captain Tyler Bleyendaal pulled the strings, scoring 28 points in their seven-try, 62-17 victory, with winger Telusa Veainu scoring a hat-trick.

South Africa finished third again after beating England 27-22, while Samoa were condemned to relegation to the U20 Trophy – to be replaced by 2010 winners Italy – after losing the 11th place-play-off 23-3 to Tonga.

Earlier in the tournament, Ireland captain Rhys Ruddock had been called away to join up with the senior squad in Australia as injury cover and his subsequent test debut meant that all 17 nations to grace the U20 Championship had capped a graduate.


Host: Italy
Dates: 10-26 June

Pool A – New Zealand, Argentina, Wales, Italy
Pool B – Australia, France, Fiji, Tonga
Pool C – England, South Africa, Ireland, Scotland

Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: England

England 33-18 France
New Zealand 37-7 Australia

New Zealand 33-22 England

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: George Ford (ENG)
Winning captain: Luke Whitelock (NZL)
Winning coach: Mark Anscombe (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Michael Hooper (AUS) 125, Beauden Barrett (NZL) 123, Eben Etzebeth (RSA) 120

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,640
Tries: 204

Top points scorer
Player: Gareth Anscombe (NZL) 86
Team: New Zealand 274

Top try scorers
Player: Arno Botha (RSA) / Christian Wade (ENG) 7
Team: New Zealand 37

New Zealand and England met for the third time in four U20 Championship finals, and while the result was the same, this was the closest the champions had come to losing a title decider.

Six Nations Grand Slam winners England dominated the early exchanges in Padova but couldn’t turn it into points on the scoreboard. New Zealand, by contrast, made the most of their opportunities and the fact that Gareth Anscombe didn’t miss a kick ultimately proved the difference in a 33-22 victory – their 20th in a row in the competition.

Australia had avenged their Pool B decider loss to France to finish third, while Fiji felt the wrath of a South African side who had failed to reach the last four with a 104-17 defeat. Despite that final day loss, Fiji still left Italy with their best finish of sixth.

Hosts Italy also had cause to celebrate on the final day when they beat Tonga 34-22 in the 11th place play-off to retain their place in the top tier, condemning the Pacific islanders to relegation to the U20 Trophy in 2012.


Host: South Africa 
Dates: 4-22 June

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Fiji, Samoa
Pool B – England, South Africa, Ireland, Italy
Pool C – Australia, France, Scotland, Argentina

Winner: South Africa
Runner-up: New Zealand

New Zealand 30-6 Wales
South Africa 35-3 Argentina

South Africa 22-16 New Zealand

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Jan Serfontein (RSA)
Winning captain: Wiaan Liebenberg (RSA)
Winning coach: Dawie Theron (RSA)

Most capped graduates: Pablo Matera (ARG) 98, Gaël Fickou (FRA) 90, Tadhg Furlong (IRE and Lions) 83, Steven Kitshoff (RSA) 83

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,343
Tries: 165

Top points scorer
Player: Tom Prydie (WAL) 61
Team: Wales 158

Top try scorer
Player: Jamie Farndale (SCO) 6
Team: Scotland 21

The form book was ripped up in 2012 with the final contested for the first time by two teams who had each lost a pool match, hosts South Africa falling to Ireland and New Zealand suffering their first-ever U20 Championship loss, against Wales.

It was the dream final between the hosts and the four-time defending champions and watched by a 35,000 crowd that created a cauldron of noise inside Newlands Stadium. Two second-half tries, one by centre Jan Serfontein, gave South Africa the breathing space to survive the final 10 minutes when New Zealand threw all they had at their hosts.

South Africa had ended New Zealand’s vice-like grip on the trophy, but it had also been a breakthrough tournament for Argentina who finished fourth after defeating Wales on the final day.

England could only finish a disappointing seventh, while Fiji had to dig deep to survive a fight-back by Italy to win the relegation battle 19-17 and condemn the Italians to the U20 Trophy in 2013.


Host: France
Dates: 5-23 June

Pool A – South Africa, England, France, USA
Pool B – New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Fiji
Pool C – Wales, Argentina, Scotland, Samoa

Winner: England
Runner-up: Wales

Wales 18-17 South Africa
England 33-21 New Zealand 

England 23-15 Wales

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Sam Davies (WAL)
Winning captain: Jack Clifford (ENG)
Winning coach: Nick Walshe (ENG)

Most capped graduates: Pablo Matera (ARG) 98, Julián Montoya (ARG) 95, Guido Petti Pagadizbal (ARG) 82

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,550
Tries: 189

Top points scorer
Player: Patricio Fernández (ARG) 82
Team: England 219

Top try scorer
Player: Seabelo Senatla (RSA) 7
Team: South Africa 30

England versus Wales was the first final to feature two northern hemisphere teams and it turned out to be the proverbial game of two halves.

