The International Rugby Board has announced a new format for its flagship Age Grade tournament, the IRB Junior World Championship, with the number of participating teams being reduced from 16 to 12 in 2010.
This restructure, approved by the IRB Council, means that the top 12 teams at this year’s IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship in Japan will automatically qualify for the 2010 tournament in Argentina, while the bottom four will participate in regional qualifying structures for the second-tier IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2010.
“The IRB is committed to increasing the overall competitiveness of the Game and our Age Grade tournament strategy is very important in achieving this,” said IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan.
“The IRB Junior World Championship has proven extremely successful in providing the next generation of international players with a platform to develop their skills in a format that replicates a Rugby World Cup environment.”
“However, with 550 players and team staff, the tournament is also a large one and in the current economic climate it is prudent to take measures to relieve the financial pressure on both the IRB and the hosting Union, while maintaining the high standard of the tournament.”
“The new format for the IRB Junior World Championship will optimise the opportunity for competitive pools matches, while the regional qualifying tournaments and IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy will continue to provide a strong global Age Grade player development pathway,” added Egan.
With the hosts qualifying automatically, should Argentina finish outside the top 12 ranked teams, then they will join the top 11 ranked teams in qualifying for the tournament. In addition, the points deduction imposed on the France and Wales teams as a result of a disciplinary sanction at the 2008 tournament, will not apply when considering qualification for next year's Championship.
The new Tournament structure will comprise three pools of four teams with the winner of each progressing to the semi-finals, along with the best placed runner-up. The remaining teams will play for a positional ranking. Unions were notified of the structural change last month.
The IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 in Japan kicks off on 5 June with 40 competition matches played over four host venues before the final in Tokyo on 21 June. The reigning world champions are New Zealand. Full coverage is available via the official tournament website, www.irb.com/jwc.