Lessons from the World Championship U20
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: France’s second consecutive World Rugby Under-20 Championship should be a valuable commodity for the French Rugby Union.
The Junior Les Bleus beat Australia 24-23 in the final.
The final just confirmed the widely held opinions that France along with fellow finalist the Junior Wallabies have the most promising crop of youngsters coming through in world rugby.
The two teams’ talent surpasses that of the New Zealand U20 team, who for the last few years have struggled to keep up with the opposition.
But it seems, for all the talent and promise that these sides possessed at Test level they have been underachieving and are the struggling nations of the North and South.
In France’s case, they lost to Fiji at home and finished fourth in a miserable Six Nations campaign.
While in the Southern Hemisphere, the Wallabies are just as bad. The men down under have a less than 50 percent success rate and have lost on home soil to New Zealand, Ireland, England and Scotland.
They finished bottom of the Rugby Championship resulting in many supporters calling for head coach Micheal Cheika’s resignations.
When looking at these two sides, most of the rugby world are left scratching their heads at how teams with so many resources are struggling so much, while the All Blacks, on the other hand, develop into a world-class side.
One of the most prominent factors is coaching.
Brunel and Cheika’s respective records speak for itself.
The France mentor took over the side in 2017 and has led the French to only five wins in 16 matches. Cheika since taking over the reins in 2014, has mentored the team to 28 wins from 58 matches.
Solely placing the blame on the men in charge is the most logical thing to do, but one has to holistically take a look at the state of their rugby.
France’s premier league the Top 14 fails to develop local talent as a majority of the club owners opts to spend millions on foreign international like Cheslin Kolbe, Jerome Kaino and many more.
While Australian Rugby franchise’s dismal Super Rugby form does not serve as a means to develop them into formidable players nevermind keeping them in the country.
The two countries’ state over the last four years does leave supporters with relatively little hope at this year’s World Cup in Japan.
Nonetheless, France and Australia have always managed to dish up the unexpected when it comes to the World stage – and this year could be no different.
However if somehow these countries want to shed the Jekyll and Hyde tag, and for once be reckoned as one of the powerhouses in World Rugby, they need to preserve and nurture their World Rugby U20 Championship class of 2019.
The Junior sides have shown that all is not lost when it comes to the state of rugby in the respective countries.
And with a good development in place and solid coaching over the next four years, there are very little reasons why France and Australia could not be serious contenders at the 2023 World Cup.
By Leezil Hendricks