Following England’s semi-final victory over South Africa on Monday evening, World Rugby and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have announced that the World Rugby Under-20 Championship 2016 will be held in Manchester, England. Hosted by the RFU, the tournament will take place at AJ Bell Stadium, home of Sale Sharks, and Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, offering back-to-back international rugby in June 2016. The annual event, which is currently taking place in Italy, is contested by 12 national teams at under-20 level, showcasing future stars of rugby union.
Previously known as the Junior World Championship, the tournament was introduced in 2008 with Wales, Japan, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, France and New Zealand having all played host. Only three nations have lifted the coveted trophy, New Zealand (2008-11), South Africa (2012) and current title holders England who won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. England will host the World Rugby U-20 Championship in June 2016.
The tournament proves crucial in offering a pathway for future stars of the game to progress to the highest international test stage. Since 2008, 24 senior England players have progressed through the Under-20s programme including the likes of Owen Farrell and George Ford. In total, 335 players have made the step up globally.
Commenting on the announcement, World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: ‘The Under-20 Championship in England next year will be another excellent opportunity for the future stars of world rugby to showcase their skills on the world stage, following what’s shaping up to be a record-breaking Rugby World Cup. Manchester will provide an excellent base for the world’s top Under-20 teams, and it’s a great opportunity to bring a top class rugby event to the city and grow the game even further in the region. With so many graduates of the Under-20 Championship now excelling in the international test arena, this tournament, coupled with this year’s Rugby World Cup, will leave a great legacy for others to build on in the years to come.’
The appointment comes as a further boost to English rugby, with the 2015 Rugby World Cup taking place across the country in September. As the RFU’s Chief Executive Ian Ritchie commented, it promises to be an exciting year for rugby in England. He says: ‘We are honoured to be hosting the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in England next year. We have a tremendous opportunity to grow the game in this country after October’s tournament, and create a legacy for generations to come. The appointment of the Championship to the RFU is another significant step forward in helping us achieve that goal, ensuring that rugby is accessible in all areas of the country. This builds on a wide range of age grade international rugby that has and will continue to be played across England, including the Rugby World Cup pool game at the Etihad Stadium.’
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