His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge has formally handed over the IRB Junior World Championship trophy to hosts New Zealand today, marking 50 days to the kick-off of Junior World Championship 2014 on Monday 2 June.
Prince William, representing current JWC champions England, presented the trophy to All Blacks captain Richie McCaw at the special Regal Rugby Fun Day for the Royal Couple at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The Royal Couple were treated to a mini-rippa rugby tournament involving Otago primary school children in front of a crowd of more than 9,000.
“The atmosphere this afternoon has been tremendous and long may it continue. The enthusiasm and skills demonstrated by the children this afternoon bears out just how instinctively good at rugby this nation really is,” said Prince William.
“Teamwork, skill, fair play were all to the fore."
“I am sure your future All Blacks who play in the Junior World Championship in June will be showing the same flair and determination. I wish you all the best in hosting the tournament and we will both be watching very closely.”
New Zealand is hosting the tournament for the first time. The JWC showcases the future stars of world rugby from the best Under 20s teams in the world. Almost 300 JWC players have since gone on to represent their country at Test level since the tournament started in 2008.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw played in an earlier version of the tournament and regards the experience as one of his fondest memories as a young player.
“It’s a really important tournament. A huge percentage come through this and become All Blacks. It’s also where you first figure out how to be a professional and how you go about things as a player.”
Seventeen of the 2013 New Zealand European tour squad had played in previous editions of the Junior World Championship.
“So the New Zealand public will be seeing players who are going to be All Blacks of the future, and Springboks and Wallabies etc as well so it’s a great chance for everyone to see the future stars.
“If you enjoy rugby, go along, it’s a great standard of rugby that’s played.”
Twelve countries are taking part in the seventh edition of the tournament, which kicks off in the Auckland region on the Queen’s Birthday on 2 June and climaxes with the final at Eden Park on 20 June.
New Zealand won the first four editions of the tournament, but missed out the last two years.
“As New Zealanders you hear about the juniors teams doing well. They have won the tournament a fair few times, obviously England won last year, but you never actually see them so for the New Zealand guys to play in front of a home crowd, it will be something very special."
Tickets are now available for JWC 2014 through Ticketmaster. Please click here. Tickets are priced as little as NZ$5 for children and $10 for adults. Each ticket gives fans access to all three matches played each match day at a venue.