The New Zealand Under-20s have crashed out of the Junior World Championship in the semifinal, serving to not only show the increased competitive nature of the tournament but also highlight the incredible achievement of the 2011 team.

It is seven years since that vintage won the Junior World Championship, but interestingly they wrote another piece of history over the weekend when Brad Shields made his first appearance for England.

That brought to 13 the number of players who started in the 2011 final for New Zealand who have gone on to play test football.

It is an incredible achievement and no other junior team has produced graduation numbers remotely close.


The New Zealand Under-20 team of 2011 now sits as the most successful age-grade team in modern history if they are assessed on the two key goals of winning and also producing players who push on to higher honours.

The 2015 Under-20 team which also won the Junior World Championship has so far only produced one test cap – Anton Lienert-Brown, although Jack Goodhue and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi are in the All Blacks' squad.

What makes the 2011 team particularly special is that so many of that class were in action over the weekend and so many have become prominent figures in the world game.

Codie Taylor was the hooker in that 2011 final and he had another storming test for the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Sam Cane and Luke Whitelock were in the same jerseys for the All Blacks on Saturday as they were seven years ago in the Under-20 final.

But for injury Brodie Retallick would also have been in the same position for the All Blacks as he had been for the Under-20s and TJ Perenera started at halfback seven years ago and Beauden Barrett started at fullback.

Ben Tameifuna, who played tighthead for the Under-20s, was in action for Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup on Saturday, while Gareth Anscombe, the New Zealand Under-20 first-five, came off the bench for Wales against Argentina and then of course there was Shields, who was at blindside for New Zealand seven years ago.

The other players who have been capped from that Under-20 team are Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau, Lima Sopoaga and Francis Saili – all of whom have been All Blacks but chose to take contracts with offshore clubs.

Brad Weber and Dominic Bird, who were on the bench for the Under-20 team have also been capped by the All Blacks and interestingly Waisake Naholo was also on the bench for
New Zealand in the final, missing out on a starting spot to Mitchell Scott.

Scott and prop Solomona Sakalia are the only two who started for New Zealand seven years ago who haven't played test rugby.

England, by way of comparison, had George Ford, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly in their backline seven years ago – all of whom started at Ellis Park in the weekend first test loss to the Springboks.

Mako Vunipola was the only other England player to be involved last weekend and seven years ago.

Those four, plus Christian Wade, Marland Yarde, Joe Launchbury and Sam Kvesic are the English players involved in the 2011 Junior World Championship final who have graduated to full test honours.

Sam Jones, the blindside flanker played for England too after being involved in 2011, but he has been forced to retire due to a knee injury.

So New Zealand have produced 16 test players from their 2011 Under-20 team and England nine.

England's graduation rate would be considered extraordinary in any other context, except when measured against the 16 produced by the team that beat them in Italy seven years ago.