International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset believes that the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in Italy was the best yet, delivering a winning blend of high-quality Rugby and laying the foundations for Rugby's growth across Italy.
The tournament, won for the fourth successive time by New Zealand after a 33-22 victory over England, captured the hearts and minds of the Italian public with over 50,000 men, women and children turning out to watch 30 matches that pitted the world's best players at Under 20 level against international opposition in a competition that is a proven springboard to the Test arena.
Lapasset, in Padova for the capacity crowd-pulling final, said: "There is no doubt that this tournament was exceptionally successful for all involved. The final was a superb, high-quality and enthralling contest that demonstrated not only the standard of the competition, but the key role that the event plays in preparing the next generation of top players for Test Rugby."
Since the Championship's inauguration in 2008, almost 100 players have progressed to win full Test caps for their countries, underscoring its significant development role, and Lapasset believes that many of the players on show over the past two and a half weeks of competition will follow the likes of David Pocock, Patrick Lambie, Courtney Lawes, Zac Guildford, Kurtley Beale and Sam Warburton to Test stardom.
"I think that many watching the IRB Junior World Championship via the 19 broadcasters in 142 countries around the world will have been surprised by the standard of Rugby throughout and they will have identified a number of players to keep an eye on over the next couple of years. Who knows, one or two could be at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand."
For hosts Italy, the event was also a huge success. Not only has an extensive broadcast platform given Rugby widespread exposure throughout the country out of season, a raft of initiatives have also ensured that the tournament's impact will live on long after the last teams have departed the Veneto region.
Lapasset added: "I would like to extend my thanks to the Federazione Italiana Rugby, the Veneto authorities and all who have contributed to the successful delivery of the Championship.
"They have been rewarded with an exceptional tournament from an operational perspective, but more significantly a tournament that has provided major event hosting experience while boosting to the development of the Game in a country of huge potential."
The IRB Junior World Championship 2012 will be hosted by South Africa.