With this year’s Junior World Championships starting next week, it seemed an apt time to look at some of the previous winners of the IRB International U19 and U21 Player of the Year awards.
Back in 2008, the U21 and U19 tournaments were combined to create the U20s and since then a combined award has been awarded.
There have been many winner success stories over the years, including: Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Jerry Collins, Gavin Henson, Luke McAlister, Jeremy Thrush, Isaia Toeava, Luke Braid, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea and George Ford, but here we take a look at some of those who didn’t quite enjoy the same level of accomplishments.
2000: Gerrard Fasavalu (U19)
A star for the New Zealand’s U19 side back in 2000, Fasavalu never made it due to injury. He played for Otago in the National Provincial Championship and for the Highlanders as well, but unfortunately his career was ended by a serious knee injury.
He immediately went into coaching and went on to become the head coach of Parramatta Two Blues rugby club in Australia.
2002: Pat Barnard (U21)
Prop Barnard made 13 appearances for the Stormers, 11 of which came in 2004 and included a Super Rugby semi-final defeat to the Crusaders, before he headed off to Northampton Saints in 2005. There, he impressed enough to be considered for an England spot – qualifying through his English mother – and made it into the now-defunct ‘Senior National Academy’.
After Saints were relegated, he moved to Wasps before eventually switching to Brive in the Top 14.
2003: Jean-Baptiste Peyras-Loustalet (U19)
Despite very early promise, Peyras-Loustalet went on to represent France on only one occasion against Australia in 2008. However, he has represented Pau, Castres and Bayonne and is currently at Montpellier in an extensive club career.
2003: Ben Atiga (U21)
Atiga made a solitary appearance for the All Blacks against Tonga in the 2003 World Cup after Ben Blair was ruled out of the tournament through injury. After four seasons with the Blues, Atiga switched to the Highlanders for one season.
He later signed for Edinburgh and made 24 appearances before he was forced to retire from rugby due being diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in his hip.
2006: Lionel Beauxis (U21)
Beauxis has never quite lived up to the early hype in his career, making 20 appearances for Les Bleus over a nine-year career so far. Notably, however, Beauxis started in France’s quarter-final over the All Blacks at the 2007 World Cup.
However, he fell out of favour with then-France coach Marc Lievremont and was not selected for the national team for three years, but the arrival of Philippe Saint-André in charge saw Beauxis recalled for the 2012 Six Nations.
He has not played for his country since then and is currently plying his trade for Bordeaux in the Top 14.
2006: Josh Holmes (U19)
Josh has played for almost every Australian Super Rugby team, having played for the Waratahs in 2007, the Brumbies in 2008, the Force in 2012 and the Rebels in 2014.
Earlier this year, Holmes featured for the Australian Sevens side as part of their Singapore Sevens squad.
He is currently based at Sydney Rays, an Australian National Rugby Championship and has also played for Warringah rugby club in Sydney.
2007: Robbie Fruean (U19)
Centre Fruean has played for three New Zealand rugby sides: the Hurricanes, the Chiefs and the Crusaders.
Tragedy almost struck the young Kiwi after issues with his heart, but he received two operations which helped to improve abnormal heart rhythms.
Fruean’s form over the years has often seen many fans and pundits calling for Fruean to be added to several All Blacks squads, but ultimately the New Zealand’s fantastic strength in depth – despite a small player pool – means he has never won a cap for his country.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena