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.
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring