We take a look at the four teams in Pool A of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2018, which features defending champions New Zealand, Australia, Wales and the U20 Trophy 2017 winners Japan.
Seeding for 2018: 1
Best finish: Champions (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017)
Worst finish: Fifth (2016)
U20 Championship match record: Played 50 / Won 43 / Lost 7
U20 Championship points / tries scored: 2,192 / 308
U20 graduates: 34
Most capped U20 graduate: Sam Whitelock (96 tests)
Did you know...? Ten members of New Zealand’s RWC 2015 winning side came through the U20 Championship pathway and all lifted that distinctive trophy as well.
Coach: Craig Philpott
Captain: Tom Christie
One to watch: Caleb Clarke
This will be the 19-year-old’s second U20 Championship, having scored six tries – one shy of the tournament high – to help New Zealand claim a sixth title in Georgia last year. The son of All Black Eroni Clarke, Caleb has pace to burn and opponents would be wise not to give him space to work his magic or they will see plenty of his back as he races away for tries! The winger, who will still be eligible for the U20s in 2019, has also worn the black jersey on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this year, playing in the Sydney and Hamilton rounds.
Seeding for 2018: 6
Best finish: Runners-up (2010)
Worst finish: Eighth (2012)
U20 Championship match record: Played 50 / Won 30 / Lost 20
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 1,574 / 218
U20 graduates: 48
Most capped U20 graduate: Will Genia (88 tests)
Did you know...? Australia’s U20 graduates have accumulated more test caps than any other nation to date with 1,086 at the start of June 2018 with three of the seven players to have reached 70 caps being Wallabies.
Coach: Jason Gilmore
Captain: Ryan Lonergan
One to watch: Matt McTaggart
A four-try haul in Australia’s emphatic victory over Tonga at the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship earlier this month means McTaggart will not be able to slip under the radar in France. The 20-year-old is part of the Australia Sevens programme, making his debut on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Hong Kong in April. A natural full-back with pace and vision, he is equally comfortable anywhere in the back three and not afraid to back himself with ball in hand.
Seeding for 2018: 7
Best finish: Runners-up (2013)
Worst finish: Seventh (2010, 2011, 2014, 2017)
U20 Championship match record: Played 50 / Won 29 / Lost 21
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 1,307 / 157
U20 graduates: 47
Most capped U20 graduate: Leigh Halfpenny (82 tests, including four for the British and Irish Lions)
Did you know...? Sam Warburton is only the second player to captain the British and Irish Lions twice, after Martin Johnson in 1997 and 2001. Warburton led the Lions to a first series win in 16 years in 2013 against Australia and then a draw with New Zealand in 2017
Coach: Geraint Lewis
Captain: Tommy Reffell
One to watch: Dane Blacker (pictured)
Dynamic Cardiff Blues scrum-half who has an eye for a gap and loves to catch defences off guard with his sniping runs. Fully fit now after a back injury cut short his debut season in the PRO14 and ruled him out of this year’s U20 Six Nations. Pontypridd-born Blacker featured in all 10 of Wales’ age-grade internationals in 2017 and scored tries against Australia and Samoa at the U20 Championship in Georgia.
Seeding for 2018: 12 (U20 Trophy 2017 winners)
Best finish: 10th (2015)
Worst finish: 15th (2008, 2009)
U20 Championship match record: Played 20 / Won 3 / Lost 17
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 356 / 53
U20 graduates: 43 (15 from Championship and 28 from Trophy)
Most capped U20 graduate: Harumichi Tatekawa (54 tests)
Did you know...? Michael Leitch captained Japan to their famous win over South Africa at RWC 2015, eight years after leading their U20 side at the inaugural tournament in Wales in 2008
Coach: Satoru Endo
Captain: Hisanobu Okayama
Player to watch: Koga Nezuka
Nezuka demonstrated both his power and pace in scoring a stunning individual try for Junior Japan at the World Rugby Pacific Challenge back in March. Playing at full-back, the Hosei University student sat down two bigger Samoan opponents and then sped around the last defender on an arcing run to the line to help his side to a 29-21 victory. Selected on the wing for this tournament, the 19-year-old should get plenty of opportunities to shine out wide given Japan’s propensity for high-tempo rugby.
Who do you think will rise the top of Pool A or spring a surprise along the way? Join the conversation @WorldRugby using #WorldRugbyU20s.