The future stars of international rugby will soon descend on Italy for the Six Nations Under 20 Summer Series.
South Africa and Georgia will be joining the usual half dozen for a regional alternative to the postponed U20 Rugby World Championship.
Between 24th June and 12th July, each team will participate in three initial fixtures before a final day cross-pool play-off to determine league positions.
With places still up for grabs in senior 2023 Rugby World Cup squads, here are some of the emerging talents who could shine this summer and beyond.
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England – Fin Smith
Fly-half Fin Smith became the youngest player to start for Worcester Warriors in the Premiership in March 2021, aged just 18 years and 313 days.
He played a key role in England Under-20s Six Nations Grand Slam win last year, scoring 31 points across the tournament including a try against Scotland.
Smith has already played a role in a major senior final too, helping steer Worcester to the Premiership Rugby Cup earlier in the season, as they triumphed on tries scored over London Irish.
Grandson of former British and Irish Lions loosehead prop Tom Elliot, Smith could yet reach the pinnacle of international rugby if his career continues on its current trajectory.
Wales – Christ Tshiunza
Standing at 6ft 6 and weighing 17st 11, Christ Tshiunza will take some stopping this summer.
After earning his first Wales cap in November, Tshiunza endured a frustrating start to the new year, as he was ruled out of the Six Nations with a hamstring injury.
Tshiunza included in Wales squad for Summer Series
Back in 2019, he announced his desire to make the next Wales World Cup squad and that ambition now seems well founded.
Having previously been ranked second in Wales for high jump for his age, Tshiunza is now putting those skills to use at the lineout where he is a real danger.
A second-row also capable of playing in the loose, Tshuinza seems destined to be a part of Wayne Pivac’s World Cup plans and will hope to stand out in Italy this summer.
Ireland – Fionn Gibbons
Under-20 Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland will be the team to beat this summer.
A key cog in the Irish winning machine is centre Fionn Gibbons, who scored twice in his side’s 59-5 battering of Scotland in round five
Boasting a devastating combination of pace and power, Gibbons terrorised defences throughout the Six Nations and could dominate again if given space this summer.
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And with a tenacious attitude to add to his frightening skill set, Gibbons could be next in a storied list of Irish centres.
Scotland – Murray Redpath
Another name on this list deriving from a family with strong sporting heritage, Murray Redpath seems destined for the top.
The scrum-half has chosen to take a different path to older brother, Cameron, however.
Murray has just completed his second year studying marketing and management at Newcastle University. He is not involved in the nearby Falcons academy and is focused on finishing his studies before pursuing a career in rugby.
He has, however, already been singled out for his leadership qualities by his U20s coach Sean Lineen and comparisons with former captain and fellow nine Greig Laidlaw have naturally followed suit.
France – Louis Bielle-Biarrey
Full-back Louis Bielle-Biarrey announced his arrival in European rugby with a hat-trick for Bordeaux-Begles in January.
But that performance was no fluke, Bielle-Biarrey won his first France Under-20s cap just a month after his 18th birthday in July 2021.
Noticeable for his bright red scrumcap, the young flyer also caught the eye when he revealed his initiation haircut – a half shaven head – following his debut for Bordeaux.
Unsurprisingly, he was voted Star of the Match for his hat-trick in the 45-10 demolition of Scarlets. In the process, he became the youngest player to have achieved the feat in the Champions Cup, breaking a record that had stood for 28 years.
Italy – Francois Carlo Mey
After a stellar season in his homeland, Francois Carlo Mey has earned a move to French giants Clermont.
The full-back led Colorno’s unexpected play-off push in the Italian Top 10 and will have the opportunity to impress in a major European league next term.
Tricky and creative in equal measure, Carlo Mey impressed in the U20 Six Nations earlier this year, crossing in rounds four and five of the tournament.
The two sides Carlo Mey scored against in the Championship – Scotland and Wales – join the Azzurri and Georgia in Pool B. It is a reunion Carlo Mey will relish.
South Africa – Sacha Mngomezulu
A professional debut in a crunch European fixture could unsettle even the most gifted prodigy.
But not Sacha Mngomezulu, who was thrown into action just four minutes into the DHL Stormers’ United Rugby Championship quarter-final with Edinburgh Rugby.
The 20-year-old looked assured and played with a maturity far beyond his years as the Stormers progressed to the semi-finals with a 28-17 victory.
In the changing rooms post-match, Mngomezulu’s teammates sang to congratulate him for such an impressive debut, moving the fly-half to tears.
The half-back will be hoping for similar this summer as South Africa make the trip north to Italy.
Georgia – Mathis Modebadze
Another budding fly-half, Modebadze has gained experience outside of his native Georgia with Montpellier.
The playmaker may need to develop physically before he is thrust into the senior side, but the summer series should provide a good chance to show what he can do.
Pool stage games against Wales, Scotland and Italy should provide a marker of his progress after a spell in France.
Georgia are fast establishing themselves as an emerging force in world rugby, and Modebadze would seem to be central to their progress.