IRB U20s World Championship: Best XV of the Tournament

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJune 22, 2015

IRB U20s World Championship: Best XV of the Tournament

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    Marco Vasini/Associated Press

    New Zealand ended a four-year drought on Saturday to claim their first Under-20 World Championship since 2011, beating England 21-16 in the tournament's final.

    In preparation for the competition's senior counterpart later this year, the starlets of world rugby laid on a terrific contest over the past three weeks, giving an indication of who will shine brightest in the years to come.

    It's no surprise that finalists New Zealand and England provide the bulk of the tournament's best XV, a collection of those players who impressed most in Italy regardless of team result.

    However, there may sit a surprise inclusion or two among the lineup, with several starlets in particular raising their candidacies as potential names to watch out for in the future.

Back Three

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    15. Jonah Placid, Australia

    Australia full-back Jonah Placid brought a positive end to his under-20 career on Saturday, scoring a decisive 66th-minute try in his side's fifth-place play-off against Wales, helping claim a 28-23 victory.

    Placid's five tournament tries put him joint-second in the try-scorer count, with star performances against Samoa and Scotland in particular enough to earn him a nomination for Player of the Tournament.

    14. Arthur Bonneval, France

    If Arthur Bonneval were representing one of the Southern Hemisphere giants in Italy, his twitching feet and staggering acceleration might have put him up there as a contender for top try-scorer.

    As it is, though, the France winger had to settle for a more mediocre midfield and thus a more mediocre supply, but he managed to touch down for two scores thanks to some serious ingenuity and searing pace. 

    11. Tevita Li, New Zealand

    Blues winger Tevita Li has for some years now been tipped as a potential star of the All Blacks, and those calls seem more justified after the winger ended the 2015 Under-20 World Championships as top try-scorer.

    Li's six scores were also enough to see him take the throne as the competition's all-time top try-scorer with 13, leading as one of the favourites to clinch the Player of the Tournament accolade.

    There's new pressure on the 20-year-old to fulfil his potential in Super Rugby and beyond, with his line-breaking skills and finishing acumen sitting in the elite bracket.


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    13. Andrew Kellaway, Australia

    Australia captain Andrew Kellaway is a fairly understated figure in the back line, but there were few present at this year's Under-20 World Championship boasting more playing experience than him.

    Rising quickly through the academy divisions, Kellaway notched another two tries in Italy this month to again showcase his consistency in crossing the whitewash, ever looking to force matters in Australia's favour.

    There were a selection of juggernaut centres on hand this year, but it's the more diminutive talents of Kellaway that continue to bag him success. 

    12. Max Clark, England

    Bath enforcer Max Clark may have thought he started England on the path to glory by scoring the opener against New Zealand in Saturday's final, but a sterling comeback from the Baby Blacks ensured it wasn't to be.

    That being said, Clark's third-minute score was a tremendous example of the expert lines he's frequently run throughout the tournament, clocking up major yardage in his side's favour and proving a difficult obstacle to pass in the process.


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    10. Otere Black, New Zealand

    Following in the footsteps of another fly-half starlet from New Zealand, Aaron Cruden, Otere Black's sharpshooting eye for goal played a huge role in steering the Baby Blacks to tournament silverware in Italy.

    As the All Blacks' official Twitter account pointed out, Black slotted 100 percent of all kick attempts in the semi-final win over France and was similarly on target across all games in which he competed.

    Granted, unlocking the potential of a back line this talented may put Black in an enviable position, but he earned his way into the starting XV after the first two rounds and never looked like he would lose his place from there.

    9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, New Zealand

    Up until his injury in the pool-stage clash against Wales, England No. 9 Stuart Townsend was the standout scrum-half of the Junior World Cup, but his early exit allows Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi to steal in and complete a Baby Blacks half-back combination.

    Commentator Keith Quinn even went as far as to name the New Zealand scrum-half his Player of the Tournament, showing just how underrated his quick supply may have been to many.

Back Row

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    8. Akira Ioane, New Zealand

    A special mention goes to Hanro Liebenberg of South Africa, but few players stood out in the manner New Zealand's Akira Ioane did during the Under-20 World Championship.

    Like team-mate Li, the bruising No. 8 has made his way onto the shortlist for Player of the Tournament, having wrangled his way to a record of five tries in five games—an awesome total for any pack member.

    His 6'4" frame may have been matched or even topped by certain other fearsome figures on display, but few possess Ioane's sense of intellect in addition. The Blues have a huge prospect in their midst.

    7. Lucas Bachelier, France

    The second of three French players to have made it into our lineup, captain Lucas Bachelier clocked up substantial mileage in an attempt to carve out some glory for his side, undoubtedly sitting high on the competition's list of top tacklers.

    6. James Chisholm, England

    England flanker Lewis Ludlam is unfortunate to be shifted out of his own position, but such was the impact of No. 8 James Chisholm that space has to be made in the back row to accommodate the bearded wonder.

    Voted Player of the Tournament for his robust, inexhaustible effort in carrying England past enemy lines, Harlequins starlet Chisholm moves to blind side due to his versatility in the back row, which is superior to that of Ioane.

Second Row

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    5. Charlie Ewels, England

    England captain Charlie Ewels must be dreadfully disappointed about finishing second to New Zealand in Cremona on Saturday, but his displays left no shred of shame in Italy.

    England's set piece worked like a well-oiled machine for most of the competition, and Ewels' attention to detail was beneficial in that regard, running a tight ship despite the failure to defend their title.

    4. RG Snyman, South Africa

    South Africa's Bulls have a habit of ushering world-class locks through their doors, and it's no wonder the Baby Boks' set piece was so successful in Italy with the likes of 6'7" RG Snyman rising high.

    As well as being a superb tool at the line-out, Snyman looked surprisingly mobile in the loose and may be seeking more Super Rugby action in 2016 following his performances in Italian territory.

Front Row

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    3. Atu Moli, New Zealand

    New Zealand prop Atu Moli may give off an intimidating aura, but the soft-spoken captain of the Baby Blacks couldn't leave a more contrasting impression if he tried.

    That's as far as his off-the-field demeanour goes, at least, considering the tighthead is every bit the ravaging beast his team would want him to be after the first whistle is blown.

    Having been part of the team that finished third in 2014, Moli led New Zealand with new vigour in Italy and rarely looked outdone in the individual stakes, leading by example and lifting his side to success.

    2. Camille Chat, France

    The 2015 Under-20 World Championship was far from replete with outstanding hooker displays, but France's Camille Chat showed he may be capable of advancing far with some beautifully balanced outings in Italy.

    The likes of Jack Walker (England) and Ryan Elias (Wales) may have been expected to dazzle, but it was Racing 92 up-and-comer Chat who impressed most with the pack he had to work with.

    1. Ellis Genge, England

    Going toe-to-toe with a prop such as South Africa's Thomas Du Toit and living to say you won is not something many 20-year-olds can brag about, but Bristol's Ellis Genge sits among the elite few.

    Aviva Premiership scouts may now be working overtime to secure the services of a loosehead who looks capable of top-flight playing time in the years to come.

    A powerhouse both in the loose and come scrum time.


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