• Home
  • /
  • Rugby
  • /
  • 5 Stars Who Used The Last Year's U20 World Cup As A Springboard

5 Stars Who Used The Last Year's U20 World Cup As A Springboard

5 Stars Who Used The Last Year's U20 World Cup As A Springboard
By Conor O'Leary
Share this article

With the World Rugby U20 Championships starting on Tuesday 2nd June, it's worth looking at the role that tournament plays in the development of the world's best players. Even from last year's tournament there are several players who used it as a springboard into bigger things, with several already on the brink of their national teams.

Here are five players who made the most of their experiences in the Junior World Championship in 2014:

Maro Itoje (England)


What a year for the Saracens forward. He started the season as a promising squad member, and finished it as a starter in the Champions Cup semi-final, an England Saxon and including in England's extended World Cup.

Itoje is a rare combination of speed and power. He's comfortable at either blindside flanker or second row. For Irish fans he's a younger version of Iain Henderson with outstanding leadership qualities.

Some have already tipped him to be Lions captain in 2017, and while that might be a bit premature, his career trajectory suggests he won't be far off a spot on the plane.

Read more about Itoje in detail here in a brilliant article on Rugby World.

Handre Pollard (South Africa)

It didn't take long for Pollard to graduate from U20's to the senior South African team. Just a week after leading South Africa to the JWC final, Pollard made his Springbok debut.

The outhalf had three years experience at U20 level, winning the player of the year last year ahead of Ireland's Gary Ringrose.


Now inserted as the Springbok no.10, the Bulls outhalf has had a statistically good season in Super Rugby, but the Bulls are languishing in midtable of Super Rugby, and unlikely to make the playoffs.

He's seen as the great white hope of South African rugby, but his performance for the Boks in Dublin last November left a lot to be desired after much fanfare. Nevertheless, Pollard continues on his apparent path as the South African chosen one.

Damian McKenzie (New Zealand)




Unlike Itoje, Pollard, and McMahon; Damian McKenzie is still uncapped at international, and will probably stay that way until after the World Cup. But the 20 year old is making a lot of waves in Super Rugby this season.


Comfortable at first five-eighth and fullback, McKenzie has been a focal point of the Chiefs season with some elusive running, playmaking skills and talent.

His services are highly sought after in New Zealand with a host of flyhalves moving to the Northern hemisphere, and it's only a matter of time before he becomes an All Black.

Sean McMahon (Australia)



Much like Pollard, it didn't take long for McMahon to make an impact on the senior Wallabies squad. Called up to their end of year European tour last year, McMahon made such an impact against that memorable Barbarians victory that coach Michael Chieka started him in tests against Wales, France and England.

The rampaging blindside has been excellent for the Melbourne Rebels this season, and is one of the reasons why the newest Super Rugby franchise is as close as it's ever been to a playoff spot.

The youngester will surely be included in Australia's extended World Cup squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship, but will face tough competition from the more experienced Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fardy, Ben McCalman and Matt Hodgson.

Cian Kelleher (Ireland)

Perhaps, Kelleher didn't take as many forward steps as the rest of this list; but his season has been a good one nonetheless. He inspired Lansdowne to the Ulster Bank Division 1A crown. His performance's in Ireland's domestic competition earned him the award of Rising Player of the year.

Kelleher's year was complete when he was named in the upcoming Emerging Ireland squad for the Tbilisi Cup. The quick-stepping back three player made his first Leinster appearance in the forgettable victory over Treviso, and also got on for Ireland XV against the Barbarians last week.


Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Share this article

Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com