The fourth IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy kicks off in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Tuesday with all eight teams involved looking to make a winning start to the tournament.
Since the tournament began in 2008 there have been 2,629 points scored in the 48 matches played at an average of 54.7 points per match, with 361 tries in total.
The home nation has performed well in each of the three previous tournaments; Chile finished runners up in 2008, Kenya finished fourth in 2009 and Russia were third in 2010.
Georgia will be hoping they can use home advantage to go one better than Chile and win the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2011.
Pool A - Samoa v USA
Samoa finished bottom of IRB Junior World Championship 2010 after losing 25-3 to Tonga in the 11th place play- off and as a result were relegated to appear to the Junior World Rugby Trophy this year, their first appearance in the competition.
The top seeds will be hoping to win the tournament and regain their place among the elite nations for the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa next year.
The USA will be appearing in the Trophy for the second time, having finished runners up to Romania in the 2009 tournament in Kenya.
The Samoans have four players in their starting line up who featured in last year’s Junior World Championship in Argentina; captain PATRICK FA’APALE plays at fly half and kicked 18 points in that tournament, prop GODY SCHUSTER, hooker AUSETALIA VAIOMANU and number 8 SUAMALIE TUILETUFUGA. The only other player in the Samoan squad who was involved in that tournament is replacement prop FRANK FA’ATAU, who started all five games last year.
The age factor
The two sides have a similar age profile. The average age of the Samoan side is 19 years six months, with the oldest and youngest players in their squads both in the starting line up against the USA. FAAVAE FAAVAE, at 20 years and four months, plays in the centres, whilst PETER SCHUSTER at 18 years and five months plays at full back.
The average age of the USA side is also 19 years six months. The youngest player in their squad is MADISON HUGHES at 18 years and seven months and he starts on the wing against Samoa.
Players aged 20: Samoa 3, USA 3
Players aged 18: Samoa 2, USA 3
The average height of the Samoa pack is 190cm, with the second tallest man in the tournament, WILLIAM SKELTON at 203 cm, playing in the second row.
The average height of the USA pack is 187cm and their tallest player is second row DAN METCALF at 195cm.
Players 185 cm or taller: Samoa 5, USA 8
The average weight of the Samoa pack is 111kg and the second heaviest player in the tournament starts at tighthead prop for them on Tuesday. MICHAEL ALAALATOA weighs in at 130kg in a front row combination that averages 121kg.
The average weight of the USA pack is 106kg and their front row averages 113kg, giving the Samoans a weight advantage at the scrum. Loosehead prop CHUCK KOEHLER will be giving 17kg in weight to ALAALATOA.
Players 100kg or heavier: Samoa 5, USA 6
While the Samoans have a size advantage in the scrums, the USA have the bigger set of backs. Outside centre WILL FARRELL and right wing APELU SO’OALO have a combined 25kg weight advantage over their direct opponents in the backline, FAAVAE FAAVAE and UTU POLIKO.
Pool A - Russia v Uruguay
Russia will be making their second appearance in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, having finished an impressive third on home soil in 2010 after beating Canada, Zimbabwe and finally Romania with a dramatic 23-20 win in extra time. Russia’s only defeat came to the eventual runners up, Japan, who beat them 31-17 in the opening round of pool matches. They qualified for this year’s tournament by finishing runners up to Georgia in the FIRA European Under 19 Championship in 2010, losing 38-7 in the final.
Uruguay won the inaugural IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile in 2008 and competed in the following year’s IRB Junior World Championship as a result, finishing bottom of the 16 competing nations. They returned to JWRT action in 2010, losing narrowly to both Romania and the eventual winners Italy, before beating Canada 13-11 in the play off for fifth place. Uruguay qualified for this year’s tournament by beating Chile 66-18 in the South American Under 19 Championship in 2010.
Russia have the most experienced squad in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy this year, with 11 of the starting line up featuring in the 2010 tournament, including six try scorers. DENIS SIMPLIKEVICH scored a try in three of the four matches played at last year’s event, NIKOLAY POCHECHUEV scored against Japan and Canada, with ALEXANDER TOLMACHEV also scoring against the latter. YURI VENGEROV and DENIS KUKISHEV scored against Zimbabwe and ALEXEY SKOBIOLA against Romania, as did ALEXANDER RAZUMOV, who starts on the replacements bench against Uruguay.
Uruguay have eight players in their starting line up who took part in last year’s tournament, including prop JUAN ECHEVERRIA and hooker GUZMAN CARISSIMI, who both started in Los Teritos’ two victories over Papua New Guinea and Canada. CARISSIMI, who will be 20 on Thursday, scored their only try in the win over Canada.
All the backs were involved in 2010 with the exception of FEDERICO FAVARO on the wing. This year’s captain AGUSTIN ORMAECHEA kicked eight points in the win over Canada, FELIPE BERCHESI landed a drop goal against Romania and ANDRES VILASECA kicked a conversion against Papua New Guinea, in a match where GUILLERMO DEL CERRO, who starts on the replacements bench against Russia, scored one of Uruguay’s tries.
The age factor
The two oldest starting line ups of the eight competing teams meet in this contest. The average age of the Russia side is 19 years 11 months, making them the oldest of the starting XVs for the first round of matches.
The average age of the Uruguay side is also 19 years 11 months. The oldest player in the tournament is left wing MARIANO SAN ANDREA, who was born on 1 January 1991.
Players aged 20: Russia 9, Uruguay 8
Players aged 18: Russia 0, Uruguay 1
The average height of the Russia pack is 189cm and they have the tallest man in the tournament in their line up in second row RUSLAN SHIRINOV, who towers at 204cm.
