The pools and schedule for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2014 have been announced.
The future stars of world Rugby from Canada, Georgia, Hong Kong, Japan, Namibia, Tonga, United States and Uruguay, will come together in Hong Kong from April 7-19, 2014 for the event, the first time it has been staged in Asia.
North American teams USA and Canada are the top seeds in the tournament and head Pools A and B, respectively. Fourth seeds Tonga, fifth seeds Georgia and hosts Hong Kong (eighth seeds) round out Pool A while Pool B sees third seeds Japan, sixth seeds Uruguay and seventh seeds Namibia join the Canadians.
The seventh edition of the Under 20 tournament will see 16 matches played with the pool stages held on April 7, 11 and 15. The finals will be held on April 19, 2014.
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As the champions of the 2012 edition, USA were promoted to the IRB Junior World Championship in 2013, but were relegated after finishing bottom earlier this year in France. Their status as the last participating team in the JWC sees them enter the trophy as the top seeds. Once again the winners of this year’s tournament will be promoted to the JWC 2015.
In June, Canada lost to Italy 45-23 in the final of the JWRT giving them their Pool B top seed in Hong Kong. While not quite reaching their goal of promotion to the JWC, the Canadians were satisfied with a result that saw them move from sixth placed finishers in 2012 to runners-up in 2013.
Tournament third seeds Japan are among the most accomplished teams in JWRT history, playing in their fifth event and holding the all-time record for team points with 505 ahead of fellow 2014 participants Canada (485), Georgia (444), Uruguay (442) and USA (369).
Japan qualified after an emphatic win at the regional (ARFU) Under 19 Championship in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei. In Kaohsiung, the team scored an impressive 216 points, while conceding just 14.
Uruguay will fly the flag for South America in Hong Kong after beating Chile 25-7 in the decisive match of the regional (CONSUR) Junior A Championship in September. Namibia’s route to Hong Kong came after beating Kenya 51-8 in the final of the CAR Championship in South Africa in September. Georgia claimed the eighth and final place in Hong Kong after beating Belgium 32-6 in the European Under 19 championship final in early November.
Although they automatically qualified as hosts, Hong Kong finished second in Asia behind Japan having beaten Chinese Taipei 34-31 to edge Korea into third place.
The IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy has gone from strength to strength since its introduction in 2008 with 35,000 spectators attending the matches last year in Temuco, southern Chile – a new record for the tournament. The Hong Kong RFU will be looking to replicate that electric atmosphere in 2014.
HKRFU Chief Executive Vern Reid said: “We are incredibly proud to play host to the up-and-coming stars of the Rugby world at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2014."
"We will also be marking the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s first appearance in a global junior tournament in 2003 in France. That tournament was later subsumed into the IRB’s Junior World Rugby Trophy and Junior World Championship events."
“With the HKRFU hosting the world famous Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens for more than 35 years and marking many 15-a-side milestones including the first Bledisloe Cup played on neutral territory in 2008 and the opening match of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013, we are well prepared to host these eight premier international teams."
IRB General Manager Fifteens Philippe Bourdarias added: "We are delighted to be able to bring the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy to Hong Kong in 2014."
"The tournament is going from strength to strength and the tournament in Chile this year showed what can be achieved."
"Fans in Hong Kong, who have seen some memorable Rugby events in the past few years, are in for another great treat at next year's JWRT."