Hosts Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji will contest the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship 2017 on the Gold Coast from 28 April to 6 May.
The third edition of the tournament will provide invaluable preparation for Australia, New Zealand and Samoa as they build towards the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia from 31 May to 18 June.
Australia and Samoa, making their return after winning the World Rugby U20 Trophy last year, have been drawn together in Pool A with defending champions England and Wales, while New Zealand will face three European sides in Ireland, Italy and Scotland.
Fiji, meanwhile, will have a longer lead-in time to their appearance in the second tier World Rugby U20 Trophy, which takes place in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo from 29 August to 10 September.
New Zealand have won both editions of the Oceania Championship, although Australia did record their first-ever win over their trans-Tasman rivals at U20 level last year as each side won one match in the competition.
Despite its fledging history, a number of players have already made the transition from the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship to Super Rugby franchises, including the likes of Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes, pictured), Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs), Andrew Kellaway (NSW Waratahs) and Jonah Placid (Melbourne Rebels).
World Rugby’s Rugby Services Manager for Oceania Bruce Cook said: “We are very excited to see this competition expand with Fiji and Samoa participating alongside New Zealand and Australia.
“Each year the tournament’s standards have continued to rise and it is a great opportunity for people to see the next generation of potential rugby stars come together to play in what will be an outstanding tournament.”
Australian Rugby Union (ARU) National Performance Programmes Manager, Adrian Thompson added: “The ARU is very appreciative of the efforts of Oceania Rugby to secure the future of this competition.
“The Championship has continued to grow each year and gives each participating nation further opportunity to test themselves before competing at the World Rugby U20 Championship.
“The success of the Six Nations U20s has benefited those nations and this tournament will go a long way in narrowing the preparation gap.”
New Australia U20 coach Simon Cron added: “The Oceania U20s Championship will provide a great challenge for our squad against three strong sides. We are having a camp during this period so it will allow us to test combinations as well as coach the skills required to allow us to play our style of rugby in Georgia.
“We must use this tournament as a testing ground to finalise the squad as well as coach three players deep in every position. We only have a total of five days with these guys before our first game so we need to make sure we use every second.
“New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji will be at different stages in their preparation and we just need to focus on our processes during the games and then spending some serious times in reviewing games so we can get knowledge and understanding within the squad.”