100 test graduates - milestone reached for IRB Junior World Championship

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Rod Davies created history at the weekend when he became the 100th player to graduate from playing in the IRB Junior World Championship to win full Test honours.

Davies, who made his Test debut for Australia against Samoa in Sydney on Sunday, brings up the century of graduates just under 1,050 days after Samoa’s Alatasi Tupou became the first to take that step against New Zealand in September 2008.

The 22-year-old wing played in the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan in 2009, starting all five matches and scoring five tries in the pool stages as Australia’s Under 20s reached the semi finals.

Since the IRB Junior World Championship’s inception in 2008, all 17 nations to have participated have seen a player step up from the showcase Age Grade tournament to be capped at Test level.

Among the players to graduate to the Test arena and could feature at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand are Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny (both Wales), David Pocock, Will Genia, Quade Cooper (all Australia), Richie Gray (Scotland), Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes (both England), Patrick Lambie (South Africa), Zac Guildford, Sam Whitelock (both New Zealand), Michael Leitch (Japan) and Nathan Hirayama (Canada).

Argentina have welcomed the most JWC graduates since 2008 with 17, all of them in the last 14 months, with Australia and Wales the only others into double figures with 10, just ahead of Canada and Samoa with nine.

These 100 graduates have accumulated more than 500 caps between them with Australia accounting for nearly a quarter of these and the top three most capped JWC graduates in Pocock, Cooper and Genia.

Click to view the IRB's "JWC Graduates XV"

IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan said: “It is great to see so many players making the step up from the IRB Junior World Championship to represent their countries at full Test level. The 100 graduate landmark is a significant milestone and truly underlines the prestige of the Championship and robust the player development platform it provides.”

“We are committed to ensuring that our Age Grade Tournament strategies meet the high performance needs of our Unions and therefore we continually review both the IRB Junior World Championship and the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy.”

“We held discussions with all the Tier 1 Unions during the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship in Italy as part of that important review process. The role that IRB Age Grade tournaments play in preparing the next generation of top players for Test Rugby was acknowledged and the Unions have reiterated their commitment to the Championship moving forward.”

Planning and preparation for next year’s IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa is already underway, with Samoa returing to the top flight in place of Tonga after winning the 2011 Junior World Rugby Trophy in Georgia.