Saint-André gives backing to JWC 2013

(IRB.COM) Friday 7 June 2013
 Saint-André gives backing to JWC 2013
France's head coach Philippe Saint-André will have one eye on JWC 2013 with the next generation of stars in action

Philippe Saint-André has given his backing to the IRB Junior World Championship, this year being hosted in Nantes, Vannes and La Roche-Sur-Yon. 

Currently in New Zealand for France's three-match tour against the reigning world champions, Saint-André believes the Under 20 tournament can hone a players' experience of international rugby, giving them the platform to make the step up to the senior side.

"The IRB World Championship is an opportunity for our young players," said France's head coach. 

"This tournament allows our young promising players to discover high level international confrontations, the work that is required and necessary as well as the intensity need in terms of concentration."

With six of Saint-André's current squad having come through the IRB Junior World Championship since its inauguration in 2008 the pathway is clear for the French players playing on home soil, with 13 players in total graduating from the JWC to the Test arena.

Yoann Maestri (2008), Sébastien Vahaamahina (2011), Mathieu Bastareaud (2008), Brice Dulin (2010) and Jean-Marc Doussain (2010 and 2011), who made his debut in the final of RWC 2011 against New Zealand having captained the Under 20s at the Junior World Championship in Italy a few months earlier, have all played their part in France's U20 squad.

Gaël Fickou became the latest French graduate having played at JWC 2012 in South Africa and made his debut in the last match of the Six Nations, before being pulled out of France's Under 20 squad for this year to take his place on the tour to New Zealand. 

France lost their opening match in this year's tournament 30-6 to England, but last year's hosts South Africa went on to win the title 12 months ago despite a defeat to Ireland in their first pool match.

Time to shine

The hosts' next match is against USA, who qualified for this year's tournament by winning the Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2012, and nothing less than a win will do for France if they want to have a chance of progressing to the semi finals.

"For this generation, it's their last age grade competition, they must use it as much as possible to gain experience before the highest level," added Saint-André.

"This is the opportunity for them to play against the best players of their age category from the other rugby nations and maybe to shine before everyone's eyes. A lot of our players have come through the competition, and good luck to all of the players playing in this year's tournament."

For France's first Test against New Zealand on Saturday, Maestri and Vahaamahina start, with Doussain on the bench. A further two players, Eddy Ben Arous and Noa Nakaitaci, will become France's 14th and 15th graduates if they make their debuts in the second or third match against the All Blacks, having played in the 2010 and 2009 JWCs respectively. 

Jo Maso, the JWC 2013 Ambassador, echoes Saint-André's thoughts, and believes some of these players could go on to play at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

"The JWC represents a stepping stone to a professional career they have chosen. These young players are extraordinarily lucky. Fabien Pelous and myself did not have the opportunity to play in this competition, to play against the best players of this age category in the world," said Maso.

"These players will be confronted to the highest level, in terms of requirement and results, it will open the door of the senior Rugby World Cup. Some of them will play in the RWC 2015 in England."

France v England, round one highlights