As three-time defending champions France remain the team to beat at the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.

The action gets underway on Saturday 29 June, with matches split between two Cape Town venues, the DHL Stadium and the Athlone Sports Ground.

All the matches can be watched live and exclusive in the majority of territories on RugbyPass TV. Sign up here>>

Les Bleuets are top seeds in Pool A but have the once-dominant New Zealand for company along with Wales and tournament debutants Spain, who they face in the first round.

Last year’s beaten finalists Ireland head up Pool B, which also contains three more sides looking to lift the trophy for the first time – Australia, Italy and Georgia.

Two more powerhouses of the U20 game, South Africa and England, will be vying for supremacy of Pool C, along with two more extremely physical sides in Argentina and Fiji.


Head coach: Sébastien Calvet
Captain: Hugo Reus
Best result: Champions (2018-19, 2023)
2023 ranking: Champions

With players dropping in and out of the squad due to senior call-ups and Top 14 commitments, it’s not been the most settled build-up for Les Bleuets who are bidding to emulate New Zealand in winning four consecutive titles.

Hugo Reus became the second France player after Louis Carbonel (2018) to finish as the tournament top points scorer in 2023, amassing 62 points including 23 conversions, and he returns to lead a squad missing the likes of Posolo Tuilagi, who made a huge impact at last year’s tournament and went on to be capped at senior level.

Repeating last year’s victory would be the perfect way for head coach Sébastien Calvet to sign off from his time with the U20s, as he joins SU Agen, also as head coach, immediately after the tournament.

New Zealand
Head coach: Jono Gibbes
Captain: Vernon Bason
Best result: Winners (2008-11, 2015, 2017)
2023 ranking: 7th

For a team that won the first four U20 Championships and has six titles overall, the most by any team in the tournament’s history, the last few years have been slim pickings for New Zealand.

In last year’s tournament they suffered their biggest-ever U20 Championship defeat, a 35-14 pool loss to France, and conceded a record number of points in losing 44-35 to Australia in the fifth-place semi-final.

Finishing seventh in consecutive tournaments represents a real fall from grace for New Zealand, however they go into this year’s tournament having won the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship competition.

How that form translates to the world stage remains to be seen, especially with one of their star men – Chiefs loose forward Malachi Wrampling – ruled out through injury.


Head coach: Richard Whiffin
Captain: Ryan Woodman
Best result: Runners-up in 2013
2023 ranking: 6th

Well-travelled head coach Richard Whiffin is known for his love of attacking rugby and he has vowed that this Wales team won’t die wondering.

Under Whiffin, Wales put in an improved performance in the U20 Six Nations, despite finishing fifth, by winning two of their five matches, although those victories came against Scotland and Italy.

France and New Zealand should prove to be a much tougher proposition but at least Wales can count upon their 2023 skipper, Ryan Woodman, the Dragons back-row now fit again after missing the U20 Six Nations.

Bath centre, Louie Hennessy, is another player who is a year older and wiser having made his Premiership debut since appearing in South Africa last year. He is touted as a future test player.


Head coach: Ricardo Martinena Royo
Captain: Manex Aricet
Best result: Tournament debut
2023 ranking: N/A

Spain are set to play in their first U20 Championship having won promotion by winning the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 in a thrilling match against Uruguay.

Promoted sides tend to find the step up from the U20 Trophy to the U20 Championship a mountain to climb, and Spain’s first objective will be to try and survive at this level.

Five times a team has come up only to go straight back down again, while the best finish of a promoted team is 10th.

Spain can still call upon the finishing ability of full-back Gabriel Rocaries, who scored five tries in their triumphant U20 Trophy-winning campaign, and will look to play with freedom and without fear. But they’ll be missing turnover king, Borja Ibanez Escalera, who was capped by Los Leones earlier this year and is no longer eligible.


