Ireland have been handed a tough draw in this year’s U20 World Championships in Italy.
Noel McNamara’s side have been drawn in Pool A alongside defending champion France, Argentina and last year’s World Rugby U20 Trophy winners Japan. Pool B sees Australia and New Zealand go head-to-head with Wales and Georgia making up the other two teams.
England and South Africa are the heavy hitters in Pool C alongside host nation Italy and Fiji. The three pool winners and the best runner-up across the pools will progress to the semi-finals and keep alive their hopes of lifting the distinctive trophy.
The pool matches will be played in Verona’s brand new Payanini Center, Viadana’s Stadio Sergio Zaffanella and Peroni Stadium in Calvisano, home of the reigning Italian national champions.
While Verona will host matches for the first time, Viadana, Parma and Calvisano did so when Italy last hosted the U20 Championship in 2015 and all three will stage the play-off rounds. The three pool winners and the best runner-up across the pools will progress to the semi-finals and keep alive their hopes of lifting the distinctive trophy.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Every year the World Rugby U20 Championship showcases the most promising young rugby players and we see year after year graduates from the competition succeeding at the highest level. Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan featured 228 players who initially represented their country in this tournament and I invite all rugby fans to follow matches closely for the next rugby stars of tomorrow.
“Italy have proved incredible hosts in the past and we are confident rugby strongholds like Viadana, Calvisano, Verona and Parma will deliver the best possible stage for the tournament.”
FIR President Alfredo Gavazzi said: “We are delighted to host the World Rugby U20 Championship and the very best players from all around the globe again. The 2011 and 2015 editions had a great impact on our rugby community, attracting fans and new participants to the game, and we look forward to delivering three exciting weeks of competition while bringing the Azzurrini to play in all four host cities.
“Rugby has significantly grown in our country over the last decade and we’re proud of what we have achieved in recent years, consistently placing our U20s among the top 10 teams in the world. We are confident the established pathway for our youngsters is the right one to keep on pushing Italian rugby forward and we sincerely look forward to receiving the future stars of world rugby, offering such a high-profile competition to our growing audience in the country.”