Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
With just over 100 days to go until the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy gets underway in Georgia, the venues, pools, schedule and match officials have been announced for the key international Age Grade tournament.
At a well attended media conference in Tibilisi today, tournament organisers revealed that the first ever IRB tournament to be hosted in Georgia will see Tbilisi’s impressive Shevardeni Stadium and the Avchala Stadium host double header match days, kicking off on Tuesday, May 24 when the hosts face Canada, Russia take on Uruguay, Samoa play the USA and Japan meet Zimbabwe.
The final round of matches will take place on Sunday, June 5th to crown the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy champions, who will follow in holders Italy’s footsteps with promotion to the IRB Junior World Championship in 2012.
The USA are in Pool A with Samoa, Russia, and Uruguay. The USA opens with Samoa on May 24th, then follows with Russia on May 28th, and close out pool play against Uruguay on June 1st.
The teams that make up Pool B are Japan, Georgia, Canada, and Zimbabwe.
There is little forgiveness in the schedule. The format is pretty clear… win all of your games if you want to reach the finals. The top team from each pool play for the championship and the chance to move up to Junior World Championship tier.
Preparations are progressing on track with organisers confident that the tournament will be a resounding success and further boost a sport that is rapidly establishing itself as the number one sport in Georgia, while also delivering a significant legacy for the Game.
“We are delighted to be in Tbilisi and see that preparations are ahead of schedule for the tournament, with two first-class stadia selected to host matches,” said IRB Tournaments Manager Philippe Bourdarias.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Georgian Rugby to show how much progress has been made in recent years, including two new High Performance Centres here in Tbilisi and the installation of a revolutionary artificial pitch. I am sure all the participating teams will enjoy an exceptional event played in front of passionate and knowledgeable crowds who in turn can expect some thrilling Rugby.”
Aside from providing Host Unions with major event experience, the Under-20 tournament plays a vital player development role for participating Unions, preparing emerging talent for the Test arena.
More than 50 players have graduated from the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy to win Test caps. For hosts Georgia the results have been significant with David Chichua, Lasha Khmaladze, Viktor Kolelishvili, Giorgi Rokvadze, Beka Tsiklauri and Vasil Kakovin all having graduated after playing in the inaugural IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2008.
The tournament also provides a clear development pathway for match officials, combining with the IRB Junior World Championship to expose up and coming talent to an invaluable learning environment that provides exposure to the IRB’s referee development team.
“The IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy has been a crucial development route for some of our most promising young match officials, including Francisco Pastrana who has gone on to achieve great things,” said IRB Referee Development Consultant Bernd Gabbei.
“The panel comprises 10 officials from nine countries with the hugely experienced Taizo Hirabayashi from Japan joined by emerging talent from Spain, Portugal, Belgium, USA, Samoa, Romania and Uruguay. There are also two Georgian assistant referees in Gia Amirkhanashvili and Ucha Narimanidze.”
“It is essential that we continue to work hard on consistency at all levels and that we identify and develop talented officials who can benefit from the best practice environment at IRB Age Grade tournaments and be fully prepared for the rigours of international Test Rugby.”