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The last game for the U20 USA Junior All Americans will occur against Uruguay Sunday, May 1, to decide fifth place in the current JWT tournament in Harare, Zimbabwe. Spain and Samoa will battle for the top spot, the winner to be promoted to the World Rugby U20 World Championship next year.
It is a credit to Coach Stephenson that the USA have been competitive, losing narrowly to Namibia and playing stoutly against up-and-coming Spain. The Americans come from college and club programs widely spread apart, and must practice and play in the early and late spring, a time when many are still enrolled in school. In addition, April venues also may conflict with college rugby playoffs.
The breakout athlete for the USA in the event was twenty-year old Hanco Germishuys, a 225 lb. 6’2” born in South Africa. He will play for Denver Pro Rugby after the tournament . His twin sister plays for Wayne State Women.
It is rare for a Junior player to make the switch into the Eagles, but Madison Hughes, former Junior All-American, now plays for and captains the Eagles’ Men’s Sevens.
One of the most successful past U20 player has been the current Springboks fly-half Handré Pollard, the 2014 Junior World Player of the Year (The only win for South Africa in eight events) who played in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
These two U20 tournaments (World Championship with twelve nations, and Junior World Trophy hosting eight national sides) repeat annually. The JWT requires qualifying rounds, the USA moving forward this year via a dramatic 18-16 last minute win against Canada.
The USA goal for 2017, as always, will be to qualify for the JWT, then win the event and rise to the World Rugby World Championship against the traditional rugby powerhouses.