New Zealand have named an Under 20 squad that should be good enough to annex the Oceania championship on the Gold Coast in a few weeks.
Waikato loose forward Luke Jacobson is skipper, but one of the standout features is that Hurricanes utility back Jordie Barrett is vice-captain. On that basis, the Hurricanes' April 21 clash in Napier against the Brumbies will be his final run with the franchise before linking up with the Under 20s, for whom he played seven games at second five in 2016.
New Zealand Under 20 head coach Craig Philpott said that he was pleased with the talent available for the tournament which will see them play test matches against Australia, Fiji and Samoa in an expanded Oceania tournament starting on April 28.
"This is a very experienced squad we are taking to the Oceania Under 20s. Thirteen players have been in the Under 20 environment before and nine played in last year's World Championship in Manchester. That previous experience of an international competition will come in valuable on the Gold Coast.
"Up to this point we have had 50-odd players at our previous training camps and we had to make some tough calls to whittle the squad down to 30. The camps highlighted we have good depth in most positions, and selections were particularly competitive in the loose forwards and outside backs, where a number of players will feel rightfully disappointed that they didn't make the squad.
"Oceania provides us a great opportunity to prepare for the Under 20 World Championship in Georgia in June, especially because both tournaments follow the same format. We will play three test matches in the space of 12 days, which is something many of the players won't be used to. It is also an opportunity to get together as a team and get to know each other better, play and train together in a tournament environment and develop our team culture.
"We have selected Luke Jacobson as captain and Jordie Barrett as vice-captain. Luke is a leader who leads by his deeds. He is a very good player who will be on the field for most of the tests and can play at either No 8 or No 6. He also brings experience from last year's World Championship campaign and has featured in the in Chiefs' programme this year, including the Brisbane 10s, where he had an excellent tournament."
Blues utility back Stephen Perofeta was not considered due to injury.
The squad for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship will be named in May after the Oceania squad returns to New Zealand.
The squad will travel to the Gold Coast for matches against Fiji on April 28, Samoa on May 2 and Australia on May 6. All matches will be played at Bond University.
An interesting feature of the Samoan Under 20 squad is the naming of Wellington wing Losi Filipo, who made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2016. Also named in the Samoan backline is 2016 St Kentigern College First XV captain and threequarter Tanielu Telea, who missed the New Zealand cut, and midfielder Darren Kellett junior, son of former Manu Samoa No 10 Darren Kellett. Outspoken former Manu Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger is the technical advisor.
New Zealand Under 20s:
Forwards: Asafo Aumua (Wellington), JP Sauni (Auckland), Pouri Rakete-Stones (Hawke's Bay), Alex Fidow (Wellington), Ezekiel Lindinmuth (Auckland), Harrison Allan (Canterbury), Sam Caird (Waikato), Jacob Pierce (Auckland), Isaia Walker-Leawere (Wellington), Sam Slade (Auckland), Luke Jacobson (Waikato, c), Tom Christie (Canterbury), Adrian Choat (Auckland), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (Hawke's Bay), Dalton Papali'i (Auckland), Ryan Coxon (Waikato), Tim Farrell (Hawke's Bay)
Backs: Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Carlos Price (Wellington), Tiaan Falcon (Hawke's Bay), Orbyn Leger (Counties Manukau), Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Tamati Tua (Northland), Tima Faingaanuuku (Tasman), Josh McKay (Canterbury), Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Will Jordan (Canterbury), Jonah Nareki (Otago), Ere Enari (Canterbury), Jordie Barrett (Taranaki, vc)
NB: Two further players will be named prior to the tournament