- New Zealand to host 2014 tournament
- Italy confirmed as 2015 hosts
- Longer lead-in allows Unions to prepare for key age-grade tournament
The International Rugby Board has confirmed that the next two editions of its premier age-grade tournament, the IRB Junior World Championship, will be held in New Zealand and Italy in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
While it will be the first time that New Zealand will have the honour of hosting the IRB Junior World Championship, it will be the second time the tournament visits Italy after a hugely successful 2011 edition in the Veneto Region.
New Zealand won the prestigious Under-20 title four times in succession and will hope to reclaim the crown they lost to South Africa in 2012, in order to welcome the world’s best teams to their shores as defending champions in 2014.
The awarding of the next two editions of the showcase global age-grade event by the IRB Council after a robust tender process, reaffirms the IRB's commitment to provide future hosts with a longer lead-in time to maximise the benefits of delivering and hosting an event that is firmly established on the international Rugby calendar.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset welcomed the decision and said that the announcement is set to usher in a stellar future for the IRB Junior World Championship, following a record-breaking event in South Africa in 2012 and what promises to be a spectacular tournament in northern France in 2013.
"We are delighted to announce that New Zealand and Italy will be hosting the IRB Junior World Championship in 2014 and 2015 respectively. I'm sure that the teams and travelling fans will be treated to high-quality tournaments set against a backdrop of outstanding hospitality and atmosphere in both countries," said Lapasset.
“The IRB Junior World Championship, which continues to break new ground and broadcast and attendance records year-on-year, is hugely important to the IRB in terms of providing a competition and education platform for the next generation of stars to showcase their skills on the international stage and develop into truly elite athletes."
"New Zealand and Italy certainly have all the facilities and infrastructure to ensure that the tournament will be organised to a very high standard, which is vital for its further growth."
"The strategic decision to announce future hosts well in advance will give the respective Unions the best-possible platform to prepare an exceptional event for the future stars of world Rugby and maximise the benefits and impacts of hosting this wonderful event to attract more men, women and children to the sport."
The announcement of host country for the 2016 tournament will be made at a later date.
New Zealand will welcome the world’s best Under 20 players to its shores in 2014 less than three years after the phenomenally successful Rugby World Cup 2011 and the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) is keen to build on that momentum.
NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “We are very proud to be given the rights to host yet another important tournament in the international Rugby calendar. We proved to the world last year how well we as a nation could deliver a complex global sporting event and I am sure we will again deliver an excellent tournament that does the country proud.”
Matches will be played in the Auckland region, at North Harbour Stadium near Auckland and ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe. Eden Park is also being considered as a possible venue for the final.
Rugby World Cup winner and former IRB Junior Player of the Year Aaron Cruden is one of more than 180 players who have graduated from the Junior World Championship to the Test arena since the inaugural tournament in 2008.
The All Black fly half captained New Zealand to the JWC title in 2009 and just two years later was part of the team that lifted the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil, so is excited by the prospect of New Zealand hosting the 2014 tournament.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for all players as the Junior World Championship provides a real springboard to higher honours. It certainly helped me to go on and realise my dream of becoming an All Black,” said Cruden, one of nine All Blacks to have cut their teeth at JWC level.
“New Zealand really turned it on for players from around the world at Rugby World Cup 2011 and I know we’ll be great hosts again in 2014.”
Italy will host the next edition just months before Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks off and looks set to whet the appetite for what is going to be an action-packed year for world-class Rugby.
“To host again the IRB Junior World Championship in Italy in 2015 is a great honour and privilege for us,” said Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR) President Alfredo Gavazzi.
“The 2011 tournament in the Veneto Region was very successful and proved how Rugby has grown in our country at all levels of the Game. We are committed to improving the quality of the Championship we hosted in 2011, both in terms of figures and organising standards.”
“This is going to be both a privilege and a challenge for our Union. Our focus will be delivering an unforgettable edition of the world’s top junior Rugby tournament to our country and to the whole Rugby family, while also showing that Italy is now ready to host more and more prestigious Rugby events.”
Thirteen players have graduated from the IRB Junior World Championship to Test Rugby with Italy, the most capped of them being former Under 20 captain Tommaso Benvenuti.
“The tournament was a great experience for me, both as a player and a young man. It represents a key moment in the career of emerging players who want to develop at the highest level,” said Benvenuti.
“I’m especially happy to know that in 2015 many young, talented Italian players will be allowed to experience such an important moment in front of their home crowd.”