Former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones was an interested onlooker at the IRB Junior World Championship, commentating on several matches for Total Rugby and so is perfectly placed to identify five players who caught the eye in what he describes as a “very high quality tournament.”
New Zealand lived up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites to be crowned the inaugural champions, beating England 38-3 in the final at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea with some impressive displays along the way.
But which five players would make Jones’ shortlist of those to keep an eye on in the future?
DAVID POCOCK – AUSTRALIA
Flanker and Captain
“David is a very good player. We tried to sign him when I was coaching Queensland. A very nice kid, comes from a nice family from Zimbabwe, very hard working, strong at the tackle – a very good tackler and a good leader. He’s going to be a pretty good player for Australia.”
GERRIT-JAN VAN VELZE – SOUTH AFRICA
Number 8 and Captain
“He’s a very interesting player – a big strong athletic South African back row. He seems to have exceptional leadership skills, much in the way that [Gary] Teichmann and [Francois] Pienaar did of the great South African back-rowers.
“He compliments his athleticism with terrific lineout skills, he’s also got a very high work-rate, very good at supporting the ball carrier and like good number 8s he’s got a nose for the ball so tends to have very high involvements in the game.”
JOE SIMPSON – ENGLAND
“Well England seem to have a lot of good young half-backs at the moment with Danny Care and now Joe Simpson in the 20s. Simpson reminds me a lot of Matt Dawson, he is always looking for the hole around the ruck and particularly in the tournament he really tested all the ruck defence.
“He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s got good footwork and certainly looks like a guy, with Care, that over the next six or seven years could be wearing the England jumper in the number nine for a long time.”
MILES BENJAMIN – ENGLAND
“He had a very good year with the Under 20s on top of his very strong debut season with Worcester and he is certainly a player with plenty of promise. The thing I like about Benjamin is that he’s a real try-getter – he scores tries and when he has an opportunity he finishes it off.
“He will really learn next year from playing with Chris Latham, the former Wallaby full back and I am sure that Latham will help Benjamin develop into a world class winger.”
LUKE BRAID – NEW ZEALAND
“Gee they [New Zealand] are an exceptional team and it was very hard to just select one player from a group of very talented players, but certainly the seven, Luke Braid, follows in the great tradition of New Zealand sevens – high work rate, again strong at the tackle and has exceptional linkage skills.
“I think that probably stood out in the tournament, his ability to link between a very strong tight five and a free running backline to provide that continuous supply of ball.
“There has been worries about New Zealand’s strength with a number of good players going to the northern hemisphere and possibly the numbers of people playing rugby in New Zealand drying up, but certainly this group of players were absolutely outstanding.
“Their skill level was exceptional, they were fast, they were positive and a very good example that New Zealand is still producing some great players.”
Listen to Eddie Jones on this week's Total Rugby Radio show from Thursday 3 July at 18:00 UK time...