So the early rounds of the Under 20’s RBS 6 nations this year has started to see a change in the normal procession. England normally very strong at this age group have lost to Ireland and Scotland, where as the Celtic nations have had an upturn in fortunes. Wales are coming to The Stoop looking for a fourth win and a big step towards the Grand Slam, Scotland and Ireland have also improved in recent years.
Looking a bit deeper into this, I believe it’s no coincidence that as the money has dried up in Wales the youngsters have had to be thrown in to the Pro12 and we are seeing the benefits of that experience at the age grade level, a World Cup final and victories over South Africa and more notably the first ever age grade defeat of the baby blacks back up this argument. But to flip it the other way with the influx of foreign or ‘non English’ qualified players taking youngsters places across the Aviva, will this see the down turn for England in the younger tournament??
Players like Victor Matfield at 37, JP Petersen at 30+ at Northampton and Leicester, and even the Preistlands, Charteris and Falatau’s of Wales joining teams like Bath are taking up spaces where youngsters could develop, whilst in turn freeing up spaces in the regions for Welsh youngsters to get vital game time and experience.
Time will tell if this is a blip or start of a change in the pecking order of age grade rugby in the Northern Hemisphere!!