The 11th edition of the World Rugby U20 Trophy kicks off in Bucharest on Tuesday 28 August with eight teams doing battle for the title, and the right to compete in the U20 Championship in Argentina next year.
Samoa return to the competition after their relegation from the Championship in 2017, and are one of three previous winners competing in Romania, alongside the hosts and Uruguay.
Head coach Laauli Rudy Leavasa and his players will be aiming for a swift return to the Championship and history is on their side. Samoa have won the World Rugby U20 Trophy on their two previous appearances in 2011 and 2016. They will face Hong Kong U20 in the opening match of the tournament.
"We are not taking any game lightly. The Hong Kong boys are as physical as us and we'll make sure that we stick with our game plan and do the basics well" La’auli Rudy Leavasa.
However, the Pacific Islanders will not have it all their own way as they bid to make it three from three in the Romanian capital.
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The hosts, winners in 2009, are Samoa’s second opponents in Pool A and will not want to disappoint the home support as they make a first appearance in the competition since 2010. Hong Kong and Namibia – who finished fourth in 2017 – meanwhile, have both arrived in Europe full of confidence.
Uruguay, a team with a strong tradition in this tournament, familiar foes Fiji, twice runners-up Canada and last year’s surprise package Portugal make up Pool B.
In Montevideo 12 months ago Portugal reached a first World Rugby U20 Trophy final where Luis Pissarra’s team were beaten in a rain-affected title decider by Japan, who ran out 14-3 winners in a match shortened to 67 minutes due to the monsoon-like conditions.
A year on no-one will be caught off guard by the varied talents of Os Lobinhos, who wrapped up back-to-back Rugby Europe U20 Championship titles with victory over Spain earlier this year. That success has helped give the squad confidence they can compete on a world stage once again.
“Although the other teams are much bigger names than we are and much more experienced at this level, we know we can do it (win),” Manuel Peleteiro, one of three co-captains in the Portugal squad, said.
“But we aren’t thinking that far ahead, we are just focused on the first game against Canada. There are some players returning from last year which is good because they have the experience of playing in a major tournament like this.
Fiji return to the competition again after gaining the qualification spot at the 2017 Oceania Rugby U20 Trophy over Tonga. The young Fijians will be looking to improve on their 2017 performance starting with a needed win over Uruaguay in their first match of the tournament to set them up for a better than 5th place from the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2017.
Follow the tournament live on worldrugby.org where all matches will be streamed live or @WorldRugby using #WorldRugbyU20s