The u-20 World Championship in Georgia showcased some of the most brilliant up-and-coming talent in world rugby. Among all the promising players on display some showed they have what it takes to step up to the next level.
Somewhat predictably, New Zealand brought the trophy home, hammering England in the final, while Ireland finished in a disappointing ninth-place.
Here, we spotlight five young bloods who are on the fast track to play in the Japan World Cup in 2019 for their respective countries.
5. Juarno Marc-Quin Augustus
The 116kg, six foot one, South African monster number 8 Augustus deservedly won Player of the Tournament after almost literally carrying his side to the semi-finals of the tournament. Augustus was the highest try scorer in the competition with seven, includings a try in every game and a brace against England in the semi-final
Augustus’ drives were almost impossible to stop close to the line and his ability to win crucial turnovers was also an eye-catching feature. He has been drafted into the Stormers’ Super Rugby squad and in two years time, he will almost certainly be flattening players for the Springboks.
4. Asafo Aumua
Aumua was surprisingly not nominated for Player of the Tournament in Tbilisi but was undoubtedly the standout player of the final in which he scored a hat-trick of tries for the victorious Baby Blacks. Aumua does a very good impression of a runaway locomotive, bouncing off or running over opposition players with his unrivalled pace and power in the hooking position.
With Dane Coles’ fitness in some doubt as he deals with ongoing concussion issues, if Aumua continues on his current form trajectory, he could find himself throwing the ball to Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock at lineouts in Japan.
3. Gela Aprasidze
Remember this name. The pint-sized Georgian genius lit up the u-20 tournament with his electrifying footwork and pace.
His 55-metre try against Ireland was world-class and the scrum-half is also a top drawer place kicker.
2. Gabriel Ibitoye
Ibitoye is one of those players which makes incredible things happen out of nothing. With excellent power and pace, the left winger also has subtle, elusive shifts in footwork.
He seems to have a bit more maturing to do both physically and in skills, but his potential is enormous.
1. Luke Jacobsen
Jacobsen’s playing style and leadership qualities bring back memories of another very famous New Zealand captain and flanker.
Jacobsen is an uncompromising player with McCaw-esque stamina and ability to seize the moment. He scored two tries in the final against England en route to lifting the trophy as captain.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena