WORLD RUGBY and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have today announced that the World Rugby U20 Championship 2016 will be held in Manchester, England.
Hosted by the RFU, the tournament will take place the AJ Bell Stadium, home of Sale Sharks, and Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, offering back-to-back international rugby in June 2016. The tournament will be shown live on Sky Sports as part of the RFU’s ongoing partnership with the broadcaster.
The annual event, which is currently taking place in Italy, is contested by 12 national teams at under-20 level, showcasing future stars of rugby union.
Previously known as the Junior World Championship, the tournament was introduced in 2008 with Wales, Japan, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, France and New Zealand having all played host. Only three nations have lifted the coveted trophy, New Zealand (2008-11), South Africa (2012) and current title holders England who won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
The tournament proves crucial in offering a pathway for future stars of the game to progress to the highest international test stage. Since 2008, 24 senior England players have progressed through the U20s programme including the likes of Owen Farrell and George Ford. In total, 335 players have made the step up globally.
Commenting on the announcement, World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said:
"The U20 Championship in England next year will be another excellent opportunity for the future stars of world rugby to showcase their skills on the world stage, following what's shaping up to be a record-breaking Rugby World Cup.
"Manchester will provide an excellent base for the world's top U20 teams, and it's a great opportunity to bring a top class rugby event to the city and grow the game even further in the region.
"With so many graduates of the U20 Championship now excelling in the international test arena, this tournament, coupled with this year's Rugby World Cup, will leave a great legacy for others to build on in the years to come.
The appointment comes as a further boost to English rugby, with the 2015 Rugby World Cup taking place across the country in September. As the RFU’s Chief Executive Ian Ritchie commented, it promises to be an exciting year for rugby in England:
“We are honoured to be hosting the World Rugby U20 Championship in England next year. We have a tremendous opportunity to grow the game in this country after October’s tournament, and create a legacy for generations to come.
“The appointment of the Championship to the RFU is another significant step forward in helping us achieve that goal, ensuring that rugby is accessible in all areas of the country. This builds on a wide range of age grade international rugby that has and will continue to be played across England, including the Rugby World Cup pool game at the Etihad Stadium.”
With the addition of Manchester City’s 7,000 seat Academy Stadium – taking the total capacity with AJ Bell to just under 20,000 – the Championship offers plenty of opportunity for supporters to experience more top class international rugby in the North of England.
Neil Fairlamb, Manchester City Council Head of Sport, said:
“The announcement that the World Rugby U20 Championship will take place in Manchester is fantastic news and once again demonstrates the city's commitment to the sport. It will also allow us to build on the interest created by hosting a 2015 Rugby World Cup match later this year.
“The championship has a history of nurturing young talent and this will be a great opportunity to witness the rugby stars of tomorrow as they begin their careers.
“Manchester boasts world class sports facilities and the choice to hold the championship here shows we are truly an international sporting destination with a place on the global stage.”
Councillor Ann-Marie Humphreys, Assistant Mayor for Culture and Sport at Salford City Council, added:
“This tournament will give the chance to showcase the world-class sporting facilities we have on offer in Salford.
“It promises to be a great championship and the people of Salford will extend a very warm welcome to the players and all those who attend.”
For more information and how to buy tickets, visit www.worldrugby.org.