We are on the eve of the Rugby Europe U18 Championship 2022, where eight teams will face each other between 2- 9 October with their sights locked on the trophy to see who will be crowned this year’s champions.
Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czechia, and Romania will have to take the cup from Georgia’s grasp, as the U18 Lelos hold a firm grip around it, having not lost a single game since 2018.
As every year, new stars arise and fight for the spotlight, be it due to impressive tackling qualities, handling skills, kicking prowess, or other fine and well-worked technical-physical play.
Who are some of the “kids” that will run loose and set fire to the 2022 competition? From forwards to backs, we picked a handful of names that you should keep an eye out for.
- Nika Lomidze (Georgia): he is one of the only two players who lifted the trophy in 2021, and the lock will show yet again why he is the king of the skies and a thorough hunter in the breakdown.
- Vladimir Kostylyev (Germany): a rather flexible backrow, Vladimir Kostylyev is a hard-hitter unit always ready to be that brick wall that every team needs.
- Stefan Ciocirlan (Romania): big, very big unit, Stefan Ciocirlan is a gifted forward that plays lock, flanker, or number-eight, imposing a brilliant physicality that opens gaps and finds attacking solutions for his side.
- Pavel Březina (Czechia): might not be well-known, but the prop deserves a shout because of his fine work in the scrum and power-drive, that can be the difference between going forward one or three meters.
- Julien Masure (Belgium): the Belgian hooker will be back for another U18 tournament, after earning a place in our best 2021 XV. What can we expect from him? Good jackling skills, quick to change the direction of the maul, and an electric forward, who has the knack to go for the try-line.
- Guilherme Costa (Portugal): another lock and another name who was in 2021, Guilherme Costa started as a replacement player, but was able to snatch the nº4 shirt in the 2021 final, thanks to his capability to steal the opposition lineouts or to make himself felt as a tackler.
- Mart van der Veen (Netherlands): the Dutch captain is set to be one of the most powerful tacklers in the competition, that can quickly reload and go for it again, pressuring the opposition to lose the oval ball. Be careful with his handling skill set, as it can surprise the most distracted.
- Asier Pérez (Spain): a towering and commandeering presence, Asier Pérez will be one of the biggest names for the U18 Los Leones, and will certainly fight to be the best defensive unit in the tournament.
- Alberto Carmona (Spain): 18 years old and he is already a Test Match international. Utility back Alberto Carmona was one of the standouts in the 2021 Rugby Europe U18 Championship and surely will try to be one of the best again in 2022. The perfect mix of pure speed adrenaline, thumping contact bashing, and smooth offload skills.
- Gela Kheladze (Georgia): Los Lelos will bring a new backline for the 2022 competition, but Kheladze knows his way into the try area, all due to impressive agility and relentless attitude.
- Stefan Cojocariu (Romania): a fly-half that combines a refined kicking ability and a good tactician mind, Stefan Cojocariu can be a problem-solver for the young Oaks.
- Manuel Vareiro (Portugal): he was one of the best in 2021, rocked in the 7’s tournament in the Summer, and has been up to the challenge in every competition he gets involved. Vareiro is one of the young stalwarts from Portugal, tackling furiously or snatching a beautiful interception, and will be one of the finest backs in this year’s RE Championship
- Christopher Hennig (Germany): a bomber kicker, the German fly-half will try to supply his side with quick ball and steady up&unders that can sow problems in the opposition lines.
- Tim Slabbekoorn (Netherlands): a special breed of first five-eight, he will empower his team with brilliant decision-making, quick hands, and that awesome flair that can set fire to his backline.
We only named fourteen players of what could have been more than thirty, and we will help guide you through what is going to be an astounding tournament, enriched with tries, side-steps, tackles, turnovers, interceptions, handoffs, and much more.
The action starts on Sunday, with Portugal and Germany taking the center field at 11 AM (9 AM CET), followed by Spain-Romania (12h45 | 10h45), Belgium-Netherlands (14h30 | 12h30), and, finally, Georgia-Czechia (16h15 | 14h15).
Remember that the Rugby Europe U18 Championship is played in knock-out style, with the semi-finals and finals day played on Wednesday and Sunday.
By Francisco Isaac