Rugby: Future stars to shine in New Zealand

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew and Minister for Economic Development, Hon Steven Joyce pose for a photo with hip hop dancers. Photo / Getty Images.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown, NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew and Minister for Economic Development, Hon Steven Joyce pose for a photo with hip hop dancers. Photo / Getty Images.

Almost three years after the All Blacks tasted glory at Eden Park, the New Zealand under-20 team will have a chance to win their own World Cup at the same venue.

The 2014 IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand was launched at Auckland's St Peter's College today, with 12 teams vying to win the title England claimed earlier this year.

New Zealand have won the event four times and their search for a fifth crown will begin in a pool featuring South Africa, who beat them in the 2012 final, as well as Samoa and Scotland.

The tournament will run from June 2-20, with matches spread across Pukekohe's ECOLight Stadium, North Harbour Stadium and Eden Park, which will host the final.

"We are incredibly proud to once again play host to the rugby world," said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew. "This is the biggest fifteens tournament in the world outside Rugby World Cup and to be given the chance to stage such an important rugby event for the first time is a great honour.

"Two years ago we delivered a very successful Rugby World Cup. I am confident we can once again stage a very special event that will make our country proud while also providing an excellent platform for the best young players in world rugby to perform to their potential."

St Peter's was chosen to launch the tournament due to a strong connection to under-20s rugby, with Blues players Francis Saili, Bryn Hall and Patrick Tuipulotu having represented the school's first XV.

"I have very special memories of my time with the under-20 team," Saili said. "It's been really important in helping me realise my dream of becoming an All Black and I know for the young guys who get selected next year it will be an amazing experience to play in front of a home crowd."

Saili is just one of many players who have recently made the leap from the under-20 championship to the test arena. Seventeen members of the current All Blacks squad have risen through the under-20s rank, with around 250 players overall representing their country after competing in past championships.

"It's a really significant tournament for young players and you just need to look at the performance of the All Blacks this year to know that the Junior World Championship provides an important pathway for players to fulfil their potential," Tew said.

The tournament will kick off on Queens Birthday, with Argentina's clash with Australia the first of six matches on the day.

Tickets go on sale next year, with prices as low as $5 for children and $10 for adults.

Pool A

England, Argentina, Australia, Italy

Pool B

France, Wales, Ireland, Fiji

Pool C

New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa, Scotland

- APNZ

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