South Africa will kick off their World Rugby Under-20 Championship (formerly IRB Junior World Championship) campaign against hosts Italy on 2 June 2015, World Rugby has announced. The Junior Springboks are the top seeded team in Pool B and their group opponents are Australia, Samoa and tournament hosts Italy. The tournament, which runs from 2 to 20 June 2015 in northern Italy, sees England returning to defend the crown which they retained in June in New Zealand after edging the Junior Springboks in a memorable final at Eden Park.
Pool A consists of England, France, Wales and Japan while New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina and Scotland are grouped in Pool C. The South Africans face Samoa on Saturday, 6 June at 18:30 in Parma and their final pool match is onWednesday, 10 June against Australia. The three pool winners plus the best-placed second ranked team will contest the two semi-finals on Monday 15 June in Calvisano, with the final and final playoff matches to take place on Saturday June 20 in Cremona.
Four venues will host the Under-20 Championship this year – Parma, Calvisano, Viadana, with the final to be held in Cremona on 20 June. The opening day also sees England play Japan, who return to the Under-20 competition for the first time since 2009 and four-time winners New Zealand versus Scotland in Parma. As in previous years, six games will be played on each match day, and this year kick-off times are set for 16:30, 18:30 and 20:30 (local time).
Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron said in reaction to the draw that his team will face a huge challenge in each of the pool matches, “The format of the competition demands that you will have to be on your very best in each match. Italy will play with a lot of passion and commitment in front of their home fans, so that will be tough opener for us. Samoa showed in their match against us in New Zealand that they are a very difficult team to beat, while Australia are a well-organised side and will no doubt have several players with Vodacom Super Rugby experience in their squad.” World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said, “It’s great to be bringing the World Rugby U20 Championship back to Italy after they hosted such a successful tournament in 2011. The fixture list has some great matches that will showcase the future stars of world rugby during a very important year for the game. More than 300 players have made the step up from the U20 Championship to the international test arena since 2008 and I have no doubt there will be further players graduating up the ranks after this tournament.”
International stars such as Springboks Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie, Aaron Cruden and Julian Savea from New Zealand, Australian Quade Cooper, France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray and England backs George Ford and Owen Farrell are just some of the players to graduate from the Under-20 Championship to international Test level. Italy centre Luca Morisi, who also represented his country at U20 level, is ambassador for the tournament in Italy next year.