In just over six months time, the north-west of France will become the centre of the Rugby world for a few weeks when it hosts the IRB Junior World Championship 2013.
The cities of Vannes, Nantes and La Roche-sur-Yon will play host to the sixth annual premier age-grade tournament, hoping to build on the outstanding success of the 2012 event in South Africa.
This week in Vannes, members of the French Union (FFR), along with officials from the Bretagne and Pays de la Loire regions, joined French Rugby legend and manger of the Under-20 National side Fabien Pelous for a press conference ahead of next summer's event.
The Stars of the Future
"This competition is followed intently by club recruiters, in fact, careers can be made on one game alone" -- Fabien Pelous
We sat down with the former second row to ask him about the impact the IRB Junior World Championship will have on the young players who strive to be the stars of the future as well as what impact it could have for the region.
"The players are very motivated," said Pelous. "It's true that this competition is followed intently by club recruiters, in fact, careers can be made on one game alone. The Junior World Championship competition is the most difficult (for this age level). Players must keep up with the pace as there is a game every few days...for those that are selected it will pass very quickly. They will be playing for their national team," he said.
During his playing days, Fabien Pelous was easily visible on the pitch, not just for his 6 foot 6 inch frame, but also for his natural leadership and athletic skills. Making his test debut for the French senior team against Romania in 1995, the Toulouse native went on to play 118 times for his country before hanging up his boots in 2009, after winning 3 European Cups with Stade Toulousain.
Looking back on it now, how did his experience at underage level differ from what the current crop are going through?
"It's all changed completely! Rugby wasn't professional at that stage. It was, first of all, a leisure activity for us. We had to finish our studies and then choose a career. Nowadays, young people can have a career by being a good player. That makes all the difference in mindset. They know what they want. They surprise us with their determination and maturity," he said.
Developing the Game
The 2013 IRB Junior World Championship will be held in the north-west of France, a region not known as a traditional heartland of French Rugby. Despite that, clubs in both the Bretagne and Pays de la Loire regions have seen a massive growth in player numbers in recent years, and organisers are confident the premier age-grade tournament will capture the hearts and minds of players and fans from all over the world. Pelous believes it's a great opportunity for the area.
"Firstly, it's crucial for the development of Rugby in France and more particularly in the Bretagne and Pays de la Loire regions. These regions have seen a significant progression over several years, but it needs more support, and the JWC is a really great opportunity"
"Basically, this tournament is another way of promoting Rugby in France especially since it takes place in the month of June, when the rugby in France is sometimes less present in the media".
It's also good news for the city of Nantes which hosted several games during Rugby World Cup 2007 in France.
"We delighted to host, along with Vannes and La Roche-sur-Yon, the prestigious Junior World Championship in June 2013" said Mayor of Nantes Patrick Rimbert.
"The city actively supports rugby in Nantes because we believe that access to sport for all young people is a priority for the municipality. (Rugby) is educational and helps social learning and individual development. Nantes is a friendly city, open to differences...I'm sure this international sporting event will contribute to the attractiveness of our area," he said.
Of course, the long term goal for players and coaches in the IRB Junior World Championship next year will be the prospect of potentially pulling on a senior jersey at the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015.
A total of 11 French players have graduated via the IRB Junior World Championship to play for the senior France 15, including talents such as Mathieu Bastareaud, Yoann Maestri, and Morgan Parra. So does Monsieur Pelous believe there are future stars in his current ranks?
"I really hope so, but as yet that question is not settled. It will depend on how they are physically after the second part of the season. But of course, I hope all the likely players will get to play in the tournament. I hope so because this event is important for the FFR and French Rugby in its entirety. The prospect of having the best players available would be essential in order to do well in this championship".
The IRB Junior World Championship 2013 will take place in France between June 5-23. The Championship is now firmly established as one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the annual international Rugby calendar, showcasing the future stars of Rugby and the host nation in a competition that serves up a feast of excitement and highly-competitive matches to a television audience in more than 160 nations.
The 2013 format will feature three venues with each hosting a pool. Stade Henri Desgrange in La Roche-sur-Yon will host Pool A matches, Stade de la Rabine in Vannes will host Pool B, while Rugby World Cup 2007 host venue Stade Pascal Laporte in Nantes will host Pool C matches.
