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Europe’s rising stars meet in Liege

The second European U18 sevens championship takes place in Liege in Belgium this weekend, with twelve teams showing off the continent’s next generation.

Belgium - hosts for 2015

The ten nations that took part in Enkoping - Belgium, Russia, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Wales, Sweden, England, Ireland and Portugal – are this year joined by Spain and the Ukraine.

Last year’s competition was won comfortably by England, but more than in most tournaments, the past will be little guide.

That said, it will be the countries that have a strong junior rugby programme who will have a clear advantage – so 2014 finalists England and Wales will again be the teams to beat, with the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain (who missed last year when the went to the Youth Olympics) likely to be close behind, with Russia a good possible outside bet.

The Dutch junior team finished third last year, the strength of their junior rugby a positive spin-off from the professional programme that had their Olympic and World Series hopes dashed this summer. These players could go one step further than their older colleagues in 2020 or 2024.

Outside these, and if based just on sheer ambition, Germany talk a game that seems to make them a team to watch. The team, coached by Melville Smith, is targeting a place in the top five (last year they finished eighth). “The team has had a super preparation”, said DRV performance manager Manuel Wilhelm, “and includes many strong players, some of whom have already played for the senior team. Our first goal will be second place in the pool behind England, after which everything is on the second day will be open. After the bitter relegation our senior team from the Grand Prix Series and their failure in the Olympic qualifier, we hoping that this tournament will give this talented team a fresh start.

However, they will face a significant practical problem in achieving that their ambitions – as will most of the exciting young players who will appear in Leige. Whereas the young women who make an impact playing for England, Spain, Wales and Russia can look forward to breaking into their Six Nations and World Series teams later this season (as many did last season), the international opportunities for the rest will be very limited indeed, especially after the disappearance of initiatives such as the Emerging Nations camps and tournaments last season which the authorities have thus far done little to replace. After the tournament they will have to limit their ambitions to breaking into their adult club leagues.

That said this U18 championship is a great initiative by Rugby Europe, and has now been matched by a similar age group tournament in Asia. With strong youth programmes in North America, and with the top young players in Australia and New Zealand being fast-tracked into national squads it surely cannot be long before the Unions come together for a worldwide event.

Game n°

KO

 

Team 1

V

Team 2

 

Pool

M1

10:00

A1

ENGLAND

V

UKRAINE

A4

A

M2

10:22

A2

PORTUGAL

V

GERMANY

A3

A

M3

10:44

C1

NETHERLANDS

V

BELGIUM

C4

C

M4

11:06

C2

RUSSIA

V

SWEDEN

C3

C

M5

11:28

B2

IRELAND

V

ITALY

B3

B

M6

11:50

B1

WALES

V

SPAIN

B4

B

        

M7

12:42

A1

ENGLAND

V

GERMANY

A3

A

M8

13:04

A2

PORTUGAL

V

UKRAINE

A4

A

M9

13:26

C1

NETHERLANDS

V

SWEDEN

C3

C

M10

13:48

C2

RUSSIA

V

BELGIUM

C4

C

M11

14:10

B1

WALES

V

ITALY

B3

B

M12

14:32

B2

IRELAND

V

SPAIN

B4

B

M13

15:24

A1

ENGLAND

V

PORTUGAL

A2

A

M14

15:46

A3

GERMANY

V

UKRAINE

A4

A

M15

16:08

C1

NETHERLANDS

V

RUSSIA

C2

C

M16

16:30

C3

SWEDEN

V

BELGIUM

C4

C

M17

16:52

B3

ITALY

V

SPAIN

B4

B

M18

17:14

B1

WALES

V

IRELAND

B2

B

Quarter-Finals CUP + PLATE

M19

10:00

 

Place 1

V

Place 3

  

M20

10:22

 

Place 1

V

Place 3

  

M21

10:44

 

Place 1

V

Place 2

  

M22

11:06

 

Place 2

V

Place 2

  

Semi-Finals BOWL

M23

11:28

 

Place 3

V

Place 4

  

M24

11:50

 

Place 4

V

Place 4

  

Semi-Finals PLATE

M25

13:12

 

Loser M19

V

Loser M22

  

M26

13:34

 

Loser M20

V

Loser M21

  

Semi-Finals CUP

M27

13:56

 

Winner M19

V

Winner M22

  

M28

14:18

 

Winner M20

V

Winner M21

  

Match for place 11

M29

14:40

LM23

Loser M23

V

Loser M24

LM24

 

Match for place 09

M30

15:02

WM23

Winner M23

V

Winner M24

WM24

 

Match for place 07

M31

15:54

LM25

Loser M25

V

Loser M26

LM26

 

Match for place 05

M32

16:16

WM25

Winner M25

V

Winner M26

WM26

 

Match for place 03

M33

16:48

LM27

Loser M27

V

Loser M28

LM28

 

Final

M34

17:10

WM27

Winner M27

V

Winner M28

WM28