Head coach: Willie Faloon
Captain: Evan O’Connell
Best result: Runners-up (2016, 2023)
2023 ranking: Runners-up

Captain Evan O’Connell, Brian Gleeson, Danny Sheahan, Hugh Gavin, and Sam Berman are the five returning players from last year's tournament, as Ireland finished runners-up behind France.

For the second time in the title-deciding match, Ireland were well beaten, losing 50-14 to France, having lost 45-21 to England in the 2016 final, so it will be interesting to see how that quintet overcome the battle scars.

From there, Ireland pushed England all the way in the U20 Six Nations, missing out on a successful title defence by a point.

Fly-half Jack Murphy will have to have the same nerves of steel he displayed in that campaign if he is to help Ireland deliver an elusive first title. But at least he won’t have his dad watching his every move with a critical eye, Richie Murphy having moved on as head coach to be replaced by Willie Faloon.


Head coach: Nathan Grey
Captain: Toby Macpherson
Best result: Runners-up (2010, 2019)
2023 ranking: 5th

Coming off the back of the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship, Australia should be better prepared for the rigours of tournament rugby than in previous years.

On paper, they have an easier route to the semi-finals, too, having had European heavyweights England and Ireland in the same pool as them when they went on to finish fifth in 2023. Ireland keep them company again but Italy and Georgia are sides they would ordinarily expect to beat.

The Junior Wallabies only won one of their three games as hosts of the U20 Rugby Championship competition, and that was a hard-fought one against 14-man South Africa. But they still played some good rugby on the Gold Coast and pacy fly-half Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, in particular, caught the eye in continuing his fine form from a sensational rookie campaign in Super Rugby Pacific with the Queensland Reds,

Nathan Grey leads the Junior Walalbies again as head coach and his coaching team has been boosted by the arrival of fellow former Wallabies in Matt Cockbain and Ben Mowen.

ACT Brumbies second-row Toby Macpherson will captain the side, with scrum-half Dan Nelson named vice captain.


Head coach: Lado Kilasonia
Captain: Nika Lomidze
Best result: 8th (2023)
2023 ranking: 8th

Georgia achieved their best finish since earning promotion to the U20 Championship in finishing eighth last year.

The Junior Lelos went into that campaign on the back of a historic drawn series with England and they do so again, having bounced back from a 31-7 defeat in the first match in Tblisi with an emphatic 45-17 statement win.

As you’d expect from a side full of physical players, Georgia still love a maul try and close quarters rugby. But in scoring 20 points or more in each of last year’s five games, they showed there is so much more to their game than just forward muscle.

Winger Tato Burtikashvili will be one to keep an eye on after his two-try showing against England, while on the other flank, Luka Tsirekidze, is now a fully-capped Lelos player having made his senior debut against Germany in February.


Head coach: Roberto Santamaria
Captain: Jacopo Botturi
Best result: 8th (2017, 2018)
2023 ranking: 11th

Despite beating hosts South Africa 34-26 with a brilliant display of wet-weather rugby, Italy still found themselves embroiled in a relegation battle in 2023.

The Azzurrini came good when it mattered most to beat Japan in the 11th-place play-off and therefore survive for another year at this level. But it has become an all-too-familiar situation over the years, with Italy involved in no less than six do-or-die games since the U20 Championship went to 12 teams.

Avoiding another repeat of that scenario will be the main focus and the Azzurrini are boosted by the return to fitness of Viadana utility back Simone Brisighella, who missed the U20 Men’s Six Nations campaign with a bad knee injury but is now fully recovered.

Italy finished fourth in the U20 Men’s Six Nations, showing what they are capable of on their day with a 23-20 away win against France. Those days are all too rare, though, and the fact that they have only strung back-to-back wins once across the last four tournaments is an indictment of their inconsistency.

Pool C

South Africa

Head coach: Bafana Nhleko
Captain: Zachary Porthen
Best result: Champions (2012)
2023 ranking: 3rd

South Africa finished runners-up in the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship in Australia in May, but it could have been so much better had they not conceded a late try to deny them victory in their opening game, a 13-13 draw against eventual champions New Zealand. Also, their discipline let them down on the Gold Coast with their efforts stymied by a return of three yellow cards and a red.