Touches of brilliance from Welsh fly-half Sam Davies saw his side lead 15-3 at half-time in Vannes, but once Jack Nowell scored just before the hour mark, the momentum swung England’s way and they went on to win 23-15 and put previous near-misses behind them.

England, who only made the last four as the best runner-up after losing to South Africa, had beaten New Zealand for the first time at this level in the semi-finals, while Davies was Wales’ hero against the Junior Springboks, setting up a try in the final minute and then nailing the touchline conversion for the 18-17 win.

South Africa won an 11-try thriller against New Zealand to finish third, while Fiji proved too strong for the USA in the 11th place play-off, winning 46-12 to condemn the Junior All-Americans to an immediate return to the U20 Trophy.

Jesse Kriel's double in the 2014 final
South Africa's Jesse Kriel scored twice as his side narrowly lost 21-20 in the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2014


Host: New Zealand 
Dates: 1-20 June 

Pool A – England, Argentina, Australia, Italy
Pool B – Wales, France, Ireland, Fiji
Pool C – South Africa, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland

Winner: England
Runner-up: South Africa

England 42-15 Ireland
South Africa 32-25 New Zealand

England 21-20 South Africa

World Rugby Junior Player of the Year: Handré Pollard (RSA)
Winning captain: Maro Itoje (ENG)
Winning coach: Nick Walshe (ENG)

Most capped graduates: Maro Itoje (ENG and Lions) 88, Guido Petti Pagadizbal (ARG) 82, Anton Lienert-Brown (NZL) 70

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,473
Tries: 187

Top points scorer
Player: Patricio Fernández (ARG) 73
Team: New Zealand 196

Top try scorer
Player: Andrew Kellaway (AUS) 10
Team: New Zealand 28

Two previous winners met in a U20 Championship final for the first time as England and South Africa produced a pulsating encounter at Eden Park. It took time for the showpiece game to spark into life, but it was always competitive with the result always in the balance.

Jesse Kriel scored twice for South Africa, but England’s defence held firm, surviving a drop goal attempt from the impressive Handré Pollard, to win 21-20 and retain their title.

Hosts New Zealand had twice been beaten by South Africa, but finished on a high after four second-half tries against a gutsy Irish side were enough to secure third place, while winger Andrew Kellaway set a new record for tries in a single championship with a brace as Australia fought back to beat France 34-27 in the battle for fifth place.

Meanwhile, Fiji were relegated to the U20 Trophy in 2015 after losing the 11th place play-off to Italy 22-17.


Host: Italy
Dates: 2-20 June 

Pool A – England, France, Wales, Japan
Pool B – South Africa, Australia, Samoa, Italy
Pool C – New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Scotland

Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: England

New Zealand 45-7 France
South Africa 20-28 England

New Zealand 21-16 England

Winning captain: Atu Moli (NZL)
Winning coach: Scott Robertson (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Anton Lienert-Brown (NZL) 70, Zander Fagerson (SCO) 67, Andrew Porter (IRE) 64

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,432
Tries: 180

Top points scorer
Player: Brandon Thomson (RSA) 59
Team: New Zealand 191

Top try scorer
Player: Tevita Li (NZL) 6
Team: New Zealand 24

Back on Italian soil, the scene of their last U20 Championship triumph, New Zealand ended their barren run with a 21-16 victory over England. In another tight affair, Akira Ioane scored the only try of the second half and that proved the difference in Cremona.

South Africa overcame France to finish third, while Scotland and Japan, on their return to the U20 Championship, recorded their highest finishes of eighth and 10th respectively.

The relegation battle went right down to the final play, Samoa missing with a penalty attempt from halfway that would have condemned Italy to relegation to the U20 Trophy in 2016. Instead, the 20-19 loss meant Samoa slipped once more back to the second tier.


