The Graduate
ESPNscrum Staff
June 16, 2011
Wallabies flanker David Pocock celebrates after winning the John Eales Medal, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia, October 21, 2010
David Pocock with the John Eales medal, awarded to the best Australian player each year © Getty Images

With the Junior World Championships well under way in Italy, Scrum Sevens looks at some of the tournament's star performers who all graduated to represent their country at senior level.

The tournament has run since 2008, with the inaugural tournament taking place in Wales, and since then 96 players who have appeared in the tournament have made their mark on the senior international stage. Here we give you the rundown on seven internationals and who, by chance, would make the most monumental Sevens line-up.

David Pocock

When Wallaby legend George Smith hung up his green and gold jersey to chase the Euro and now the Yen, the Australian rugby watching public speculated long into the night over a cool one who would be the incumbent replacement. Julian Salvi, former Bath and current Brumbies openside, was mentioned but then along came a certain Mr Pocock. Fresh out of captaining the Australian Under 20's in the 2008 tournament, Pocock has since made 30 appearances for the senior side after making his debut against New Zealand in November 2008 and alongside a certain All Blacks' captain is one of the finest openside's in world rugby.

Australia have had a fine pedigree in this tournament and other graduates include Reds' mercurial fly-half Quade Cooper, scrum-half Will Genia and Waratahs' soon to be Rebels' utility back Kurtley Beale. With such a wealth of talent it is surprising the U20's have not acquitted themselves better in this tournament, though Pocock's young guns ran into a resolute England side in 2008 and the Australians had to be content with fifth place.

Ben Youngs

A veteran of both the 2008 and 2009 tournaments, scrum-half Youngs is now a well established England international and seemingly first choice going into the 2011 World Cup. The Leicester Tigers academy graduate was joined in 2008 by fellow England internationals Northampton Saints' Courtney Lawes and London Irish's Alex Corbisiero.

Youngs now possesses 12 England caps and was first-choice throughout the 2011 Six Nations. Lawes had an injury troubled year but should be in World Cup contention come September. Corbisiero, along with Tom Wood, was the surprise packages of this year's Six Nations with Corbisiero stepping into the sizeable shoes of Andrew Sheridan following the monster Sale prop's injury. All eyes will be on Owen Farrell in Italy at the moment as he looks set to follow in the footsteps of Youngs et al and progressing to fully fledged international status.

Aaron Cruden

The 2009 IRB Young Player of the Year captained the victorious Baby Blacks side in the 2009 and pushed on to full All Black honours less than twelve months later, making his debut against Ireland in June 2010. Cruden excelled in the 2009 tournament, staged in Japan, scoring two tries in the final against England and creating three. Off the field though, Cruden remained an inspiration to his team-mates having beaten testicular cancer in mid-2008 and now possesses six caps for the national side.

Other All Blacks' who earned their spurs at the Junior World Championship include Sam Whitelock, whose brother Luke is captaining the Baby Blacks this year, and Zac Guildford. Guildford especially starred in 2009, scoring eight tries in the tournament including two in the demolition of England in the final.

Rhys Ruddock

The Ireland U20 captain for the 2010 tournament was all set to skipper his side, following their grand-slam triumph in that year's Six Nations, until he received a shock call-up to the national side who were touring Australia and New Zealand at the time. Ireland had lost Jamie Heaslip to suspension and John Muldoon to a broken arm so Declan Kidney opted to call up the young Leinster back-row.

Ruddock exceeded all expectation on the tour, playing against the New Zealand Maori's before earning his first full Ireland cap against Australia in Brisbane. Ruddock has since become Leinster's youngest ever captain and looks set to have a long and successful career on the international stage.

Leigh Halfpenny

The Cardiff Blues utility back starred in the 2008 tournament, scoring 52 points in the process, and made his Wales debut in the following autumn internationals against South Africa in November 2008. The 2008-09 season only improved for the youngster as he transpired to be the youngest British & Irish Lion to be called up from Wales in over 40 years. His tour was sadly ruined by injury, but his meteoric rise remains an inspiration to this year's crop of Welsh youngsters.

Other notable Welsh players who have plied their trade in the Junior World Championships include Sam Warburton who starred in this year's Six nations Championship. The openside Cardiff Blues flanker was one of the few shining lights in an otherwise poor campaign for Warren Gatland's side.

Toby Faletau

A somewhat cheeky addition to the list, but Wales' Faletau qualifies on grounds of his Tongan birth. Faletau's prop father, Kuli, represented Tonga in the 1999 World Cup. The monster flanker appeared in the 2010 tournament in Argentina and was called up to the 2011 Six Nations Welsh squad only to be ruled out due to injury. He finally made his Test debut against the Barbarians in June 2011 in the controversial 'capped' game. The future looks bright for the Newport Gwent-Dragons back-row and he is sure to add considerably to his tally.

Patrick Lambie

Lambie played fullback in the 2010 tournament and ended it as top-scorer. Prior to the tournament, Lambie lined up for the Sharks in the Super 14, making his debut aged 19. But it was the Currie Cup where Lambie's name suddenly found the spotlight. He scored 25 points for the Sharks in the final and was deservedly awarded man of the match. Lambie's stock rose as one of the best young players in world rugby and he made his Springbok debut against Ireland in November 2010, coming on for Morne Steyn. Lambie went on to feature in every game of the Springbok's northern hemisphere tour and now has four caps to his name and the utility back looks set to play a key role for South Africa in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

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