Enter the stars of tomorrow
June 9, 2011
New Zealand are out to defend their Junior World Championship crown © Getty Images
New Zealand will kick off the defence of their Junior World Championship crown on Friday night against hosts Italy in Treviso.
The Kiwis have run roughshod over their rivals in recent seasons and have conceded just 12 tries over the course of the three Under-20 tournaments, making them red hot favourites to regain their crown.
The last edition of the tournament was won in spectacular fashion by the Baby Blacks, who hammered rivals Australia 62-17 in the final.
England will start their campaign in Treviso against Ireland on Friday afternoon and star fly-half Owen Farrell finds himself on the bench, with George Ford starting in the No.10 jersey. Newcastle Falcons' Alex Gray will captain the side from No.8 while Sale's Henry Thomas starts at tight-head.
In recent years the likes of Aaron Cruden and Zac Guildford have used the tournament as a springboard, with last year's success story coming as Rhys Ruddock was plucked from the Ireland Under-20 side and flown Down Under to take the field against Australia in Brisbane.
However, all eyes will be on the current champions and New Zealand captain Luke Whitelock is not under-estimating the threat of the host nation.
"We're taking it [the first game against Italy] very seriously. We realise that when people play for their country, and especially at home, they can grow another arm and a leg," he said.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September