Host: England 
Dates: 7-25 June 

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Ireland, Georgia 
Pool B – England, Australia, Scotland, Italy
Pool C – South Africa, France, Argentina, Japan

Winner: England
Runner-up: Ireland

Ireland 37-7 Argentina
England 39-17 South Africa

England 45-21 Ireland

Player of the Tournament: Max Deegan (IRE)
Winning captain: Harry Mallinder (ENG)
Winning coach: Martin Haag (ENG)

Most capped graduates: Marcos Kremer (ARG) 64, Andrew Porter (IRE) 64, James Ryan (IRE) 62

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,572
Tries:  208

Top points scorer
Player: Harry Mallinder (ENG) 68
Team: New Zealand 223

Top try scorer
Player: Ataata Moeakiola (JPN) 6
Team: New Zealand 34

England became only the second host nation to lift the trophy after a tournament full of surprises in Manchester.

Fellow finalists Ireland had found themselves in a tough pool with defending champions New Zealand and Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales, but they defied the odds to finish on top, becoming the first Irish men’s side in history to beat New Zealand, at any level, along the way.

In the final, first-time finalists Ireland came up against an irrepressible side inspirationally led by two-try hero Harry Mallinder. England added to their wins in 2013 and 2014 with a brilliant 45-21 victory.

Argentina also upset the form book in beating South Africa not once but twice – including 49-19 on the final day – to record their best finish of third.

New Zealand failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time but bounced back to finish fifth while Georgia finished 10th on their debut, giving Wales and France real scares along the way. Italy survived another relegation battle to condemn Japan to the U20 Trophy in 2017 after a 41-17 defeat.


Host: Georgia
Dates: 31 May-18 June 

Pool A – England, Australia, Wales, Samoa
Pool B – Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Italy
Pool C – Argentina, South Africa, France, Georgia

Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: England

England 24-22 South Africa
New Zealand 39-26 France

England 17-64 New Zealand

Player of the Tournament: Juarno Augustus (RSA)
Winning captain: Luke Jacobson (NZL)
Winning coach: Craig Philpott (NZL)

Most capped graduates: Blair Kinghorn (SCO) 53, Tedo Abzhandadze (GEO) 52, Matt Fagerson (SCO) 44

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,789
Tries:  239

Top points scorer
Player: Tiaan Falcon (NZL) 69
Team: New Zealand 282

Top try scorer
Player: Juarno Augustus (RSA) 7
Team: New Zealand 41

New Zealand ripped up the U20 Championship record books in claiming a sixth title with their 64-17 victory over defending champions England seeing them score the most tries, most points and record the biggest winning margin in a final.

The tournament in Georgia produced plenty of surprises along the way with the first draw in the competition's history, between France and South Africa on day one, as well as the highest-ever finish for both Scotland (fifth) and Italy (eighth) with the latter avoiding their traditional final day relegation battle.

Instead, it was Argentina and Samoa who faced that play-off with the Pacific Islanders losing 53-42 to drop down to the World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2018.


Host: France
Dates: 30 May-17 June

Pool A – New Zealand, Wales, Australia, Japan
Pool B – England, Italy, Argentina, Scotland
Pool C – France, South Africa, Georgia, Ireland

Winner: France
Runner-up: England

England 32-31 South Africa
New Zealand 7-16 France

England 25-33 France

Player of the Tournament: Jordan Joseph (FRA)
Winning captain: Arthur Coville (FRA)
Winning coach: Sébastien Piqueronies (FRA)

Most-capped graduates: Tedo Abzhandadze (GEO) 52, Guram Gogichashvili (GEO) 42, Santiago Carreras (ARG) 42

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,628
Tries: 220

Top points scorer
Player: Louis Carbonel (FRA), 60
Team: Australia 178

Top try scorers
Player: Giovanni D'Onofrio (ITA), Wandisile Simelane (RSA), 6
Team: South Africa 26

France overturned their Six Nations loss to England at a sold-out Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers to become the fourth nation to add their name to the U20 Championship trophy.

England outscored France three tries to two in the final, but a 23-point contribution from the boot of Louis Carbonel, through seven penalties and a conversion, ensured it was Les Bleuets who came out on top, 33-25, to the delight of their passionate home support.

England had claimed a thrilling one-point win over South Africa in the first semi-final with France dethroning defending champions New Zealand in the other, but there would be no stopping a team regarded as France's “golden generation” in the title decider.

The tournament in France saw Italy match their best-ever finish of eighth from the previous year, with Georgia showing their continued development by beating Ireland, Japan and Scotland to finish ninth.

Ireland found themselves in the relegation play-off against Japan, needing a last-gasp try to triumph 39-33 and avoid dropping into the U20 Trophy in 2019.

