U20s pathway flipped for 2018 and beyond

U19 Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rugby Australia is flipping its rookie pathway, with a new U19s Rugby Championship (URC) to be introduced later this year.

For the past two years, Australia's U20s prospects have played in the Super U20s, training at their respective Super Rugby franchises, with a six-week competition at the start of the season.

The national body has switched this around, reducing the top-end age for this new competition, which will begin after club rugby wraps up each year, with a view to having a more continuous program leading into the mid-year World Championship each year.

Rather than a week-by-week competition, eight teams - Western Force U19s, Melbourne Rebels U19s, Brumbies U19s, Sydney U19s, NSW Country Eagles U19s, Brisbane U19s, Queensland Country U19s, and the Australian Barbarians U19s - will play in a week-long tournament, with a view to picking a national squad out of the competition.

The Super U20s Championship kicks off on February 27. Photo: ARU Media/Karen WatsonRugby Australia has opted for the move to allow players to play more club and school rugby and align with the international calendar.

Head of national XVs programs at Rugby AU, Adrian Thompson, said the timing was a vital change.

"The U19s Rugby Championship will give us an earlier opportunity to identify them for the Junior Wallabies," he said.

"It will also provide the states more opportunities to see their up and coming players play more regularly.

“The beauty of the URC, with the timing of it, it will give us opportunity to identify players for the Junior Wallabies earlier and for a lot of School leavers, they will be able to go into a representative program first year out of school.

“19-year-olds will be able to focus on their Club Rugby or School Rugby and then there will be a 4-6-week period to prepare for this Championship and move into the Junior Wallabies Squad. 

“It will provide more opportunities for players to be seen by Super Rugby teams.”

The first URC will run from September 28-October 5 in Canberra, with players staying at the AIS.