Rugby: Under-20 squad mixes experience, youth and exuberance

By Campbell Burnes

Under 20s coach Scott Robertson.
Under 20s coach Scott Robertson.

An abundance of goalkickers and the bolstering of the propping stocks are two of the features of the 28-man New Zealand Under-20 rugby squad for next month's world championship in England.

An incredible 10 out of the 12 backs named can do the job off the tee. They won't need that many, of course, but they will need a more stable scrum platform after Australia pressured them in that area during the 1-1 Oceania Cup series result last week. New Zealand took the trophy on points differential, but lost the second international 25-24 last Saturday.

Waikato's Sefo Kautai, one of eight players who played their First XV rugby in Auckland's 1A competition, comes in to beef up the front-row.

New Zealand look well equipped to defend their title and clinch a sixth world title in nine years after Scott Robertson's charges defeated England in last year's final.

"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," Robertson said.

He expects competition to be fierce. "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. 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."

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. The championship runs from June 7-25.

- NZ Herald

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