Rugby: Under 20s side named to face Wales

By Campbell Burnes

Jonah Lowe. Photo / Getty
Jonah Lowe. Photo / Getty

There are five changes to the New Zealand Under 20s as they look to finish a disappointing World Rugby Under 20 Championship on a high.

Tomorrow's clash in Manchester sees Scott Robertson's charges again face Wales, whom they defeated 18-17 on Thursday.

Prop Sean Paranihi and loose forwards Luke Jacobson and Hapakuki Moala Liava'a replace Ayden Johnstone, Fin Hoeata and Marino Mikaele-Tu'u respectively, while Stephen Perofeta reclaims the No 10 jersey from TJ Va'a. The back three has reverted to the line-up which took the field in the opening game against Georgia.

Robertson said it took the squad some time to get over the fact that they had failed to reach the semifinals.

"They were gutted, absolutely gutted, as a group. We didn't get all that we'd planned for, hoped for and worked for. The players have worked as hard as any group that I've been involved with. There were a couple of critical moments along the way: we didn't take opportunities and we haven't controlled what we needed to control to get through.

"We've scored the most tries in the comp and we've got the best defence in the comp, but we're not playing for the top four. It's been a tough couple of days, but now we've got a chance to make a wee statement."

That chance comes against a Wales side who have proved themselves as tough opponents throughout the competition, with every one of their games decided by just a single point margin.

"Wales are a team that comes outside in on defence," added Robertson. "They bring a lot of line speed and they disrupt you around the breakdown. Against us they never passed the ball more than twice in a row the whole game. They try and stop you playing rugby, so for us our challenge is to firstly create the opportunities and then convert them. We're going to play: that's our mindset, that's our skillset."

Despite the disappointment of playing off for fifth position and not the championship itself, the head coach has seen some real quality in many of his young players, especially in the backline.

"I've been impressed with Stephen Perofeta at 10. I think he's done a great job with his kicking game, especially in the wet and his execution's been really strong. A lot of our bench guys are young boys who've come on and made a really good impact. Obviously Jordie Barrett's been exceptional. His courage and his skill level have been so high and he's a great young man.

"Our outside backs are a real strength. We want to play with width and get the ball out there, but we haven't given those guys much opportunity. When we have, Shaun Stevenson has been critical with his line breaks, metres gained and men beaten which have been as good as anyone in the comp. Jonah Lowe is just a tough, relentless outside back and Caleb Makene can play on the wing or at fullback and he's safe as."

Wales have made four changes, some injury-enforced.

Their coach Jason Strange believes playing New Zealand twice within a week is just the sort of challenge the players need.

"These are the high intensity matches the players require to accelerate their development and we're really pleased with their progress so far. The players were excellent on (Thursday). Despite the loss, you couldn't fault their collective effort and level of performance. The match was decided on a few critical decisions and hopefully we have learned from those high pressure situations.

"The players have had a lot of success this season, however it's also important to go through this process of losing and learning from your mistakes. It will be interesting to see how both teams approach the game tactically after the last match. We will attempt to continue playing the game with skill and passion," Strange said.

Kickoff is at 2.15am (NZT) tomorrow.

NZ Under 20s squad v Wales: Shaun Stevenson, Caleb Makene, Sio Tomkinson, Jordie Barrett, Jonah Lowe, Stephen Perofeta, Sam Nock, Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a, Mitch Jacobson, Luke Jacobson, Hamish Dalzell, Quinten Strange, Sefo Kautai, Leni Apisai (c), Sean Paranihi

Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Sean Stodart, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Jonathan Taumateine, TJ Va'a, Malo Tuitama

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 26 Oct 2016 01:26:31 Processing Time: 583ms