The Six Nations Under-20 Championship may have finished with England adding the title to their world crown, but attention now turns to the southern hemisphere with hosts Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Japan to contest the FORU Under-20 Championship on the Gold Coast in May.
The round robin tournament, which takes place at Bond University from 1-9 May, will provide all four teams with invaluable competitive action as they build towards the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy the following month.
New Zealand, who finished third at last year’s World Rugby U20 Championship on home soil, have selected a 31-strong squad for the Oceania event, including eight players from that 2014 event and a number who are contracted to Super Rugby franchises.
Among those still falling into the age category are Blues winger Tevita Li and Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who captained the under-20 side last year, while Damian McKenzie will be unavailable for the Oceania event due to his Super Rugbycommitments with the Chiefs.
“Some very good young players have missed out on this selection but it does show how strong the competition for places has been,” said New Zealand under-20 coach Scott Robertson. “In the end, with so many good players available to us, we have selected on form, and rewarded those who have worked hard over the past several months.
Hugely important opportunity
“We’ve got a good number of players who are ITM Cup experienced, including seven who are contracted to Super Rugby teams. We’re very fortunate that some of those players have been released from their Super Rugby duty for this tournament.
“The Oceania tournament provides much-needed preparation for this squad as we build towards the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Italy in June.
“We’re definitely looking forward to seeing how the boys cope with the tournament environment. The Gold Coast will give us an opportunity to create and test combinations, to imbed game plans and most importantly to have the guys play under the pressures of a tournament format.
“This is a hugely important opportunity for us. We know that some other teams will head to Italy having already benefitted from playing in the Under 20 Six Nations competition.”
Australia, New Zealand’s final opponents in the Oceania Championship on 9 May, also have a handful of players with World Rugby U20 Championship experience, including Jonah Placid and Andrew Kellaway (pictured), the winger who scored a record 10 tries in the 2014 edition in New Zealand.
Key development for future stars
The squad includes 12 players from the NSW under-20 side that won the National Under-20 Championship earlier this month, as well as 10 players from Queensland, three players from Victoria with two each from Western Australia and the ACT.They, along with Brad Wilkins, who made his Australia sevens debut in Hong Kong last weekend, are among the professional players to make coach Adrian Thompson’s squad for the Oceania Championship.
“This is great opportunity for players to come together and press their claims with a series of training sessions and workshops before the tournament begins,” explained Thompson, who guided Australia to a fifth place finish at the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2014.
“The Australian under-20’s programme is an extremely important stage in the development of our future stars through the Pathway to Gold programme, this is why we have taken a squad approach initially.
“To the players who unfortunately missed out on making the squad we will still be keeping a close eye on their form throughout their academies and club rugby commitments.”
New Zealand under-20 squad: Isileli Tu'ungafasi, Liam Polwart, Mitchell Karpik, Blake Gibson, Tom Hill, Mitchell Dunshea, Hamish Dalzell, Joshua Goodhue, Geoffrey Cridge, Ricky Riccitelli, Dillon Hunt, Atunaisa Moli, Mitchell Jacobson, Tau Koloamatangi, James Blackwell, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Leni Apisai, Mitchell Hunt, Tinoi (TJ) Faiane, Vincent Tavae-Aso, Jonathan Faauli, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Luteru Laulala, Otere Black, Tevita Li, Fletcher Smith, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Harrison Levien, Anton Lienert-Brown, Wes Goosen.
Australia under-20 extended squad:Cameron Orr, Folau Faingaa, Matthew Sandell, Ned Hanigan, Harrison Williams, Olly Kamp, Andrew Deegan, Andrew Kellaway, Alex Newsome, Lukhan Lealaiauloco, Harry Jones, Henry Hutchinson, Aaron Pleash, Adam Korczyk, Lolo Fakaosilea, Michael Gunn, Duncan Paia’aua, James Dalgleish, James Tuttle, Campbell Magnay, Harry Nucifora, Brad Wilkin, Connal McInerney, Tyrell Lomax, Riley Winter, Hayden Anderson, Fereti Saaga, Sione Tuipolotu, Jonah Placid.
Oceania Under-20 Championship schedule
Friday 1 May
13:00: New Zealand v Japan
15:00: Australia v Samoa
Tuesday 5 May
13:00: Samoa v New Zealand
15:00: Japan v Australia
Saturday 9 May
13:00: Samoa v Japan
15:00: Australia v New Zealand
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