As hosts last time around, the Junior Springboks had an up-and-down campaign, putting a pool defeat to Italy behind them to finish third, a regular finishing position for them over the years, after a physically dominant performance by the forwards against England.

South Africa have reached the semi-finals in every tournament bar 2011 when they finished fifth, and it would be a major surprise if they weren’t in the shake-up for honours again.

Prop Zachary Porthen – one of five players who will feature in the tournament for a second time – captains a squad that will be looking to add to the solitary title that they won on home soil in 2012.


Head coach: Mark Mapletoft
Captain: Finn Carnduff
Best result: Champions (2013-14, 2016)
2023 ranking: 4th

Like South Africa, England will be desperate to end their long wait for a title.

England haven’t been crowned champions since they beat Ireland to lift the trophy in Manchester in 2016.

They go into this tournament as champions of the U20 Six Nations and one of the stars of that campaign, openside Henry Pollock, will be out to make a big impression in his first U20 Championship.

Expertly led by Finn Carnduff, England have a set of forwards to be feared. Aside from the rampaging Pollock, the pack has a number of big-game players, notably Sale Sharks’ Asher Opoku-Fordjour, one of the Gallagher Premiership’s breakthrough stars, fellow front-rower Afolabi Fasogbon and second-row Junior Kpoku.

England only won one of their five matches in 2023 – their worst return yet and will be banking on a good result in their opening match against Argentina, who they have never lost to in three previous meetings, to set them up for the rest of the tournament.


Head coach: Álvaro Galindo
Captain: Elías Efrain
Best result: 3rd (2016)
2023 ranking: 9th

For a country that has produced more graduates to test rugby from the U20s than any other country bar France, Los Pumitas’ U20 Championship record is surprisingly poor. They have reached the semi-finals in just three of the 13 tournaments held to date, with a best finish of third in 2016.

Last year, they came ninth but their ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over was one positive to take from South Africa. Argentina amassed the second most points (147) they have managed in a single campaign, despite losing 20-0 to Georgia in the pool stage.

Los Pumitas go into this campaign having finished third in the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship standings after one win and a couple of defeats. They began with a 25-6 win against Australia but were then beaten 43-20 by New Zealand and 30-28 by South Africa, having blown a 21-7 lead.

Sevens winger Franco Rossetto served notice of the threat he poses by scoring four tries in the latter match. Rossetto only made a brief appearance off the bench against Fiji at the last U20 Championship, but will look to spearhead the attack this time around.

Los Pumitas conceded a yellow card in each of their U20 Rugby Championship games, conceding an average of five points while they were short-handed in defence so getting on the right side of the referees is an area they need to work-on in South Africa if they want to improve their underwhelming record at this level.


Head Coach: Apisai Sailada
Captain: Nelani May
Best result: 6th (2011)
2023 ranking: 10th

Following wins over the U20 sides of Tonga (39-25), hosts Moana Pasifika (48-19) and Samoa (31-17), Fiji claimed the first-ever Oceania Rugby U20 Challenge title in March.

But they face an uphill task to get the wins they need to progress to the semi-finals for the first time in U20 Championship history, as they have an 0-8 record against pool opponents South Africa, England and Argentina, collectively.

Previous matches against England and South Africa have all been damage-limitation exercises, while last year’s encounter with Argentina was an explosive affair with three cards handed out to each side.

With their natural firepower and ball-handling finesse, attacking rugby has never been an issue for Fiji but they surpassed even themselves last year in scoring 134 points, which is more than in any of their previous nine campaigns.

Second-row Nelani May is one of those returning to South Africa for a second tournament with the former national basketball rep captaining the side.

Click here to sign up to RugbyPass TV for free live World Rugby U20s Championship matches from Saturday, June 29