For a number of newer players, Saturday’s match will be their first involvement in a Test between England and New Zealand.
That doesn’t mean it will be the first time they’ve experienced the massive rivalry before, however.
England reserve hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie says he is “massively excited” heading into the weekend.
“I’ve only ever played New Zealand in the U20s so it’s going to be a new thing for me and I’m just getting excited for the semi-final and bringing it on,” Cowan-Dickie said. “Their record’s good, they do win quite a few games so you’ve got to be excited.”
You only have to go back a few World Cup cycles to see the history between some of the players that will line up on Saturday.
With stunning regularity, New Zealand and England squared off at least every two years in the Under 20 Junior World Championship between 2009 and 2017 – and plenty of the current World Cup representatives were involved.
What it's like behind the scenes having three Barrett brothers in the All Blacks squad in Japan… https://t.co/DJ0rFm0PO2
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 24, 2019
2008 marked the first-ever Under 20 Championship, replacing the Under 21 and Under 19 versions of the competition.
New Zealand and England – indisputably the top two sides – unsurprisingly met in the competition final.
The Baby Blacks fielded current New Zealand representatives Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty in their starting line-up, with Aaron Smith on the bench. Sean Maitland, who turned out for Scotland at the 2019 World Cup, also joined the fray late in the game for the Kiwis.
England had to make do with just one current national rep, in the form of reserve halfback Ben Youngs. Youngs will face off with Smith in the starting 9 jerseys this weekend.
New Zealand made short work of their opposition, triumphing 38-3. The Baby Blacks impressively conceded no tries throughout the whole tournament.
The 2009 edition of the tournament, coincidentally hosted in Japan, saw the two nations meet in the competition final. Youngs, England’s most capped current player, and rake Jamie George both started in that final match. George, now considered one of the world’s best hookers, lined up on the openside flank whilst Youngs played in his usual scrumhalf role.
There were no current All Blacks in NZ’s set-up in 2009, but that didn’t stop the Baby Blacks from recording a convincing 44-28 win.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 25, 2019
2011 was a special year for New Zealand rugby fans. It took a monumental effort from the All Blacks, but they finally secured the William Webb Ellis trophy for the first time in 24 years – on home soil, nonetheless.
Months earlier, New Zealand also managed to net another rugby trophy: the Junior World Championship.
Their final opponents were, of course, England.
The New Zealanders rolled out a frankly scary side, in hindsight.
The starting XV in the final included current All Blacks Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett – all players who will once again turn out on Saturday for the Men in Black.
England put out a fairly formidable side too.
Mako Vunipola started in the front row whilst George Ford, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly formed an exceptionally talented midfield. All four will line up against New Zealand again on Saturday evening in Yokohama – though Daly has been shifted back to fullback.
The two titans traded points in the first half but the Baby Blacks pulled away after halftime, winning the match 33-22. Barrett, Tameifuna and Charles Piutau scored tries for New Zealand and Christian Wade and Henry Thomas dotted down for England.
Two years later, the rivals were at it again.
This time, in France, they met one round earlier and were playing for a spot in the grand final.
New Zealand’s side wasn’t quite as strong as it had been in 2011, but there were still a few men on the park that will be familiar to fans of the current All Blacks team, including locks Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu, and captain Ardie Savea.
The 2013 England side boasted plenty of talent too.
Cowan-Dickie anchored the front row whilst Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell combined in the outside backs. Henry Slade – used at outside centre in England’s quarter-final victory over Australia – ran the team from the 10 jersey. Current Wales international Ross Moriarty also started for the English.
Rugby fans have been delivered a brutal dose of reality.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 23, 2019
The game ended in a similar scoreline to 2011’s tête-à-tête but instead in England’s favour, with the Red Roses triumphing 33-21.
England took an insurmountable 20-8 lead into the break, courtesy of tries to Watson and flanker Matt Hankin – who was forced to retire from rugby last year due to concussion. Slade netted 18 of England’s points with four penalties and three conversions to his name.
2015, when the All Blacks managed a repeat World Cup victory, again saw England and New Zealand go head-to-head in the U20 World Championship.
Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue, who will start in the midfield for the All Blacks this weekend, both marched out for the Baby Blacks in 2015 (though Lienert-Brown was at centre and Goodhue was on the right wing) while George Bridge was an unused sub on the bench. Atu Moli also captained the side and was in with a chance of earning a bench spot for this weekend’s match but lost out to Angus Ta’avao.
Like during the last World Cup year, the 2015 match fell the way of the Kiwis, 21 points to 16.
The most recent fixture between the two Under 20 sides came in the 2017 final. New Zealand cantered to a huge 64-17 victory, led by Luke Jacobson – who was named in the All Blacks initial World Cup squad but returned home early due to concussion concerns.
It’s been an almost whitewash of wins for the Baby Blacks over the last 20 years with England ending up on the wrong side of a few substantial scorelines. Whilst results for the Test side will take precedence, you can be sure that players from both sides will remember the various encounters the teams have shared through all levels of the game, giving them that little bit more extra motivation to take out Saturday’s semi-final.
Eddie Jones is confident that his men can handle the pressure against a well-versed New Zealand side:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.