England's U20 triumph | Rugby Relived
Two undefeated teams, the England Rugby and Irish Rugby U20s, went head-to-head in last year's World Rugby U20 Championship final, but only one emerged victorious! Who were you supporting?


Host: Argentina
Dates: 4-22 June

Pool A: France, Argentina, Wales, Fiji
Pool B: England, Australia, Italy, Ireland
Pool C: South Africa, New Zealand, Georgia, Scotland

Winner: France
Runner-up: Australia

Argentina 13-34 Australia
South Africa 7-20 France

Australia 23-24 France

Player of the Tournament: Juan Pablo Castro (ARG)
Winning captain: Arthur Vincent (FRA)
Winning coach: Sébastien Piqueronies (FRA)

Most capped graduates: Tedo Abzhandadze (GEO) 52, Demur Tapladze (GEO) 36, Paolo Garbisi (ITA) 36

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,644
Tries: 189

Top points scorer
Player: Josh Hodge (ENG), 63
Team: England 181

Top try scorer
Player: Ewan Ashman (SCO), 7
Team: New Zealand 24

For France it was another triumphant year as they overcame Australia 24-23 in arguably the most entertaining final in the competition’s history.

France joined New Zealand (2008-11) and England (2013-14) in successfully defending the coveted title after denying Australia a first title in the same Argentine city where they were humbled 62-17 by New Zealand in the 2010 final.

Given Australia had recently been crowned Oceania U20 champions, this was never going to be such a one-sided affair. Only the second ever final to be decided by a single point – after England's 21-20 defeat of South Africa at Eden Park in 2014 – the 2019 fixture will live long in the memory.

France and Australia produced 80 minutes of pulsating rugby that kept fans on the edge of their seats as it swung one way and then the other. In fact, the lead changed hands no fewer than seven times before France fly-half Louis Carbonel kicked what proved to be the winning penalty with 15 minutes to go at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario.

Past reputations counted for nothing in 2019, with England struggling to impose themselves and New Zealand losing to both South Africa and Wales to finish in their lowest-ever position of seventh.

Meanwhile, Scotland became the first Home Nation to drop out of the U20 Championship after being on the receiving end of a brilliant display of attacking rugby from Fiji in the 11th place play-off.


Due to be staged in Italy from 28 June-18 July, the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament would also not take place in 2021 and 2022.


Host: South Africa
Dates: 24 June-14 July

Pool A: France, Wales, New Zealand, Japan
Pool B: Australia, England, Ireland, Fiji
Pool C: South Africa, Argentina, Italy, Georgia

Winner: France
Runner-up: Ireland

Ireland 31-12 South Africa
France 52-31 England

Ireland 14-50 France

Player of the Tournament: Marko Gazzotti (FRA)
Winning captain: Lenni Nouchi (FRA)
Winning coach: Sébastien Calvet (FRA)

Most capped graduates: Irakli Aptsiauri (GEO) 7, Cameron Winnett (WAL) 6, Chandler Cunningham-South (ENG) 5

Tournament statistics
Points: 1,844
Tries: 146 pools

Top points scorer
Player: Hugo Reus (FRA), 62
Team: France 255

Top try scorer
Player: Nicolas Depoortère (FRA), Basa Khonelidze (GEO), Caleb Tangitau (NZL), Macca Springer (NZL), 5
Team: France 36

The tournament returned after a four-year absence but it was a familiar story that unfolded as the latest generation of Les Bleuets proved unstoppable, the closest any team got to them across the five games being 21 points as France won a third successive U20 Championship title.

With talent across the team – including the now test-capped duo of back row Posolo Tuilagi and centre Nicolas Depoortère – France played a brand of attacking rugby that had fans on the edge of their seats, be they back home or watching on in South Africa.  

Ireland, who arrived in South Africa as U20 Six Nations winners, had only trailed France 17-14 at half-time in the title decider but were simply blown away in the second half.

South Africa would edge England to finish third, having earlier staged a late rally to beat Argentina in their final pool match and pip Georgia to top spot – denying them a first-ever semi-final appearance – on the head-to-head rule after both finished on nine points.

Georgia had impressively beaten both Italy and Argentina in the pool stage and would go on to finish eighth, their best ever placing after losing to New Zealand on the final day. Italy had stunned the hosts with a pool stage victory but found themselves in a relegation play-off on the final day, edging Japan 45-27 to condemn their opponents to a swift return to the U20 Trophy in 2024.  

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