Rugby: Samoa, Fiji join Oceania U20's party

Jordie Barrett scored 24 points for New Zealand in the 2016 Oceania Under 20s' tournament on the Gold Coast. Photosport
Jordie Barrett scored 24 points for New Zealand in the 2016 Oceania Under 20s' tournament on the Gold Coast. Photosport

The Oceania Under 20s Championship will expand to four nations in 2017 with Samoa and Fiji joining New Zealand and tournament hosts Australia on the Gold Coast next month.

The tournament is now in its third year but for the first time will have representation from four Pacific powers as all four nations continue their preparation for the World Rugby U20s Championship to be held in Georgia in May-June.

Despite an unheralded victory by Australia over New Zealand last year, New Zealand has won every version of the tournament since 2015.

Some graduates from the Oceania Rugby U20s Championship who have made the transition to professional rugby teams include Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs), Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), Blake Gibson (Blues), Andrew Kellaway (NSW Waratahs), Adam Korczyk (Queensland Reds) and Jonah Placid (Melbourne Rebels).

Rugby services manager-Oceania for World Rugby, Bruce Cook said: "We are very excited to see this competition expand with Fiji and Samoa participating alongside New Zealand and Australia.

"Each year the tournament's standards have continued to rise and it is a great opportunity for people to see the next generation of potential rugby stars come together to play in what will be an outstanding tournament.

"We look forward to seeing these sides play in this international competition at the Oceania tournament and to go on and perform on the world stage at the World Rugby Under 20s Championship in June."

ARU national performance programmes manager and former Australian Under 20s coach Adrian Thompson said: "The ARU is very appreciative of the efforts of Oceania Rugby to secure the future of this competition.

"The championship has continued to grow each year and gives each participating nation further opportunity to test themselves before competing at the World Rugby Under 20s Championship.

"The success of the Six Nations Under 20s has benefitted those nations and this tournament will go a long way in narrowing the preparation gap."

2017 Oceania Rugby U20s Championship fixtures:
Round 1, Friday April 28

New Zealand v Fiji, 5.00pm AEST
Australia v Samoa, 7.00pm AEST

Round 2, Tuesday May 2
New Zealand v Samoa, 3.00pm AEST
Australia v Fiji, 5.00pm AEST

Round 3, Saturday May 6
Samoa v Fiji, 5.00pm AEST
Australia v New Zealand, 7.00pm AEST

All matches will be played at Bond University, Gold Coast.

- NZ Herald

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