New Zealand U20 coach Craig Philpott has named an experienced 30-man squad, with two more players to be announced at a later date, for the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship on the Gold Coast in Australia, starting 28 April.
Captain Luke Jacobson and vice-captain Jordie Barrett and are two of the nine survivors from last year’s World Rugby U20 Championship where New Zealand finished fifth after failing to reach the semi-finals for the first time in the tournament's history.
“Luke is a leader who leads by his deeds. He is a very good player who will be on the field for most of the tests and can play at either number eight or number six. He also brings experience from last year’s World Championship campaign and has featured in the in Chiefs’ programme this year, including the Brisbane 10s where he had an excellent tournament,” said Philpott.
Versatile back Barrett made his Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes last month to much acclaim and was New Zealand’s standout performer and top points scorer in Manchester with 52 points from five appearances at centre, while Jacobson was also an ever-present in the back row.
BAND OF BROTHERS
Both are treading the same paths as their older brothers, Beauden Barrett – the World Rugby Men's Player of the Year 2016 – and Mitchell Jacobson, a veteran of three U20 Championships.
Wellington front-row forwards, prop Alex Fidow and hooker Asafo Aumua, are also welcomed back into the fold for an expanded Oceania tournament that now includes Fiji and Samoa in addition to cross-Tasman rivals New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand and Australia each won a game apiece in last year’s Bledisloe Cup-style event with the Kiwis taking the title on aggregate score by 54-35.
“This is a very experienced squad we are taking to the Oceania U20s. Thirteen players have been in the under-20 environment before and nine played in last year’s World Championship in Manchester. That previous experience of an international competition will come in valuable on the Gold Coast,” said Philpott.
“Up to this point we have had 50 odd players at our previous training camps and we had to make some tough calls to whittle the squad down to 30. The camps highlighted we have good depth in most positions, and selections were particularly competitive in the loose forwards and outside backs, where a number of players will feel rightfully disappointed that they didn’t make the squad.
“Oceania provides us a great opportunity to prepare for the Under 20 Championship in Georgia in June, especially because both tournaments follow the same format. We will play three test matches in the space of 12 days, which is something many of the players won’t be used to. It is also an opportunity to get together as a team and get to know each other better, play and train together in a tournament environment and develop our team culture.”
AUSTRALIA CALL ON SEVENS SPEEDSTER
Meanwhile, Aussie sevens speedster Henry Hutchison is set for his first opportunity with Australia U20s, after missing the 2016 season due to commitments on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, a season which same him named Rookie of the Year.
Hutchison is included in a provisional squad of 48 players for next week’s first training camp of the season at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast as part of Australia’s preparations for the Oceania and World Rugby U20 Championships under new head coach Simon Cron.
“This camp will be the first opportunity we have to get content across to our players, as well as skill evaluation and execution. It will be a high intensity camp and we need to tick the box on a lot of critical stuff,” said Cron.
“We will be putting guys into different scenarios and seeing how they play as well as start to develop our culture and identity as a group.
“The door is still open for players in the Super U20 Championship as we are always watching and looking for players who will suit the way we want to play the game.”
New Zealand U20 squad:
Forwards: Harrison Allan, Asafo Aumua, Sam Caird, Adrian Choat, Tom Christie, Ryan Coxon, Tim Farrell, Alex Fidow, Luke Jacobson (captain), Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Marino Mikaele-Tuu, Dalton Papalii, Jacob Pierce, John (JP) Sauni, Samuel Slade, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Isaia Walker-Leawere.
Backs: Jordie Barrett (vice-captain), Caleb Clarke, Ereatara Enari, Braydon Ennor, Tima Faingaanuku, Tiaan Falcon, Will Jordan, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Orbyn Leger, Josh McKay, Jona Nareki, Carlos Price, Tamati Tua.
Australia U20 extended squad:
Forwards: Harry Hoopert, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Cody Walker, Sham Vui, Harry Chapman, Gavin Luka, Vaauli Faamausili, Angus Wagner, Jordan Uelese, Phil Bradford, Efi Maafu, Tom Horton, Harry Hockings, Angus Blyth, Ryan McCauley, Esei Haangana, Darcy Swain, Angus Scott-Young, Max Girdler, Lachlan Swinton, Reece Hewat, Rob Leota, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright, Angus Allen, Brodie Leber.
Backs: Harrison Goddard, Harry Nucifora, Ryan Lonergan, Theo Strang, Tate McDermott, Liam McNamara, Hamish Stewart, Nick Jooste, Tony Hunt, Sione Tuipulotu, Izaia Perese, Dylan Riley, Esere Chee Kam, Len Ikitau, Henry Hutchison, Simon Kennewell, Jayden Ngamanu, Angelo Leaupepe, Will Eadie, Jack Maddocks, Clay Uyen, Semisi Tupou.