Rugby: NZ U20s hoping to end with a flourish

Scott Robertson has named his side for New Zealand's 5th/6th playoff. Photo / Getty Images
Scott Robertson has named his side for New Zealand's 5th/6th playoff. Photo / Getty Images

The New Zealand side will seek to wrap up their World Rugby Under 20 Championship with a flourish, and a fifth place finish, tomorrow morning against their trans-Tasman rivals Australia in Salford.

Head coach Scott Robertson, along with his assistants Craig Philpott and Willie Rickards, has made three changes to the match-day 23 which recorded an impressive 71-12 victory over Wales last Tuesday.

Prop Ayden Johnstone replaces Sean Paranihi who drops to the bench, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u reclaims the No 8 jersey from Hapakuki Moala Liava'a, while Wellington's Peter Umaga-Jensen, nephew of Tana Umaga, will start on the left wing, having flown over to join the squad as injury cover. The utility back, who had a superb career for Scots College First XV, was originally named on the bench, but replaced Jonah Lowe in a late change.
Robertson was understandably delighted with the performance against Wales.

"It was a great day. The shackles were off and we just wanted to express ourselves and take a little of our frustration and disappointment at not getting through to the top four. We played some good footy, which is what we're here for. These young guys are very talented and they showed that. I was most impressed with our ruthless execution and our ability to play from anywhere. Our kicking into space turned them around. They only left one player in the back field and we exposed that."

The fifth place decider against Australia gives Robertson's young charges another opportunity to face a team they drew 1-1 with earlier in the year in a tight Oceania series.

"The game plan this week is around playing to our strengths and creating opportunities and being fully respectful of Australia. In our preparation we've realised that they've played some really good footy and they've got some really good players across the board.

In our review and preview for this game, we've discussed what was the difference between our preparation between the first and second tests against Australia, as it wasn't as good second time around. That lesson's long learnt and we're really focused. It's very exciting: if we're going to play any team in your final game it might as well be Australia.

"We haven't changed too much for this game and we're keen to keep on expressing ourselves. We want to finish well, although it's never going to make up for our disappointment, the least we can do is to make everyone proud at home and ourselves as well. It's a really tight group, as tight as last year, and they've worked as hard as last year."

Australia was always going to struggle to make the semifinals after losing to Scotland on day one.

New Zealand's game kicks off at 3.45am (NZT) live on SKY Sport 1.

NZ Under 20s squad v Australia: Shaun Stevenson, Caleb Makene, Sio Tomkinson, Jordie Barrett, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Stephen Perofeta, Sam Nock, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Mitch Jacobson, Luke Jacobson, Hamish Dalzell, Quinten Strange, Sefo Kautai, Leni Apisai (c), Ayden Johnstone
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Sean Paranihi, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a, Jonathan Taumateine, TJ Va'a, Orbyn Leger

- NZ Herald

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