Baby Boks in tough group in IRB junior champs

SOUTH Africa have been drawn with Australia, Scotland and Tonga for next year's IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina.

SOUTH Africa have been drawn with Australia, Scotland and Tonga for next year's IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina.

The International Rugby Board yesterday announced the dates, match schedule and pools for the competition that will be played in the Litoral region from June 5 until June 20.

The new format sees 12 teams in three pools:

Pool A: New Zealand (holders), Wales, Samoa and Fiji.

Pool B: England, France, Ireland and Argentina.

Pool C: South Africa, Australia, Scotland and Tonga.

The best winner (on points) will play the best runner-up in one semifinal while the winners of the other two pools will face each other.

"We're looking forward to an intense festival feel to the Junior World Championships with 30 matches concentrated in one region. The reduction to 12 teams will create a more competitive tournament from round one," tournament manager Philippe Bourdarias said.

Opening matches include hosts Argentina taking on 2009 runners-up England in Rosario, while holders New Zealand start their title defence against Fiji in Parana.

The IRB Junior World Championship provides the future stars of the game with a platform to improve their skills in a format that replicates a Rugby World Cup. In 2008, players to graduate from the Junior Championship to their full international sides included Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), David Pocock (Australia), Andrea Bacchetti (Italy), Morgan Parra (France) and Matias Fonseca (Uruguay); with Aaron Cruden (New Zealand) and Robert Ebersohn (South Africa) starting for their countries in the 2009 tournament.

The Junior World Championship will provide a boost to rugby development in South America, in particular the Argentinian Rugby League's high-performance strategy that is funded through the IRB's strategic investment programme, resulting in an annual investment of $2million (R15,2million). - Sapa

X