Rugby: Under 20s side named following Ireland loss

By Campbell Burnes

Malo Tuitama looked dangerous during the World Rugby U20 Championship match between New Zealand and Ireland. Photo / Getty Images
Malo Tuitama looked dangerous during the World Rugby U20 Championship match between New Zealand and Ireland. Photo / Getty Images

It is not time for panic stations, and the New Zealand Under 20 selection for tomorrow's must-win clash with Wales in Salford is indicative of that.

Head coach Scott Robertson, along with assistant coaches Craig Philpott and Willie Rickards, have kept faith with the majority of the side which has played the opening two games of the competition, despite the jarring 24-33 loss to Ireland on Sunday.

Lock Hamish Dalzell is promoted from the bench and Fin Hoeata is a new face on the blindside flank, where he will bolster a lineout that was shaky against Ireland, but the rest of the pack remains unchanged. In the backline, Jordan Trainor was a late scratching from the left wing, his place going to Jonah Lowe. Shaun Stevenson moves back into the 15 jersey and Caleb Makene coming into the run-on side at right wing. Malo Tuitama, the most dangerous New Zealand back against Ireland, can only make the bench.

New Zealand should be in the box seat to quality for next week's semifinals if they secure a bonus point victory over Wales.

Their points differential is a healthy +46 thanks mainly to the 55-0 whitewash of Georgia in their opening game. Given Ireland will surely beat Georgia to top the pool, New Zealand will need to be the top second placed finisher of the three pools to advance, as they did at home in 2014 after losing to South Africa in their pool. They would therefore be hoping that England edges Australia and perhaps France heads South Africa to be sure tomorrow.

Robertson was disappointed with the loss to a fired-up Irish team, but acknowledged that New Zealand were outplayed on the day.

"It was a tough day. Ireland played well and we learnt lessons from that match. They put pressure on us at scrum time and kicked to the corners well. They played to the conditions and stayed strong for the full 80 minutes. These Northern Hemisphere sides play a different style of footy to us, so we must adjust to that."

The game was played in conditions that were extremely testing at times, and Robertson hopes his young players learn from the experience.

"The weather suited their style of play. We've got a young group of guys that like to play expansive rugby. We don't want to stop that, but need to balance attack with playing to the conditions."

Wales have had a mixed tournament so far, with a narrow 25-26 loss to Ireland followed by an equally tight 10-9 victory over Georgia, but they won't be underestimated.

"Wales always step up. For a lot of these teams, when they play New Zealand, they play their best. So we are expecting Wales to come out firing. It is a knockout game. Lose and you miss out on the semifinals. We have taken a lot of learnings from the Georgian and Irish games and are still in the hunt at this tournament," said Robertson.

New Zealand need to win and win well if they are to have any chance of progressing to the semifinal stage, so the message from the coaching team to the players will be a simple one. "We have a chance to make the semifinals - it's in our hands now. Get out there, enjoy yourself and believe in our systems - from there the scoreboard takes care of itself."

Kickoff is at 4.30am tomorrow, screened live on SKY Sport 1.

NZ Under 20s squad v Wales: Shaun Stevenson, Caleb Makene, Sio Tomkinson, Jordie Barrett, Jonah Lowe, TJ Va'a, Sam Nock, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Mitch Jacobson, Fin Hoeata, Hamish Dalzell, Quinten Strange, Sefo Kautai, Leni Apisai (c), Ayden Johnstone

Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Sean Paranihi, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Luke Jacobson, Jonathan Taumateine, Stephen Perofeta, Malo Tuitama

- NZ Herald

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