The semi-finals and IRB Junior World Championship Final will be played in Vannes. The pools have been set on rankings based on results at the previous Championship and hosts France, courtesy of their sixth-place finish in 2012, will face defending champions South Africa, England and IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 winners USA in Pool A.
JWC 2012 runners-up New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and Fiji are in Pool B, while Wales head Pool C which also includes Argentina, Scotland and Samoa.
IRB Junior World Championship 2013 Pools and Match Schedule
- La Roche sur Yon (LRY): Stade Henri Desgrange
- Nantes: Stade Pascal Laporte
- Vannes: Stade de la Rabine
|Pool A (La Roche sur Yon)||Pool B (Vannes)||Pool C (Nantes)|
|1. South Africa||2. New Zealand||3. Wales|
|6. France||5. Ireland||4. Argentina|
|7. England||8. Australia||9. Scotland|
|12. USA||11. Fiji||10. Samoa|
MATCH DAY 1: WEDNESDAY JUNE 5, 2013
|1||8:45pm||A||South Africa v USA||LRY|
|2||8:45pm||B||New Zealand v Fiji||Vannes|
|3||6:00pm||C||Wales v Samoa||Nantes|
|4||6:45pm||A||France v England||LRY|
|5||6:45pm||B||Ireland v Australia||Vannes|
|6||8:00pm||C||Argentina v Scotland||Nantes|
MATCH DAY 2: SUNDAY JUNE 9, 2013
|7||4:45pm||A||South Africa v England||LRY|
|8||6:45pm||B||Ireland v Fiji||Vannes|
|9||3:00pm||C||Argentina v Samoa||Nantes|
|10||6:45pm||A||France v USA||LRY|
|11||8:45pm||B||New Zealand v Australia||Vannes|
|12||5:00pm||C||Wales v Scotland||Nantes|
MATCH DAY 3: THURSDAY JUNE 13, 2013
|13||6:45pm||A||England v USA||LRY|
|14||8:45pm||B||Australia v Fiji||Vannes|
|15||4:45pm||C||Wales v Argentina||LRY|
|16||8:45pm||A||France v South Africa||LRY|
|17||6:45pm||B||New Zealand v Ireland||Vannes|
|18||7:00pm||C||Scotland v Samoa||Nantes|
At the end of the pool phase the teams will be seeded based on the position in which they finished in their respective pools.
|1st Seed||Pool winner with most competition points|
|2nd Seed||Pool winner with 2nd most competition points|
|3rd Seed||Pool winner with 3rd most competition points|
|4th Seed||Pool second place with most competition points|
|5th Seed||Pool second place with 2nd most competition points|
|6th Seed||Pool second place with 3rd most competition points|
|7th Seed||Pool third place with most competition points|
|8th Seed||Pool third place with 2nd most competition points|
|9th Seed||Pool third place with 3rd most competition points|
|10th Seed||Pool fourth place with most competition points|
|11th Seed||Pool fourth place with 2nd most competition points|
|12th Seed||Pool fourth place with 3rd most competition points|
Based on the seedings the allocation of 4th round matches will be as follows:
MATCH DAY 4: TUESDAY JUNE 18, 2013
|For Rankings 9 – 12|
|19||6:00pm||10th Seed v 11th Seed||Nantes|
|20||8:15pm||9th Seed v 12th Seed||Nantes|
|For Rankings 5 - 8|
|21||6:00pm||6th Seed v 7th Seed||LRY|
|22||8:15pm||5th Seed v 8th Seed||LRY|
|23||6:15pm or 8:45pm||2nd Seed v 3rd Seed||Vannes|
|24||6:15pm or 8:45pm||1st Seed v 4th Seed||Vannes|
Note: France will play at KO time 2 regardless of their ranking during the pool phase
MATCH DAY 5: SUNDAY JUNE 23, 2013 (FINALS)
|25||3:00pm||Winner Match 19 v Winner Match 20||Nantes|
|26||5:15pm||Loser Match 19 v Loser Match 20||Nantes|
|27||3:00pm||Loser Match 21 v Loser Match 22||LRY|
|28||5:15pm||Winner Match 21 v Winner Match 22||LRY|
|29||3:15pm||Loser Match 23 v Loser Match 24||Vannes|
|30||6:45pm||Winner Match 23 v Winner Match 24||Vannes|
-- COURTESY IRB.COM
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