NZ under-20s to test depth against Australia

By Campbell Burnes

The New Zealand Under 20s' depth will be further tested after two more injuries ahead of tonight's Oceania Series opener against Australia on the Gold Coast.

Utility back Josh McKay from Canterbury has been officially called in as injury cover for fellow Cantabrian Caleb Makene, who hurt himself in the win over the Blues Emerging Players last Thursday, while Taranaki's Fin Hoeata, younger brother of former All Blacks lock Jarrad Hoeata, was ruled out with a knee injury, meaning a late travel call-up for replacement Caleb Aperahama of Canterbury.

Coach Scott Robertson said the tournament was an invaluable opportunity for players to make a final push for the World Championship squad.

"The players are pretty excited and so are we. This is a hugely important part of preparing our side for the World Championship. We've had a good preparation on and off the field, and it was good to be able to focus on getting our processes right, and getting the boys tight."

Openside flanker Maclean Jones will captain the Australian Under 20s.

Melbourne Rebels centre Sione Tuipulotu joins the team on the bench, having been released from the club for international duties after the Rebels' match in Auckland.

"The squad has been working hard together since their arrival on Tuesday and I know the team is looking forward to the opportunity to play New Zealand at home," says head coach Adrian Thompson.

"I have been pleased with the talent on display and the attitude of the players to continue improving throughout the week.

"Maclean was a natural choice for captain due to his leadership and ability on and off the field, having proven himself for Queensland Country in the 2015 NRC and with Queensland's Super U20s side this year."

There have been five changes made to the original squad with Campbell Magnay and Lukhan Tui joining fellow Australia U20s rep James Tuttle with the Queensland Reds. Declan Moore and Latu Latinipulu have left the squad due to injury.

The players will be replaced by Simon Kennewell, Richie Asiata, Tuipulotu and Ta Hosea.
Robertson will name his New Zealand squad for the world championship next Tuesday.
Tonight's kickoff is at 8.30pm (NZT) at Gold Coast' Bond University. The match will be live streamed at https://www.youtube.com or www.allblacks.com

The second international against Australia is on Saturday at 6pm (NZT).

NZ Under 20s: Peter Umaga-Jensen, Jonah Lowe, Sio Tomkinson, Jordie Barrett, Mason Emerson, Stephen Perofeta, Sam Nock, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Mitch Jacobson, Luke Jacobson, Sam Caird, Quinten Strange, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Leni Apisai (c), Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Shaun Stodart, Alex Fidow, Lui Luamanu, Dalton Papali'i, Ere Enari, Orbyn Leger, Josh McKay

Australian Under 20s: Jack Maddocks, Ah-Mu Tuimalealifano, Liam Jurd, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Joey Fittock, Mack Mason, Moses Sorovi, Harley Fox, Maclean Jones (c), Angus Scott-Young, Ryan McCauley, Harry Hockings, Tyrel Lomax, Joshua Taylor, Faalelie Sione. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Vunipola Fifita, Sham Vui, Rob Leota, Ikapote Tupai, Angus Fowler, Billy Gray, Sione Tuipulotu

- NZ Herald

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