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Super Rugby 2016: ARU announces weekly U20s competition

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The ARU has announced the introduction of an official under-20s competition featuring teams from all five Australian franchises.

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The 2016 Super Rugby season was launched at Wet'n'Wild water park in Sydney's west with Wycliff Palu (Waratahs), Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies), Nic Stirzaker (Rebels), Matt Hodgson (Force) and James Slipper (Reds) speaking.

The six-week tournament will begin on February 27 with the NSW Gen Blue U20s taking on the Queensland U20s as a curtain raiser before the Waratahs meet the Reds at Allianz Stadium that evening. All but two matches will be curtain raisers.

The competition replaces the Australian U20s Championship and will be a selection opportunity for players to be picked in the Australian U20s side.

NSW Waratahs general manager of pathway services Tim Rapp said it was great to give precocious rugby players the opportunity to show their skills on a big stage.

"The idea behind it is to get these guys a better quality of football more often and then in preparation for the Australian U20s, to give them better quality in terms of playing at an elite level," Rapp said. "The big picture is that these kids are getting to feel what it's like to be a Super Rugby player and get to feel what it's like to play on a bigger stage to what they're used to."

ARU's general manager of high performance Ben Whittaker said: "The Super U20s Championship will be an exciting platform for the next generation of Australian players to enhance their abilities in the elite professional environments our Super Rugby clubs provide." 

There is a small overlap between the latter part of the competition into the Shute Shield season, but Rapp said players who were not picked to run on for the Waratahs would make a return for their club sides.