Younger brothers of All Blacks named in under-20s squad

Scott Robertson. Photo / George Novak
Scott Robertson. Photo / George Novak

The New Zealand team named to travel to next month's World Rugby Under 20 Championship in England looks well equipped to do the job, despite falling 25-24 to Australia in Saturday's international on the Gold Coast.

Coach Scott Robertson said the coaching team was confident their squad offered skillsets and versatility that provided both experience and fresh firepower.

"We've got six players from Super Rugby teams, two guys returning from last year's team, and we have nine players young enough to be eligible to play again next year. It's a good balance - a little bit of experience, youth and exuberance from the young fellas, and the professionalism from the Super players."

Loose forward Mitchell Jacobson returns for a remarkable third year with the Under 20 campaign, and this year he is joined by his younger brother and fellow loose forward, Luke.

Proving that rugby genes run strong in the family, Jordie Barrett, younger brother of All Black Beauden Barrett, and Fin Hoeata, brother of former All Black and Maori All Black Jarrad Hoeata, are also set to travel to Manchester.

Also named is 2015 age grade player of the year nominee Alex Fidow of Wellington, who last year won the NZ Schools' Bronze Boot award, and Heartland player of the year nominee Stephen Perofeta who, while still at Wanganui Collegiate as a Year 13 student last year, was a key weapon in Wanganui's road to Meads Cup victory in the Heartland Championship. Perofeta was selected for the New Zealand Heartland XV squad and went on to run up 58 points in just three matches.

Robertson expects competition to be fierce at the World Championship, with England likely, despite a disappointing Six Nations, to again be strong with their Premiership players available, and Australia also providing stiff competition with the availability of Super Rugby players who have shown their wares in last week's Oceania series.

"We're in a tough pool. We've got Wales, who won the Six Nations, and Ireland, who performed really well. We've also got Georgia - they're new to the competition, after they won the tier two competition to come up and we know they love to scrum and maul and they are big men as well.

"We're excited by the challenge of going back on the world stage, and we've got an attitude that we've got to go and win the title, not just defend it. We're really pleased with the squad we have named today, and we have faith that they can step up to the challenge," Robertson said.

Those who did not travel to the Gold Coast last week due to injury, but who should soon be right are first five TJ Va'a, fullback Jordan Trainor, lock Fin Hoeata and No 8 Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a. Shaun Stevenson will join the squad after the May 27 Chiefs-Waratahs game. Waikato's Sosefo Kautai comes into the squad as the fifth prop.

The New Zealand Under 20 squad assembles in Mt Maunganui on May 27 ahead of a game against the Chiefs Development side on Monday May 30.

The World Rugby Under 20 Championship kicks off on June 7 with the final to be played on June 25.

World Rugby Under 20 Championship, June 7-25, Manchester, England

NZ Under 20 match schedule (local times):
Pool A matches

Tuesday June 7
New Zealand v Georgia
1945 hrs
AJ Bel Stadium, Salford

Saturday June 11
New Zealand v Ireland
1330 hrs
Manchester City Academy Stadium, Manchester

Wednesday June 15
New Zealand v Wales
1730 hrs
AJ Bel Stadium, Salford

Semifinal playoffs will be played on June 20 ahead of the June 25 final.

The New Zealand Under 20 squad is:

FORWARDS:
Props
Ayden Johnstone - Waikato
Shaun Stodart - Otago
Sean Paranihi - Canterbury
Alex Fidow - Wellington
Sosefo Kautai - Waikato

Hooker
Leni Apisai, captain - Wellington/Hurricanes
Asafo Aumua - Wellington

Lock
Quinten Strange - Tasman
Hamish Dalzell - Canterbury

Lock/loose forward
Isaia Walker-Leawere - Wellington
Fin Hoeata - Taranaki

Loose forward
Mitchell Jacobson - Waikato
Luke Jacobson - Waikato
Dalton Papali'i - Auckland
Marino Mikaele-Tu'u - Hawke's Bay
Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a - North Harbour

BACKS:

Halfback
Jonathan Taumateine - Counties Manukau
Sam Nock - Northland/Blues

First five-eighth
Stephen Perofeta - Taranaki
TJ Va'a - Wellington/Hurricanes

Midfield
Orbyn Leger - Counties Manukau
Jordie Barrett - Canterbury
Patelesio Tomkinson - Otago/Highlanders

Midfield/wing
Jonah Lowe - Hawke's Bay
Malo Tuitama - Wellington

Outside back
Caleb Makene - Canterbury
Shaun Stevenson - Waikato/Chiefs
Jordan Trainor - Waikato/Blues

- NZ Herald

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