The International Rugby Board has announced the dates, pools and venues for the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in Italy.
The key global player development tournament, which will see the future stars of the Game hone their skills, will be hosted in the Veneto region from June 10-26, bringing together 12 international teams and 312 players for an event that will deliver a festival of international Rugby and culture.
Three venues will host the tournament with Stadio Mario Battaglini in Rovigo, Stadio Comunale di Monigo in Treviso and Stadio Plebiscito in Padova hosting double-header matches across four match days. Stadio Euganeo in Padova will host the Final on match day five on June 26. The playing schedule will be announced in due course.
The 12 teams will play in three Pools:
Pool A: New Zealand (2010 champions), Argentina, Wales and Italy
Pool B: Australia, France, Fiji and Tonga
Pool C: South Africa, England, Ireland and Scotland
Reigning champions New Zealand top Pool A where they are joined by Argentina, Wales and IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2010 winners Italy, while 2010 runners-up Australia head Pool B alongside 2006 Under 21 World Championship winners France, plus Fiji and Tonga. Pool C sees England and South Africa, who contested the bronze final this year, take on Ireland and Scotland.
The Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR) will look to build on the most successful IRB Junior World Championship to date in Argentina earlier this year, which was screened live by 19 broadcasters to 149 territories and welcomed more than 100,000 fans to the 30 matches.
“The IRB Junior World Championship has grown to become a major event on the global Rugby calendar and is strategically important both for the IRB and participating Unions. It plays a key role in developing the talent of some of the best up and coming players and referees in the world, many of whom have progressed to represent their countries at the very highest level, ”said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“I have no doubt the FIR will deliver a festival of Rugby and Italian culture that will help spread awareness and interest in the Game throughout Italy and attract new players, coaches, referees and fans to the Rugby family.”
FIR President Giancarlo Dondi said: “To host the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in our country and do that in a such rugby-addicted county as Veneto, is a great opportunity to take a further step in our operational and sporting development."
"We will see the most talented young guns playing in our country for seventeen days and there’s no doubt we will enjoy a great rugby festival on and off the pitch. I would like to thank the IRB for accepting our bid and I’m sure that the Junior World Championship will give a new boost to the development of rugby in our country.”
To date, 76 players from the three IRB Junior World Championship tournaments have made the step-up to full international honours, with every one of the 12 participating teams in 2011 boasting a JWC graduate in their senior side.
Three players involved in the 2010 Championship have since made the step up to the Test arena, South Africa's Patrick Lambie becoming the most recent with his debut against Ireland to follow in the footsteps of Irish Under 20 captain Rhys Ruddock and Michael Toloke of Tonga.
They join an illustrious list of graduates which also includes Australia's David Pocock and Will Genia, New Zealand's Aaron Cruden, Courtney Lawes and Ben Youngs from England and Leigh Halfpenny from Wales.
Italy have already seen four players - Riccardo Bocchino, Simone Favaro, Andrea Bacchetti, Roberto Quartaroli - graduate to the Azzurri and the exciting Tommaso Benvenuti will make his Test debut on the wing against Argentina on Saturday.
It is not only players taking the path from the Junior World Championship to the international stage, though, as 14 match officials including Peter Fitzgibbon, Romain Poite, Jerome Garces, Chris Pollock, Keith Brown and Pascal Gauzere have graduated to take charge of international Test matches.