Rugby fans from across the world will be introduced to future stars of the game when the U20 World Championship gets underway in Manchester on Tuesday.
The U20 tournament has showcased some phenomenal talent in recent years with more than 500 players going on to represent their countries at senior level.
All Blacks Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick won the title with New Zealand in 2011 before going on to win the Rugby World Cup in 2015, while Springbok fly-half Handré Pollard captained the junior team to the 2014 final and was rewarded with a call-up to the senior team in the same year.
The Junior All Blacks come into the tournament as defending champions after beating England 21-16 in last year’s final which was hosted in Italy, with New Zealand winger Tevita Li finishing as the top try scorer in the 2015 event.
They are the most successful team in the history of the event having won it on five previous occasions, and strong favourites too to lift their sixth U20 World Championship title.
2013 Junior World Champions England will be looking to go one step further this year and lift the trophy after finishing as runners-up in 2015.
Wales will come into the tournament full of confidence after winning the U20 Six Nations and Grand Slam earlier in the year. According to captain Dylon Lewis the team is a confident group and if their good form continues they could make a strong challenge for the title.
Also worth considering are the Junior Springboks, who won the tournament on home soil in 2012. South Africa were sent home by England in last year’s semi-final clash, however with coach Dawie Theron having been at the helm for a number of years he will know what is required to get the best out of his players.
The teams have started arriving in England and Bill Beaumont, chairman of England rugby told the official Premiership website that he expects a world class event.
“Throughout the past couple of weeks we have seen a fantastic buzz across the North West as the trophy visited clubs, schools and iconic locations as part of the World Rugby U20 Championship build up,” said Beaumont.
“As the teams begin to arrive we have seen this excitement further heightened in anticipation for the start of the tournament, with a number of local clubs and schools getting the chance to meet the future stars of rugby and celebrate this great occasion.”
Players to watch: There will be many players to look out for at this year’s event. New Zealand centre Jordie Barrett, brother of All Black fly-half Beauden Barrett, will want to emulate his brothers achievements with the U20 team by helping his team defend their title.
Another bright prospect is South Africa number eight Junior Pokomela. He has already won the U19 Currie Cup and looks to be one for the future, while England flanker Will Evans will look to secure quick ball for his team at the breakdown and allow them to attack off first phase possession.
Another number eight who will be central to his team’s chances is Wales’ Harri Keddie. Keddie is a strong runner and he will look to get his team over the gain line with every opportunity.
U20 Rugby World Championship 2016 pools:
Pool A: Georgia, Ireland, New Zealand, Wales
Pool B: Australia, England, Italy, Scotland
Pool C: Argentina, France, Japan, South Africa
2015: New Zealand
2012: South Africa
2011: New Zealand
2010: New Zealand
2009: New Zealand
2008: New Zealand