The average height of the Uruguay pack is 178cm, which is the shortest of all eight forward units in the opening round of matches. Their tallest player is flanker FRANCO LAMMANA at 188cm.
Players 185cm or taller: Russia 9, Uruguay 4
The average weight of the Russia pack is 101 kg and the heaviest man in their line up is tighthead prop YURI MATVEEV at 120 kg. He has a weight advantage of 28kg over his direct opponent in the scrum, Uruguay loosehead prop FRANCISCO BENHAVON.
The average weight of the Uruguay pack is 94kg, which is the second lightest after Zimbabwe in the opening round of matches and their front row averages 98kg, giving the Russians an eight kg per man weight advantage at the scrum.
Players 100 kg or heavier: Russia 4, Uruguay 1.
Pool B - Japan v Zimbabwe
Japan competed in the first two IRB Junior World Championships, finishing 15th out of 16 competing nations in both 2008 and 2009. In 2010 they finished runners up in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, beating Russia and Canada and drawing 20-20 with Zimbabwe in the Pool stages before losing 36-7 to Italy in the final. They qualified for this year’s tournament by winning the 2010 Asian Under 19s Championship, beating Hong Kong 49-3 in the final.
Zimbabwe played in their first IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy last year, finishing seventh overall. They lost to Russia and Canada to finish bottom of their Pool before beating Papua New Guinea 46-22 in the play off for seventh place. Zimbabwe qualified for this year’s tournament by winning the 2010 Confederation of African Rugby Under 19s trophy, beating Namibia 29-15 in the final.
Japan have four players in their starting line up who were involved in last year’s tournament; scrum half and captain KEISUKE UCHIDA, prop MAO ENOKI, who scored a try in the final against Italy, outside centre LAFAELE VAIFU and wing MASAKATSU HIKOSAKA, who both started every game in 2010 and scored tries against Russia and Canada respectively.
Zimbabwe have five players in their starting line up who played in the 2010 tournament; number 8 and captain MARCO MAMA, who scored two tries in the win over Papua New Guinea, hooker TATENDA KARURU, who also scored a try in that game, second row TAKUDZWA JARAVAZA, flanker TAKUDZWA MANDIWANZA and wing CHARLES JIJI, who played at scrum half last year and kicked 16 points against Papua New Guinea.
The age factor
The two sides have a similar age profile. The average age of the Japan starting line up is 19 years nine months and their oldest player is wing MASAKATSU HIKOSAKA at 20 years and four months.
The average age of the Zimbabwe side is 19 years eight months and their oldest player is second row forward TAKUDZWA JARAVAZA at 20 years and three months.
Players aged 20: Japan 5, Zimbabwe 6
Players aged 18: Japan 2, Zimbabwe 3
The average height of the Japan pack is 182cm, with lock SONGCHANG LEE the tallest forward at 190cm.
The average height of the Zimbabwe pack is 181cm, with their second row GRAHAM LOGAN at 194cm the tallest man on the pitch.
Players 185 cm or taller: Japan 2, Zimbabwe 4
The average weight of the Japan pack is 96kg and the heaviest player is tighthead prop MAO ENOKI, who weighs in at 120kg in a front row combination averaging 102kg.
The average weight of the Zimbabwe pack is 94kg and they have the lightest forward unit of all eight teams in the opening round of pool matches. The front row combination averages 93kg and loosehead prop ZERU MAKOMVA is conceding 35kg to his opponent in the scrum.
Players 100kg or heavier: Japan 3, Zimbabwe 3
Pool B - Georgia v Canada
Host nation Georgia qualified for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy by reaching the final of the FIRA European Under 19 Championship in 2010, where they beat Russia 38-7 to lift the trophy, with two tries by centre DAVID LOSABERIDZE, who captains his side at this tournament. Flanker GIGA TKHILAISHVILI and wing GIORGI ABRAMIDZE also scored tries in that success.
This is Georgia’s second appearance in the Trophy, having finished third in the inaugural event in 2008.
Canada played in the 2008 and 2009 IRB Junior World Championships, finishing 12th and 14th respectively. They made their first appearance in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy last year, finishing sixth after a win over Zimbabwe was followed by defeats to Russia, Japan and Uruguay.
Canada have eight players in their starting line up who were involved in the 2010 tournament; captain and number 8 TYLER ARDON, prop SCOTT MacLEOD, hooker CASEY CAVERS, second row SCOTT MacDONALD, fly half JEFF HASSLER, inside centre PATRICK PARFREY, full back LIAM UNDERWOOD and wing KURTIS APPLEDOORN who scored a try in the 13-11 defeat to Uruguay in the fifth place play-off.
The age factor
Once again there is not much between the teams on age. The average age of the Georgia side is 19 years 10 months. The average age of the Canada side is 19 years nine months.
Players aged 20: Georgia 8, Canada 5
Players aged 18: Georgia 1, Canada 1
The average height of the Georgia pack is 184cm, with second row KOTE MIKAUTADZE the tallest forward at 200cm. The average height of the Canada pack is 189cm, with their second row CAM PIERCE also at 200 cm.
Players 185 cm or taller: Georgia 6, Canada 7
The average weight of the Georgia pack is 111kg, with all eight forwards at 100kg or more and the heaviest player is loosehead prop ZURA ZHVANIA, who weighs in at 125kg in a front row combination averaging 116kg.
The average weight of the Canada pack is 103kg and their front row combination will be conceding an average of 14kg per man to their opponents. The Canadians, though, can call upon the services of the heaviest man in the tournament in BRANDON TENNANT, who will be keeping the replacements bench warm underneath his 132kg frame.
Players 100kg or heavier: Georgia 9, Canada 5